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Curriculum Overview

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View the typical course schedule for PhD students by year here.

Year 1

A sequence of required courses is taken during the first year. Clinical practica are optional during the first year. It is anticipated that students will begin active participation in a research program with their advisor. The fourth quarter (summer) is typically devoted to research and applied courses designed to prepare students for second year clinical practica.

Year 2

A series of required general courses and track courses are offered during the second year. Students may begin to take electives as part of their schedule. Continuation of clinical practica and research participation occur during this year. Completion of a thesis, along with satisfactory course grades, qualifies the student for the M.S. degree.  Students are required to submit their Master's thesis for publication in a peer-reviewed journal as part of their specialty track requirements.  

Qualifying Exams

The goal of the Qualifying Exam is to assure that a student has obtained and can communicate, in both written and oral formats, a scientist-practitioner skill set. It has two primary key components. First, it includes an assessment of the student’s ability to formulate a clinical case conceptualization, rooted in the empirical literature and based on evidence-based theory. Second, it assesses the ability of the student to both critically evaluate and conduct methodologically sound research that is relevant, timely and has important societal implications. Across these components, the student must be able to demonstrate that they can think critically, ask questions that have important clinical and research implications and have a strong understanding of important constructs within clinical psychology such as assessment, intervention and diagnosis that are informed by the literature.

The qualifying exam exists in two parts: a Clinical Science component and a Research component. Passing both components is required for the student to advance to candidacy. It is recommended that both components be passed by the end of the third year in the program. It is required that both components be passed by the end of the fourth year of the program.

The Clinical Science component is a case formulation that answers an important question generated by the student, in consultation with the student’s advisor, from one of the student’s cases. The formulation/answer to the question must be rooted in a conceptual framework that has a clear empirical basis and must include considerations of each of the following issues: ethical, cultural, etiological, diagnostic and interventional. This component will consist of a written outline that is approved by a faculty committee of three and an oral presentation to that committee. The Research component is a first author, submitted publication. The publication can derive from their Master’s Thesis work or from other work in which the student has been involved while enrolled in the Ph.D. program at RFU. This component can take multiple forms, including an empirical paper, a review article, a meta-analysis or a grant proposal (e.g. NRSA).

Year 3 and Year 4

Required courses, electives, clinical practicum and research activities continue during these years. Upon satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examinations, students may develop their dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal must be approved by August 15th, if the student is to be eligible to apply for internship the following year.

Additional didactic activities in which students may participate include: department sponsored colloquia; a Visiting Speaker Series and individual case conferences sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry; training conferences, special lectures and grand rounds sponsored by basic science and/or clinical departments, as well as the Psychology/Psychiatry Service of the Lovell Federal Health Care Center).


Students are required to complete a one-year, full-time, clinical internship, after having completed formal course work and a dissertation proposal. Students work with the Director of Clinical Training to ensure that they are applying to sites which reflect their career goals. Students are required to participate in the APPIC national match. The internship facility must comply with the American Psychological Association accreditation standards and must be approved by the Department of Psychology. Our students are typically accepted into APA-accredited, high quality internship programs all across the country. Over the last several years, our internship match rate has been 100%, which exceeds the national average. 

Our students have matched at many APA-accredited internship sites around the country, including from the following list:

Baylor College of Medicine/Department of Pediatrics
Brown Alpert Medical School
Children’s Hospital Boston
James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Facility (VA)
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
Kennedy Krieger Institute/John Hopkins School of Medicine
Lexington VA Medical Center
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Metrohealth Medical Center
Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Naval Medical Center, San Diego
Northern California Psychology Internship Consortium
Portland VA Medical Center
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School/ University Behavioral Health
Rush University Medical Center
Southlake Community Mental Health/ Regional Mental Health Center
Southwest Consortium Predoctoral Psychology Internship
Springfield US Medical-Federal Prisoners
St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital
Tulane University School of Medicine
University of California-Los Angeles Neuropsychiatric Institute
University of California-San Diego/ Veterans Affairs
University of Chicago Medical Center
University of Florida Health Science Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center
University of Michigan Human Adjustment
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry
VA Chicago Health Care Center
VA Connecticut Healthcare System
VA Edward Hines, Jr.
VA John D Dingell VA Medical Center
VA Gulf Coast Veteran Healthcare System
VA Maryland Healthcare System
VA Medical Center, Milwaukee Mental Health Division
VA Northern California Health Care System
VA Palo Alto Healthcare System