PhD in Clinical Psychology with Curricular Emphasis in Trauma Psychology

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Program Mission

The program trains students according to the scientist-practitioner model in mental health diagnosis, assessment, and intervention for adults who have experienced traumas, and in basic and applied research on the psychological functioning of adults with a trauma history. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to work in a range of settings, including mental health clinics and clinical practices, hospitals, VA's, colleges and universities, state offices, research institutes, and as consultants to a wide variety of other professional and community providers of services to adults who are trauma survivors.

Background

Millions of Americans are affected by trauma every year. The combination of being at war for over a decade, increased incidence of natural disasters, continuing challenges of interpersonal violence, and a high lifetime probability of traumatic accidents the need for mental health professionals trained in trauma psychology has never been greater. Approximately 70% of adults will report having major traumatic exposure and close to 3 out of 4 children will experience a significant trauma each year (Finkelhor, 2005). The extensive trauma exposure has real emotional, physical, and financial costs. Every year, 2.34 million women will experience domestic violence; 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men will suffer intimate partner rapes in the U.S. (Kazdin, 2011). The financial costs associated with interpersonal trauma is astounding with sexual assault economic costs estimated at $127 billion, domestic violence $5.8 billion, general assaults $93 billion. Non-mental health care utilization for trauma survivors is also significant. A recent study found veterans with mental health challenges utilized from 46% to 146% greater physical medical care (Cohn, 2007). Even more startling, those with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder sought physical health care 71% to 170% more often than those without mental health challenges.

Veteran and active duty military health and wellness is particularly important for UCCS due to our location and commitment to our service men and women. An estimated 85,000 to 100, 000 military members live in the Pikes Peak region with their families. Approximately 78,000 veterans live in El Paso County, comprising close to 20% of the County's population. The recent Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have required multiple deployments and unique blast injury warfare that has increased the behavioral health needs of these warriors. Many return with psychological and/or physical challenges that exceed previous conflicts. The level of suicides in the military has reached record levels. The Peak Military Care Network Assessment Report (2011) for the local area stated that behavioral health and social service needs were critical, immediate, and long term. They suggested that these needs were taxing the current service delivery systems: "There is a shortage of qualified providers and/or practitioners in the community. Professional providers are burning out."(page 13). With upcoming military downsizing, the veteran population in El Paso County will escalate and compound the already high need for specially trained mental health professionals in Trauma Psychology. Our curricular track in Trauma Psychology is dedicated to the scientist/practitioner model of training doctoral level psychologists.

The curricular track in trauma psychology in our Clinical Psychology PhD program directly addresses a local community need as well as a national challenge regarding a paucity of trained mental health professionals in the area of trauma. UCCS has made a commitment to the training needs of our trauma students by opening the Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic at the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. With a 2 million dollar grant investment the clinic is a state of the art trauma care provider utilizing evidence-based interventions and cutting edge technology assisted approaches. This clinic provides students with a unique opportunity to focus their training on the specific challenges faced by traumatized veterans and their families. In addition to seeing veterans and their families, students in the trauma psychology track will work with survivors of other traumas. Possible clinical training opportunities at the Veterans Administration in Colorado Springs,  the UCCS Counseling Center, and TESSA (domestic violence center) will provide unique, focused clinical experiences and direct clinical services to our community.

Program Requirements

Knowledge and skills in clinical psychology and basic scientific psychology are the foundations on which the trauma psychology focus is built. Students in this program are preparing to be clinical psychologists first and foremost, with a focus on trauma psychology as their curricular emphasis. Students entering this program are essentially agreeing to focus their work on trauma psychology 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 trauma psychology, 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 and some limited Winterim course requirements. 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.

Required Coursework & Model Curriculum

Important Note about Personal Background Information

Be informed that doctoral training in clinical psychology requires a full-time clinical internship and typically includes community practicum placements in local agencies who partner with us for training opportunities. Many  of these institutions require a legal background check to ensure all employees and trainee meet current standards. In addition, licensure boards usually require applicants to report on their legal background. As such, certain types of criminal backgrounds will prevent applicants from being able to complete program requirements or to attain licensure as a psychologist in some states. Please disclose relevant background information accordingly.

Accreditation

The PhD program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association through 2019.

