About the Program
The Psy.D. curriculum has been designed to meet the requirements of the APA for professional education in psychology. Courses stress the importance of critical thinking in the discipline of psychology, and the curriculum provides a breadth of knowledge regarding scientific psychology. Cultural and individual diversity perspectives are woven into courses across the curriculum. Since this is a professional degree, clinical education and application of scientific knowledge to clinical domains are stressed throughout the curriculum, as well as in the clinical practicum experience. The curriculum prepares students for California psychology licensure exams and clinical practice.
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.
Systems Approach (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.
Integration of Faith/Spirituality into Clinical Practice (Interdisciplinary Integration)
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 or nonreligious 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.
The APU Psy.D. program has a strong commitment to cultural and individual diversity and is committed to creating an inclusive and positive environment for diverse students and faculty, as well as the development of competency in serving diverse populations. Diversity competence is interwoven throughout every course, and there are also specific courses that focus solely on developing diversity competency. Additionally, the Psy.D. program sponsors a student-run diversity committee that is focused on addressing diversity issues in the program through forums, guest speakers, etc.
The Doctor of Psychology program educates, prepares, and trains students to become practitioner-scholars in psychology with professional competencies in relationship, research, assessment, intervention, diversity, integration of faith and practice, and family psychology.
The Psy.D. program at Azusa Pacific University has developed a unifying goal to guide the mission of the program: Cultivate culturally competent practitioner-scholars who are equipped to serve a wide range of clients with a special emphasis in systems thinking, diversity, and the integration of faith/spirituality and practice.
APU’s Psy.D. program utilizes a competency-based training model consistent with the 2009 revision of the APA Commission on Accreditation’s Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology. The National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology has identified seven core objectives/competencies:
The Seven Core Objectives/Competencies of the Psy.D. Program1
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 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:
Objective 1: Develop the capacity to maintain a constructive working alliance with clients. Relationship is informed by psychological knowledge of self and others. In the development of the relationship objective/competencies, 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, direct observation, and feedback by peers and experts is essential in the development of the relationship objective/competencies.
- Competency/student learning objective 1a: Ability to form therapeutic relationships with client
- Competency/student learning objective 1b: Ability to demonstrate empathy, genuineness, and nonpossessive warmth
- Competency/student learning objective 1c: Ability to maintain appropriate boundaries and awareness of countertransference
Objective 2: Acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to conduct effective psychological assessments. 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.
- Competency/student learning objective 2a: Knowledge of standardized psychological tests
- Competency/student learning outcome 2b: Knowledge of legal and ethical principles and guidelines involved in assessment and knowledge of potential courses of action
- Competency/student learning outcome 2c: Ability to write an integrated report and give feedback
Objective 3: Acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to conduct effective psychotherapy. 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.
- Competency/student learning outcome 3a: Knowledge of theory and its application in personality, psychopathology, change processes, and the interaction and influences of social, environmental, cultural, and physiological factors
- Competency/student learning outcome 3b: Awareness of and compliance with legal requirements of practice (e.g., mandated reporting, confidentiality rules) and the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
- Competency/student learning outcome 3c: Ability to use diagnostic nomenclature in diagnosis and formulation of treatment plans
- Competency/student learning outcome 3d: Ability to relate to clients of different ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, or sexual orientations from him/herself
- Competency/student learning outcome 3e: Understanding of the therapeutic process within a given theoretical orientation
- Competency/student learning outcome 3f: Flexibility in the use of intervention techniques appropriate to needs of client
Objective 4: Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate research and conduct research in applied settings. 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 is needed for psychologists to develop in this area.
- Competency/student learning objective 4a: Ability to critically evaluate clinical research
- Competency/student learning objective 4b: Evaluate, conduct, and use clinical research in compliance with ethics guidelines
Objective 5: Provide psychological services that integrate a deep understanding of individual and cultural differences and issues of power, privilege, and oppression. 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.
- Competency/student learning outcome 5a: Knowledge of theory and its application of the following concepts: multiple identities; power, oppression and privilege; and individual and cultural differences
- Competency/student learning outcome 5b: Provide culturally competent services, and understand and implement ethical issues pertinent to individual and cultural differences
- Competency/student learning outcome 5c: Knowledge and awareness of self with respect to personal cultural identity and impact of this on clinical practice
Objective 6: Demonstrate the knowledge and abilities necessary to engage in consultation and education services. 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.
- Competency/student learning outcome 6a: Knowledge of evidence-based theories, models, and interventions related to consultation and education
- Competency/student learning outcome 6b: Ability to develop consultative and educational relationships
Objective 7: Acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to engage in management and supervision. 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.
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.
Note: This information is current for the 2021-22 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.
- 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. ↵