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Health Psychology and Clinical Science

Mission Statement/Training Philosophy


Doctoral students in the Health Psychology and Clinical Science program will receive a thorough grounding in an integrated program of psychological science that encompasses both health psychology and clinical science, including current theoretical perspectives, the conduct and evaluation of scientific research methods, and the conduct of prevention and intervention trials across a diverse set of populations.

Students will affiliate with a primary emphasis in clinical science or health psychology. However, what sets this program apart from others is a true commitment to the interaction between physical and mental health, a focus on health disparities and the influence of the sociocultural context, and the advancement of health equity from a biopsychosocial perspective. Students wishing to obtain a foundation in both areas of emphasis can work with their faculty advisory committee to develop an integrated plan. The program offers research-oriented (rather than practice-oriented) training. At this time, students completing the Ph.D. will not be graduating from an APA-accredited program.

The program for predoctoral students includes core coursework and intensive supervised research and clinical and health science practica in laboratory, health care, and community settings. The program utilizes a mentorship model in which students will work closely with one or two faculty as their designated faculty advisor(s). The faculty has strong expertise in a number of processes relevant to clinical and health psychological science, including: biopsychosocial determinants of physical and mental health and illness; stress, coping, and adjustment to chronic illness; self and identity in illness; neurobiological bases of emotion function and dysfunction; social-cognitive risk factors for mental disorders and physical illness; adherence to treatment; health communication; and health disparities. Within these areas, research training in our program spans diverse populations with regard to gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.

Beyond a firm foundation in psychology, we offer strong methodological training. These areas of concentration in the program are supplemented by further expertise among the faculty with specific disorders and diseases including cancer; HIV/AIDS; mood, anxiety, and stress disorders; suicidal behavior; and musculoskeletal diseases, with foci on specific populations such as women, GLBT individuals, and racial and ethnic minorities.

Goals for Student Training


Graduates of the Health Psychology and Clinical Science training program will display knowledge and skills in four areas:


1. Knowledge of psychological science. Graduates of the program will be expected to have an in-depth knowledge of health psychology and/or clinical science. Students will develop expertise in the psychological bases of physical and mental health and illness, including such topics as the biopsychosocial determinants of health and illness, stress and coping processes, how the social, cultural and temporal contexts alter health-behavior processes. They also will develop a broad knowledge of many of the basic areas of psychology (e.g., social psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience) and other related areas (e.g., public health), as these areas interface with clinical science and health psychology. In addition to the mechanics of research design, students will develop the ability to conceptualize research problems in terms of broader theoretical descriptions and explanations as a means to understand physical and mental health-relevant phenomena in more meaningful ways. Students will be expected to develop a professional identity as a health psychologist and/or clinical scientist through research experiences, attendance at specialized research conferences, and membership in one or more professional associations of health or clinical psychologists, such as the Division of Health Psychology (Division 38) of the American Psychological Association, Society for Behavioral Medicine (SBM), American Psychosomatic Society (APS), Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 (section 3) of the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), among others.


2. Empirical research skills. Studies will develop advanced research skills, including the ability to understand, integrate, and critically evaluate the literature in the breadth of scientific psychology, and the ability to design, conduct, and analyze empirical research. The program emphasizes the development of laboratory, field and translational research skills, including the conduct of randomized clinical trials and program evaluation. Students are expected to maintain an active research program in collaboration with faculty members throughout their doctoral training so as to enhance the breadth and sophistication of their research skills and to produce new knowledge in one or more specialized areas through directed research experiences and the successful completion of a dissertation.

3. Professional skills. Students will develop proficiencies in teaching, writing research grants, presenting their work at research conferences, and publishing in professional journals. Many students choose to enter academia when their graduate work is completed so training includes opportunities to garner teaching experience, including a Teaching of Psychology course and teaching at one of the senior colleges. Students will also develop publication and presentation skills through the Proseminar, the Professional Development course, and their individual research experiences.

4. Appreciation for cultural diversity and the conduct of ethical research. Students will develop the competence to study and interact with individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds, to conduct research that is culturally-sensitive, and to develop skills to work collaboratively. Regardless of setting, clinical and health psychological science researchers need a solid grounding in ethics as they pertain to research and to vulnerable and underserved populations. In addition to a required course in ethics, the ethical conduct of research will be integrated into every methods course, modeled by faculty researchers, and discussed as part of research presentations in the proseminar.