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Clinical Psychology Program Named Among Nation's 'Hidden Gems'

Dec. 9, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Sam Houston State University’s clinical psychology program has been recognized as one of the “Hidden Gems” among training programs in the country in an article published in the Training and Education in Professional Psychology journal.

The article, written by Jennifer Callahan, Camilo Ruggero and Mike Parent, listed SHSU’s program as No. 8 for combined “emerging professional benchmarks,” based upon an evaluation of the success of programs’ students in obtaining internship placement and at passing the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology.

Mary Alice Conroy sitting at her desk
Mary Alice Conroy, director for the clinical psychology doctoral program

Approximately 183 accredited clinical psychology doctoral programs in the United States were examined to determine the rankings.

“We in the department of psychology and philosophy are very excited about the designation,” said department chair Christopher Wilson. “The designation says that our faculty are at the top of their game and that they are doing everything right to prepare students for their profession.

“As for the students, this is a real boon to their futures as the designation only underscores the type of training they are receiving at SHSU,” he said. “The doctoral program in clinical psychology has developed both a national and an international reputation. If you look at our doctoral program, we have students from Canada, Korea, and Serbia, among other countries.

“We have always known how good we are, and we now have external validation showing how good we are.”

Schools in the top 10 were also identified as performing “better than expected” in terms of students’ passing examination rates and internship matching rates, compared to the programs’ “predoctoral characteristics,” the Graduate Record Exam verbal and quantitative scores and the undergraduate grade point averages.

This “value-added” approach allowed the researchers to use concrete evidence to show what schools give students who enter their programs, as opposed to subjective rankings that ask for opinions or for faculty to weigh schools they may have never even heard of, according to Mary Alice Conroy, psychology professor and director of SHSU’s clinical psychology doctoral program.

“It was very creative in terms of looking at concrete outcomes,” Conroy said. “The study, with the value-added piece, looks at what the programs give the students to put them a step ahead, or 10 steps ahead, of where they were expected to be when they come in.

“We way exceeded those benchmarks, which means that our program, in and of itself, added this value to students’ success,” she said. “I feel that’s very important.”

SHSU’s highly competitive Ph.D. program accepts only a fraction of its applicants annually. Of the 169 graduate students who applied to the program, only nine were accepted this fall.

Doctoral students undergo a curriculum that includes counseling and psychological assessment, including forensic assessments and neuropsychology, which are two areas that are uniquely offered to SHSU students.

“We’re about the only program that I know of in the country that lets students participate with a supervisor in forensic assessments with the court,” Conroy said, adding that students help conduct assessments for 19 counties in Texas.

In addition, SHSU’s third doctoral graduate also recently passed board certification for neuropsychology.

“We give out students opportunities here to shine, and they do, they make our reputation,” Conroy said. “I always say that our students are out there doing so many great things. I post on our website all of the jobs, all of the internships that they’ve gotten because they get some of the top internships in the country. They make my reputation.”

Students are mentored by and work closely with licensed clinical psychologists who comprise the faculty, and internships report to Conroy that SHSU’s students have a broader and more in-depth vita than most people do, she said.

“We specifically designed the program that way,” she said. “Before I came here, I was at the other end of it, where I had interns, so I knew what people were expecting on that end.”

In addition, 100 percent of SHSU’s students who apply for American Psychology Association-accredited internships are placed, and 100 percent of the students who have taken the licensing exam (35 out of 39 graduates so far) have passed it.

“When you look at the ASPPB (Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards) website and the pass rates for other schools, very few get 100 percent,” Conroy said.

The study was called by researchers the first of its kind, examining only clinical psychology programs instead of psychology departments as a whole, which often include counseling psychology and school psychology programs.

The research was made possible because of the 2006 requirement by the Commission on Accreditation for all accredited doctoral programs to provide detailed, up-to-date information on student admissions and outcomes, among other data, the study says.

“Before these changes, few data were publically accessible to engage in any kind of objective evaluation of training programs,” the study said. “Because of the lack of empirical data, publicized rankings of program success were primarily reputational in nature.”

“In essence, the rankings reflect reputational strength of departments with ratings often supplied by less-informed individuals rather than stemming from genuine peer review,” it continued. “Despite such methodological flaws, reputational rankings continue to be relied upon heavily by prospective students as well as in determination of awards and grant distributions.”

Hidden Gems Among Clinical Psychology Training Programs” was published in October.



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