Clinical PhD Curriculum

In addition to general department requirements for the PhD, the breadth requirements outlined by the American Psychological Association in 1979 (social bases of behavior, biological bases of behavior, cognitive/affective bases of behavior), and required courses in the history of psychology, lifespan developmental psychology, multicultural issues in clinical or counseling psychology, the following sequence of courses and clinical training is required for students majoring in clinical psychology.

Year 1

Foundations of the Scientist Practitioner

During Year 1, students will establish the foundations of research methodology, assessment, and psychopathology. Through the design of the first year experience, students will learn to integrate the three. Likewise, the completion of Year 1 will have prepared students adequately for completing their thesis, and will have them well trained for conducting other research throughout their career at UWM.

Fall Semester

  • Psych 510: Advanced Psychological Statistics
  • Psych 831: Assessment I
  • Psych 912: Developmental Psychopathology
  • Psych 802: First-Year Clinical Psychology Practicum (Interviewing, Report Writing, and Assessment Administration Skills)
  • Vertical Team

Spring Semester

  • Psych 610: Experimental Design
  • Psych 710: Survey of Clinical Research Methods
  • Psych 802: First-Year Clinical Psychology Practicum (Interviewing, Report Writing, and Assessment Administration Skills)
  • Psych 790 or 890: Master’s Research or Graduate Research or Additional Course
  • Vertical Team

Practical Training During Year 1

Students learn basic interviewing and test administration skills in the first year practicum. They also participate in a “vertical team.” Vertical teams are the method by which we do our “hands on” therapy training. Each vertical team consists of 1-2 first year students, 1-2 second year students, 2-3 third year students, and a supervising Psychologist. Each student has a defined role on the team. Third year students serve as therapists, second year students conduct psychological assessments, and first year students are asked to observe therapy sessions and learn the empirical basis for intervention with the different cases seen on the team. Each team meets weekly to discuss cases with the supervisor.

Year 2

Foundations of Clinical Practice and Master’s Research

The curriculum for year two continues to build the clinical foundations for students to become scientist practitioners.  Students will learn about professional ethics, continue to learn about assessment, will continue their therapy training, and will start to broaden their knowledge of the empirical basis of clinical psychology through taking core courses. During Year 2, students will utilize the research training obtained during Year 1 by completing a master’s thesis.

Fall Semester

  • Psych 821: Practicum in Assessment I
  • Psych 712: Professional Ethics and Issues in Clinical Psychology
  • Psych 741: Foundations of Psychotherapy
  • Psych 790: Master’s Research
  • Vertical Team

Spring Semester

  • Psych 832: Assessment II
  • Psych 742: Empirically Supported Interventions
  • Psych 845: Practicum in Empirically Supported Interventions
  • Psych 790: Master’s Research
  • Vertical Team


Master’s thesis should be defended by end of the summer.

Practical Training During Year 2

During the second year, students are taught to administer and interpret psychological tests in the assessment practicum. In addition, they may begin to acquire hands on experience in implementing empirically supported interventions. Also, they continue to participate in a vertical team, implementing assessment skills and gaining focused experience related to at least one empirically supported intervention approach.

Year 3

Integration of Science and Practice of Psychotherapy

The curriculum for this year continues to help students fully implement their scientist practitioner training by implementing their scientist training in a clinical setting.  Practicum in therapy and vertical teams involve treating clients, including one specialty team focused on an empirically-supported approach (e.g., Prolonged Exposure, CBT for eating disorders in adolescents or adults) and a second therapy team for breadth. Students also continue building their research program..