*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
Web: www.apa.org/ed/accreditation

Program Goals and Objectives

Students will develop foundational skills in the science and practice of clinical psychology with an emphasis on trauma psychology. 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 trauma psychology

Objectives for Goal #3:

3-A: Acquire knowledge and skills in professional practice consistent with competencies associated with graduate training in trauma psychology
3-B: Acquire knowledge and skills to conduct empirical research in trauma psycholog

Veterans Health & Trauma Clinic

The curricular track in trauma psychology in our Clinical Psychology PhD program directly addresses a local community need as well as a national challenge regarding a paucity of trained mental health professionals in the area of trauma psychology. UCCS has made a commitment to the training needs of our trauma students by opening the Veterans Health & Trauma Clinic at the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. With a 2 million dollar grant investment the clinic is a state of the art trauma care provider utilizing evidence-based interventions and cutting edge technology assisted approaches. This clinic provides students with a unique opportunity to focus their training on the specific challenges faced by traumatized veterans and their families. In addition to seeing veterans and their families, students in the trauma psychology track will work with survivors of other traumas. Possible clinical training opportunities at the Veterans Administration in Colorado Springs, the UCCS Counseling Center, and TESSA (domestic violence center) provide unique, focused clinical experiences and direct clinical services to our community. 

A significant resource for training and research is the UCCS HealthCircle Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic (VHTC), a trauma-focused psychological services training and research center. The VHTC was established in February 2014, as part of the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences and through a generous gift by Ms. Lyda Hill. The VHTC clinicians are experienced in trauma psychology and have strong relationships with the military and civilian communities in Colorado Springs. Client referrals come from Fort Carson, the Veterans Administration, other clinics within the Lane Center, physicians, other therapists, and other community agencies working with trauma survivors in the Pikes Peak region. Students choosing a trauma psychology emphasis will spend two years of their training at the VHTC and receive supervision from VHTC providers with many years of experience providing mental health services to military service members, veterans, their families, and civilian adults and adolescents.

The VHTC also provides highly accessible research space that is dedicated for faculty and graduate students pursuing trauma psychology research. A state-of-the-art human computer interaction laboratory is available for monitoring real-time physiological reactions in response to trauma recovery websites and other web-based recovery tools. Research rooms are available at the Lane Center for other projects and a group room is available for focus groups and studies involving larger groups of participants. A trauma participant registry and a Lane Center-wide participant registry are being established to facilitate recruitment of research participants.

Admission Requirements

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 trauma psychology.

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.

Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data

Program statistics such as Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data are available here for the geropsychology emphasis.  Data will be provided for the trauma psychology emphasis as it becomes available.

Enrollment

Although not set as a firm limit (exceptions may arise), a typical cohort will consist of two to four students. Students may expect to be funded by research, teaching, or clinical assistantships and fellowships.

Faculty

For more information on our faculty, see the faculty listing.

Faculty quality in trauma psychology is strong. Currently, Dr. Charles Benight is serving as the Chair of Veteran Health and Trauma coordinating the trauma psychology track. Dr. Benight's research in trauma has spanned over 20 years focusing on human adaptation and self-regulation along with more recent work on web-intervention systems for trauma recovery. Dr. Tom Pyszczynski, distinguished professor, is a social psychologist and a world leader in the area of Terror Management Theory. Dr. Pyszczynski recently published papers focusing on Anxiety Buffer Disruption Theory in order to understand the range of responses that traumatized individuals exhibit as they move forward in their lives. Dr. Robert Durham has focused extensively on attitudes toward child sexual abuse. Dr. Brandon Gavett is a neuropsychologist who focuses on chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Faculty productivity in trauma research is high. It is also possible for students to work in a cross-disciplinary way through the Trauma, Health, & Hazards Center with faculty from geography and computer science. Faculty have generated well over 5 million dollars in external funding with grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Department of Defense TATRC, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health 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.

Housing

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.

Off-campus housing

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

On-campus housing is available. See the Housing Village page for more information including information on the new apartment-style dorms.

Application Materials and Deadlines

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

Contact Information

Questions concerning the doctoral program can also be addressed by calling 719-255-4500 or emailing David DuBois at ddubois@uccs.edu.

All written correspondence and credentials should be mailed to:

Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program (Trauma)
Psychology Department
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918

Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Examination Guidelines for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program with Curricular Emphasis in Trauma Psychology can be found in .pdf format here.

Students wishing to take the Comprehensive Examination must complete a Comprehensive Exam Form and submit it to the Director of Clinical Training 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.

Graduate Student Handbook

The Graduate Student Handbook for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program with Curricular Emphasis in Trauma Psychology can be downloaded here.

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