About the Program
What is the difference
between the M.A. and the Psy.D.?
The M.A. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy is focused on training individuals for the primary role of psychotherapist/counselor. It is focused on clinical practice in a variety of settings, such as public mental health organizations, community mental health agencies, private practice, faith-based counseling agencies, and residential treatment facilities. Most graduates pursue licensure as an LMFT or have the option of pursuing licensure as an LPCC after obtaining their degree.
The Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Family Psychology is more extensive, focusing on training individuals to become practitioner-scholars. Practically, this means graduates of the Psy.D. program become psychotherapists but also engage in psychological assessment and clinical research. There are also opportunities for teaching, consultation, and administration. Most Psy.D. graduates pursue licensure as a clinical psychologist after obtaining their degree.
Depending on your post-graduate-school career plans, different degrees may be suitable for your professional development. An important distinction remains between the Ph.D. and the Psy.D., which has rapidly changed in the past few years. The Psy.D. is now the recognized degree in psychology for clinical practitioners, whereas the Ph.D. offers a primary orientation in research and academics.
The Discipline of Family Psychology
Based on systems theory, the discipline of family psychology recognizes the dynamic interaction between persons and environments without detracting from an awareness of individual, intrapsychic issues.
A doctoral program in clinical psychology with an emphasis in family psychology incorporates numerous elements from several disciplines within psychology (e.g., clinical psychology, developmental psychology, personality theory, environmental psychology, neuropsychology, psychobiology, and social psychology). All the disciplines are related by the theoretical understanding of the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between these factors and their impact on human behavior.
This theoretical foundation undergirds the program courses at APU. In courses that have traditionally had an individual focus, systemic aspects relevant to the content area are incorporated. By the end of the program, students think systemically and apply systemic analysis to clinical situations.
In an era when it is increasingly difficult for people to navigate their way through the complex world in which they live, a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis in family psychology best prepares graduates to provide psychological services.
The Doctor of Psychology program at Azusa Pacific University:
- Seeks to educate and train students to be “practitioner-scholars” so they are equipped to provide quality psychological services to their communities based upon the findings of research and the science of psychology.
- Approaches the knowledge of psychology from a Christian perspective and trains students to exemplify the servanthood of Christ in their practice of psychology.
- Provides an integrative sequence of courses so students may understand the interrelationship between ethics, moral and spiritual identity formation, theology, and psychology.
- Emphasizes family psychology, the distinctive focus on the interaction between individual, interpersonal, and environmental aspects of human behavior.
- Recognizes the diversity of human experience and enables students to respond to the variety of human needs.
- Encourages individual growth and development as part of the educational experience so students develop congruence and authenticity as they balance the demands of professional and personal life.
You Set the Pace
APU’s Psy.D. program offers a less-intensive, six-year curriculum plan, in addition to the traditional five-year program. This option requires one to two fewer courses per semester, allowing students to pursue part-time employment or uphold family responsibilities during their studies.
Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data
The Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology (G&P) require that doctoral graduate programs provide potential students, current students, and the public with accurate information on the program and with program expectations. View our Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data (PDF).
Academic Psychology Licensure
The APU Psy.D. program fulfills the graduate education requirements in the state of California for licensure as a psychologist. Students seeking licensure in California may obtain information regarding requirements by contacting:
Board of Psychology
1422 Howe Ave., Ste. 22
Sacramento, CA 95825-3200
Students seeking licensure in another state should contact the appropriate examining board in that state.
The Seven Core Competencies
of the Psy.D. Program
The curriculum for the Psy.D. program is competency based. Such a curriculum recognizes that it is essential to identify core competency areas in psychology as the primary organizing principle for a professional degree. Successful degree completion requires the achievement of the competencies necessary to function well in the field of psychology. The APU Psy.D. curriculum reflects concern for the development of seven core competencies in psychology: research and evaluation, relationship, assessment, intervention, diversity, consultation and education, and management and supervision. The seven professional competency areas are defined briefly:
- Research and evaluation comprise a systematic mode of inquiry involving problem identification and the acquisition, organization, and interpretation of information pertaining to psychological phenomena. Psychologists have learned to think critically and engage in rigorous, careful, and disciplined scientific inquiry. Education and training in the epistemological foundations of research, the design and use of qualitative and quantitative methods, the analysis of data, the application of research conclusions, and sensitivity to philosophical and ethical concerns are needed in order for psychologists to develop in this area.
- Relationship is the capacity to develop and maintain a constructive working alliance with clients. This competency is informed by psychological knowledge of self and others. In the development of the relationship competency, special attention should be given to the diversity of persons encountered in clinical practice. Curriculum design includes education and training in attitudes essential for the development of the relationship competency, such as intellectual curiosity and flexibility, open-mindedness, belief in the capacity to change, appreciation of individual and cultural diversity, personal integrity and honesty, and a value of self-awareness. Experiential learning with self-reflection and direct observation and feedback by peers and experts are essential in the development of this competency.
