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The program trains students according to the scientist-practitioner model in mental health diagnosis, assessment, and intervention for adults and older adults, and in basic and applied research on the psychological functioning of adults and aging individuals. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to work in a range of settings, including mental health clinics and clinical practices, hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and universities, state offices, research institutes, and as consultants to a wide variety of housing and social service providers to adults and older adults.
The dramatic demographic shifts our country, state, and region are experiencing suggest that the need for psychologists knowledgeable about aging processes will continue to grow dramatically over the next several decades. Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. By 2030, older adults will comprise 20% of the U.S. population, up from 13% in 2008 (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, 2010). The Baby Boomer cohort brings higher rates of mental disorders with them into later life, along with openness to mental health services. With increasing rates of social and role challenges, chronic illness, disability, and dementia into late life and related mental health problems, the burgeoning older adult population will have expanding needs for mental health services (Karel, Gatz, & Smyer, 2012).
Psychology, along with other health disciplines, lacks a workforce prepared to meet the needs of older adults. The UCCS program is an effort to address what has been termed a public crisis that demands development of additional training programs. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that only 4.2% of respondents identified geropsychology as their area of current focus (Michalski, Mulvey, & Kohout, 2010). A prior survey (Qualls et al., 2002) found that the typical practicing psychologist provides services to fewer than 2 older adults per week with a combined ability to meet less than 60% of current demand. Only 3% of the psychologists reported that they devoted most of their professional time to older adult clients. This survey further revealed that fewer than 20% of psychologists had received any kind of formal coursework in geropsychology although the majority desired more training. The American Psychological Association estimates a need for 5,000 full-time doctoral level geropsychology practitioners by 2020. Their estimate is based on the assumption that only 10% of the older adult population will receive services, as opposed to the estimated 28% who need them, which would require 14,000 full-time equivalent psychologists by 2020 (Halpain, Harris, McClure, & Jeste, 1999). An evaluation of the geriatric mental health professional workforce by leaders in the main disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, social work) recommended strongly that incentives be increased to draw people into training in geriatric mental health because of the projected crisis (Halpain et al., 1999).
Many areas of psychological and social functioning of older adults pose serious problems as well as significant opportunities to society. The need to assess accurately the risk of accidents while driving, risks of safety in independent living environments, and decision-making capacity are just a few of the problems that researchers must address. Other important topics include adaptations of work environments for older workers, long-term effects of disability and caregiving on family members, risk factors for elder abuse and exploitation, and efforts to promote early detection of mental health and cognitive disabilities. Lifelong health behaviors are the primary cause of the major chronic illnesses of later life, factors that are amenable to interventions that can save lives and reduce disability. Older adults also represent a rich resource for the workforce, social programs, intergenerational mentoring, and other meaningful contributions to society. Thus, psychologists knowledgeable about aging have many opportunities to contribute to many sectors of our aging society (e.g., policy, housing, social services, promotion of positive health behaviors, basic research).
Knowledge and skills in clinical psychology and basic scientific psychology are the foundations on which the geropsychology focus is built. Students in this program are preparing to be clinical psychologists first and foremost, with a focus on geropsychology as their curricular emphasis. Students entering this program are essentially agreeing to focus their work on aging rather than sampling the variety of populations and problems that might form the elective offerings in another program.
This program adheres to the scientist-practitioner model of training in clinical psychology, commonly referred to as the Boulder model. Under this model, professional psychologists are trained to be both scientists and practitioners with the goal of enhancing the interplay between science and practice. In an emerging field, such as geropsychology, it is of utmost importance that practitioners add to the existing knowledge base regarding application strategies that are effective, and that scientists be informed of applied issues in shaping their pursuit of knowledge. For a more detailed discussion of these issues, see our "Statement of Scope of Training and Standards of Behavior" which can be found here.
The curriculum will require at least five years of post-baccalaureate work to accomplish requirements of the doctoral degree. Students complete 126 hours of required and elective courses, a comprehensive exam, a dissertation of original scholarship, clinical practica, and a clinical internship (off site). The clinical curriculum requires specific coursework, required for licensure and accreditation, and an off site internship year. Students who enter the program with a BA or BS degree will earn an MA en route to the doctoral degree through the mechanism of the existing MA program.
Timeline for program completion: Completion of the Clinical Psychology PhD program from the BA or BS starting point will typically take 5 years of residence on campus with the 6th year allocated for internship (Students should expect this time frame as the general rule pending unusual exceptions).
Doctoral students are also advised that this is a 12 month program with clinical Practicum obligations during the summers. Clinical and research work are continuous without regard to the semester structures and students are funded to participate year round.
This program values and promotes self-awareness as a significant component of training in clinical psychology. Students in this program engage in self-awareness exercises within their courses and practicum training. They are also strongly encouraged to engage in their own psychotherapy during their training.
To see required courses and a model curriculum, click here.
The PhD program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association through 2012.
