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Training Philosophy

The mission of the PhD Program in Clinical Psychology is to prepare students to become competent and highly skilled in the research and practice of clinical psychology, including the championing of equity, diversity, and inclusion. In particular, the program’s training philosophy incorporates several core tenets. See below for more information about our program’s philosophy.

Scientist-Practitioner Model

In emphasizing the integration of science and practice, the program adheres to a training approach consistent with the scientist-practitioner model established at the Boulder Conference in 1949. Because the program trains students to be scientist-practitioners and understand how science and practice inform one another, students are prepared for positions in both research-oriented (e.g., research universities and academic medical centers) and practice-oriented (e.g., hospitals, schools, community mental health agencies, forensic settings, and private practice) settings. Consistent with this model, the program aims to accomplish the following.

  • Provide students with the foundational knowledge and clinical skills to become competent scientist-practitioners in clinical psychology. This aim is accomplished by providing students with knowledge in the depth and breadth of scientific psychology, skills in evidence-based approaches to assessment and treatment, and an understanding of how to apply a scientific approach to clinical decision-making, case conceptualization, and evaluating clinical efficacy. Our approach to clinical training is guided by the American Psychological Association (APA)’s definition of evidence-based practice in psychology, as students are taught that clinical psychologists have a responsibility to provide services based on the best available knowledge while also using their clinical judgment to consider client characteristics and preferences.
  • Produce students with the necessary research skills to contribute to the scholarly knowledge base. This aim is accomplished by providing students with grounding in the research process and skills needed to develop, critically evaluate, synthesize, and apply scientific knowledge. Our approach to research training prepares students to conduct original and meaningful research to better understand and address a range of clinical issues, problems, and populations. Students are trained to develop independent research questions based on a critical evaluation of empirical research, generate hypotheses, and test them using experimentation and statistical methods. Students are expected to disseminate their research through conference presentations and publications.
  • Prepare students to be ethical, culturally-responsive, and professional scientist-practitioners. Students learn to conduct themselves in an ethical manner consistent with the principles and standards of the APA Ethics Code, as well as continually self-assess their competencies; recognize their limitations; and seek supervision, consultation, and training when needed. In addition, this aim is accomplished by ensuring that students develop awareness, respect, and sensitivity in regard to diversity in age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and other individual differences. Furthermore, students are encouraged to pursue leadership, innovation, and excellence in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Areas of Emphasis

The program offers students the opportunity for specialized training in two areas of health service psychology: clinical child psychology and forensic psychology. The clinical child psychology emphasis focuses on the unique psychological needs of children and adolescents, as well as developmental considerations in psychopathology, assessment, and treatment, including the role of family and social contexts in psychological adjustment. The forensic psychology emphasis focuses on evidence-based services for individuals whose lives interface with the legal system. Students learn the unique legal and ethical parameters for the practice of psychology within the legal system, gain practical experience in forensic mental health assessment and the provision of treatment to offender and victim populations, and are exposed to current theories on family and interpersonal violence.


The program utilizes a mentor model of training. Each student has a faculty mentor (identified at the time of admission) with shared interests. Faculty mentors are expected to model the integration of science and practice and form collaborative relationships with their students, involving them in their research programs and opportunities for presentation and publications while promoting their development as goal-oriented, productive, and well-rounded clinical psychologists.

Interdisciplinary Research

In addition, the program is comprised of faculty members with diverse and interdisciplinary research interests across a variety of areas which intersect with clinical psychology, including biological, cognitive, developmental, health, and social psychology. We encourage our prospective students to consider any of our core or associated faculty members as prospective mentors, and our students are free to pursue research projects related to any of the areas in which our faculty currently work.

Respect for Diversity

The program is committed to promoting awareness, respect, and sensitivity in regard to diversity in age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and other individual differences. Consistent with these efforts, faculty and students in the program strive to provide an open and supportive learning environment for all individuals, from faculty and student recruitment through to completion of the program.

As directed by the Montclair State University (MSU) Office of the Provost and Human Resources, recruitment efforts for new faculty include provision of notice of MSU being an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution; search committees consisting of multiculturally diverse members; and required training for search committee members in practices to advance the mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruitment. The faculty also aspire to bring together cohorts of students that represent a wide variety of lived experiences and perspectives. Those from diverse multicultural backgrounds, or with interests in and a commitment to advancing equity, inclusion, fairness, dignity for all, social justice, and human rights, are strongly encouraged to apply to our program.

Students are encouraged throughout the curriculum to understand and appreciate the importance of cultural and individual differences in the theory, research, and practice of clinical psychology. In their clinical training, students have opportunities to work with clients from a wide range of backgrounds. In their research training, students consider issues of diversity throughout the research process, from study design to interpretation of results. Students also have opportunities for training with a number of program faculty who have clinical, research, and service interests in multicultural psychology and social justice issues. Furthermore, students are encouraged to connect with the broader diverse university community of which they are a part, including through the MSU Office for Social Justice and Diversity. Relatedly, the program remains mindful of MSU’s Human Relations Statement on Campus Climate for Civility and Human Dignity. Students and faculty with concerns or suggestions for opportunities for growth with respect to the program’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are encouraged to alert the Director of Clinical Training (DCT), either directly, or via faculty mentors and other program faculty, student cohort representatives, or student members of the Psychological Organization of Doctoral Students (PODS) Diversity Committee.

In fostering these opportunities, the program hopes to create leaders who value equity, diversity, and inclusion; are innovative and committed to excellence; and promote human rights, fairness, and dignity for all people—both within and outside their academic and professional communities.