- Assessment is an ongoing, interactive, and inclusive process that serves to describe, conceptualize, and predict relevant aspects of a client. Assessment is a fundamental process that is interwoven with all other aspects of professional practice. As currently defined, assessment involves a comprehensive approach addressing a wide range of client functions. Assessment takes into account sociocultural context and focuses not only on limitations and dysfunctions, but also on competencies, strengths, and effectiveness. Assessment increasingly addresses the relationship between the individual and his or her systemic context. The assessment curriculum is not limited to courses but involves a pattern of experiences covering general principles as well as specific techniques. Supervised skill training is an essential component of the assessment curriculum.
- Intervention involves activities that promote, restore, sustain, or enhance positive functioning and a sense of well-being in clients through preventive, developmental, or remedial services. The intervention competency is based on the knowledge of theories of individual and systemic change, theories of intervention, methods of evaluation, quality assurance, professional ethical principles, and standards of practice. Effective training for intervention includes knowledge of a broad diversity of clients and teaching materials, practicum client populations, teachers, and supervisors. Service systems reflect diversity. The issues of power and authority are particularly relevant to this competency.
- Diversity refers to an affirmation of the richness of human differences, ideas, and beliefs. An inclusive definition of diversity includes but is not limited to age, color, disability and health, ethnicity, gender, language, national origin, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, as well as the intersection of these multiple identities and multiple statuses. Exploration of power differentials, power dynamics, and privilege is at the core of understanding diversity issues and their impact on social structures and institutionalized forms of discrimination.
Training of psychologists includes opportunities to develop understanding, respect, and value for cultural and individual differences. A strong commitment to the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support high regard for human diversity is integrated throughout the professional psychology training program and its organizational culture.
- Consultation is a planned, collaborative interaction that is an explicit intervention process based on principles and procedures found within psychology and related disciplines in which the professional psychologist does not have direct control of the actual change process. Education is the directed facilitation by the professional psychologist for the growth of knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the learner. Students are required to complete experiential tasks in consultation and education as part of their coursework or internship.
- Management consists of those activities that direct, organize, or control the services of psychologists and others as offered or rendered to the public. Supervision is a form of management blended with teaching in the context of relationship directed toward the enhancement of competence in the supervisee. This competency is informed by the knowledge of professional ethics and standards, theories of individual and systemic functioning and change, dysfunctional behavior and psychopathology, cultural bases of behavior, theoretical models of supervision, and awareness of diversity. Self-management processes and structures are provided for students. Demonstrated competence in supervision includes the development of receptivity to supervision and the acquisition of skills in providing supervision.*
*Adapted from Bent, R. (1992). The professional core competency areas. In R.L. Peterson, et al. (Eds.) The core curriculum in professional psychology. (pp. 77-81). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Azusa Pacific University has a strong Christian heritage and commitment to integrating evangelical Christian thought into the university programs. The APU Psy.D. expresses this heritage and commitment through an emphasis on the integration of psychology with ethics, theology, and spiritual formation. This unique perspective provides students with the opportunity to consider and critically examine psychological theory using ethical and theological frameworks. Students are encouraged to explore the role and importance of moral and spiritual identity formation in the process of psychotherapy.
Individuals from any religious tradition may be admitted to the APU Psy.D. Program. However, it is important for prospective students to recognize that coursework and training are structured using Christian values and principles. Students are asked to learn and thoughtfully interact with the content of courses that house the emphasis, as well as to reflect on their own beliefs and values as they relate to preparation for professional practice.
In addition to providing students with an interdisciplinary framework from which to understand psychological theory and practice, the emphasis also facilitates and enhances the development of competency with respect to addressing religious and spiritual diversity in clinical practice. The APU Psy.D. is sensitive to the reality of pluralism regarding the development of competency in the provision of psychological services to clients of diverse religious and spiritual traditions. Students often express appreciation for education they receive in interdisciplinary studies and integration, regardless of their personal religious or spiritual identity.
Interdisciplinary integration coursework provides both a programmatic conceptual framework and a systematic applied framework. The following courses specifically address these foci:
*These three courses form a foundation for advanced training in the Psy.D. As subsequent interdisciplinary courses are based on information and experiences provided in these courses, it is required that students who enter the Psy.D. program with a master’s degree in psychology audit these courses.
In addition to curricular offerings, APU sponsors two annual Voices in Interdisciplinary Studies and Integration conferences. This conference series draws to the APU campus nationally known authors, academicians, and clinicians who represent a range of perspectives on interdisciplinary studies and integration. Conference speakers have included Everett L. Worthington Jr., Mark McMinn, Don Browning, Nancy Boyd-Franklin, Ed Shafranske, and Harry Aponte. All students are required to attend these conferences.
An elective opportunity is also offered in the form of monthly brown-bag seminars hosted by graduate faculty. Held during the break between evening classes, these seminars provide students with the opportunity to interact with faculty on issues related to faith and practice. Informal case presentations are made with a focus on application of integrative perspectives in psychotherapy.