*Questions related to the program's accredited status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 1st Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979 / Email: APAAccred@apa.org
Students will develop foundational skills in the science and practice of clinical psychology with an emphasis on aging. They will be prepared to provide diverse empirically-based assessment and psychotherapeutic services, conduct research, educate, and provide leadership. Specifically, the 3 formal goals of the program (and the objectives for each goal) are listed next:
Goal #1: Produce graduates who have the requisite knowledge and skills for entry into the professional practice of clinical psychology
Objectives for Goal #1:
1-A: Acquire knowledge and skill in clinical assessment
1-B: Acquire knowledge and skill in psychological and psychotherapeutic interventions
1-C: Acquire knowledge of the ethics of clinical practice, including ethical practice with diverse populations
1-D: Acquire knowledge of clinical supervision and consultation that is commensurate with level of training
Goal #2: Produce graduates who are capable of conducting, evaluating, and disseminating research
Objectives for Goal #2:
2-A: Acquire attitudes and skills essential for life-long learning and scholarly inquiry
2-B: Acquire knowledge and skills to conduct empirical psychological research
2-C: Acquire knowledge and skills to disseminate research effectively to professional and lay audiences
Goal #3: Produce graduates who demonstrate competence in knowledge and skills in geropsychology
Objectives for Goal #3:
3-A: Acquire knowledge and skills in professional practice consistent with competencies associated with graduate training within the Pikes Peak Model of Training in Geropsychology
3-B: Acquire knowledge and skills to conduct empirical research in geropsychology
A significant resource for training and research is the CU Aging Center, a community-based psychological services training and research center. Since opening in January 1999, the CU Aging Center has provided mental health services to hundreds of older individuals and families. The CU Aging Center is recognized in the community as a primary resource for outpatient and home-based mental health services for older adults and their families.
The CU Aging Center also provides highly accessible research space that is used regularly by faculty and graduate students. Faculty conduct research on normal aging processes such as memory, decision-making, caregiving, personality, and bereavement, as well as abnormal processes characteristic of age-related illness (e.g., dementia, stroke, medical illness). Located in a senior services complex that houses the city’s Senior Center with easily accessible parking and full handicap accessibility, the CU Aging Center is an excellent site for recruitment of research participants.
Applicants should have the following credentials:
1. A BS or BA degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.
2. An overall average of 3.0 ("A" is equivalent to 4.0) or above in all undergraduate courses, and 3.5 or better on graduate coursework.
3. Graduate Record Exam scores of at least 1200 cumulative on the Verbal and Quantitative sections, or above the 50th percentile on the Verbal and Quantitative sections using the new GRE scoring. The advanced psychology test is strongly recommended
4. An adequate undergraduate program in psychology including college-level mathematics, statistics, experimental psychology, and some background in the biological, physical, and social sciences.
5. Applicants should have career goals consistent with the program emphasis in geropsychology.
Promising students who do not meet all of the requirements may be considered as applicants.
Graduate level courses completed prior to admission may be transferable into the program. Applicants with previous graduate coursework or degree may request a review of their transcript and related materials to determine whether specific courses or thesis requirements may be waived.
Program statistics such as Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data are available here.
Although not set as a firm limit (exceptions may arise), a typical cohort will consist of three to five students. Students may expect to be funded by research, teaching, or clinical assistantships and fellowships.
For more information on our faculty, see the faculty listing.
Faculty quality in aging is strong. Currently, 8 psychology faculty do research primarily focused on aging, with 4 additional faculty whose secondary focus is in aging. Faculty productivity in aging research is high. Several million external dollars have been generated by the faculty, including grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Justice, and the Health Resources Services Administration.
Graduate psychology courses are taught by faculty who are actively involved in nationally recognized research programs. Most faculty are also engaged in community involvement and/or clinical service delivery. Clinical students also benefit from placements under local experts whose services exemplify the training goals of the program.
There are two forms of housing available for graduate students, off-campus housing in apartments and houses and, for the first time, on-campus dormitories.
A recently completed housing survey of graduate and undergraduate honors students in psychology found that 50% of the students lived within 5 miles of campus (range = 1-12 miles) and that it took them 10 minutes or less to commute to campus (range 3 to 25 minutes). The mean rent was $750/month for a one-bedroom apartment and $800/month for a 2-bedroom apartment, not including utilities.
On-campus housing is available. See the Housing Village page for more information including information on the new apartment-style dorms.
The application deadline for Fall admission each year is January 1st. PhD applicant interview days is tentatively scheduled for Friday of the first full week in February.
Click here to see Application Materials and Procedures
Questions concerning the doctoral program can also be addressed by calling 719-255-4500 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
All written correspondence and credentials should be mailed to:
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
The Comprehensive Examination Guidelines for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program with Curricular Emphasis in Geropsychology can be found in .pdf format here.
Students wishing to take the Comprehensive Examination must complete this form and submit it to the DGT and DCT for their signatures by January 20th (for Spring Exam) or August 20th (for Fall Exam) of the year they wish to sit for the Examination.
Note: Students are expected to be engaged full-time in the program throughout the calendar year.
The Graduate Student Handbook for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program with Curricular Emphasis in Geropsychology can be found in .pdf format here.
Our program has been a proud member of CoPGTP since its formation in 2007. Please click here for the Council of Professional Geropsychology Training Programs website.