Fall Semester

  • Psych 842: Practicum in Therapy
  • Ed Psych 640: Human Development
  • Additional Course Slot 1
  • Additional Course Slot 2
  • Vertical Teams

Spring Semester

  • Psych 842: Practicum in Therapy
  • Additional Course Slot 3
  • Additional Course Slot 4
  • Vertical Teams

Practical Training During Year 3

Third year students on the vertical teams are responsible for seeing clients in the Department’s Psychology Training Clinic. Students serve as therapists on two therapy teams, one specialized scientifically validated treatment team (to achieve beginning competency) and one other team, to ensure exposure to different supervision styles and/or therapeutic approaches, with 2-3 cases per team. As part of their third year practicum, students must participate in regular sessions with the Clinic Director (Psych 842). During this time, students complete readings about and discuss models and theories of supervision and consultation.

The specific psychotherapy teams vary slightly from year to year. See the Psychology Clinic webpage for more information. In recent years they have included:

  • Adult Anxiety Team (Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for PTSD, OCD, and other anxiety disorders)
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Eating and Body Image Issues, Anxiety, and Mood Difficulties
  • Elimination Disorders Team (empirically-supported intervention for elimination disorders in children in a hospital setting)
  • Generalist Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Team

Preliminary Exam Requirement

Students can complete the preliminary exam (prelim) requirement either by having a manuscript accepted for publication as first author in a peer-reviewed journal (meeting specific criteria of independence) or by completing a comprehensive critical literature review.  The prelim requirement must be completed by May 15 of the year in which the student applies for internship (typically year 4) before they will be permitted to apply. Students who do not pass the prelim requirement prior to May 15 of their fourth year must submit a Plan of Study for the next year that includes a timeline of program-related activities.

Year 4

In the fourth year, students develop more advanced and specialized skills as a clinician through community placement and as a researcher by beginning the dissertation.

Community Placement

In the fourth year, students complete a Community Placement by spending 12-16 hours per week working in one of many community agencies under the supervision of external practicum supervisors. See Community Placements for descriptions of some of the sites at which our students regularly train. In this year, students can receive more advanced training in Pediatric or Adult Clinical Neuropsychology, Health Psychology, Adult Psychotherapy (OCD. Eating Disorders, PTSD, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders), Pediatric Psychology, Child Clinical Psychology, and other areas of interest based on student preferences. Community agencies that have been involved in the department’s training program include the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (Pediatric Psychology), Roger’s Memorial Hospital (e.g., OCD, Eating Disorders units), the Zablocki VA Medical Center (e.g., PTSD, Post-Deployment, Women, LGBT units), the Center for Behavior Medicine (DBT training), and the Medical College of Wisconsin (e.g., Behavioral Medicine, Adult Neuropsychology, Pediatric Psychology).

Fall Semester

  • Psych 811: Community Placement
  • Optional additional courses
  • Psych 990: Doctoral Research

Spring Semester

  • Psych 811: Community Placement
  • Optional additional courses
  • Psych 990: Doctoral Research
  • Propose Dissertation

Year 5

Dissertation Research and Applying for Internship

The curriculum for year five allows the student to spend time applying for internship and completing their dissertation.  Students must not only have passed the Preliminary Exam Requirement  by May 15 of the year they apply for internship, but they must also have passed their Dissertation Proposal Hearing prior to October 1 of the year they apply for internship.  (Ideally, although it is not a requirement, students should leave for internship with their dissertations completed and successfully defended.)

Fall Semester

  • Psych 811: Community Placement (optional)
  • Psych 990: Doctoral Research
  • Apply for Internship

Spring Semester

  • Psych 811: Community Placement (optional)
  • Psych 990: Doctoral Research
  • Internship Interviews
  • Defend Dissertation

Practical Training During Year 5

The program does not require any specific practical experience during the fifth year; however, students are encouraged to remain engaged in clinical activities.  Students will often want to round out their experiences with additional work, and often get involved in learning how to provide supervision to more junior students. This supervised supervision experience is a valuable experience to those students choosing to participate.  Other students will complete an optional Community Placement, typically one day per week, or conduct research that includes a clinical practice component.

Year 6


An extramural, APA-approved one-year, pre-doctoral, full-time (2,000 hour) internship is required for the clinical psychology program.

Additional Course Requirements not Tied to Specific Semesters

In addition to the core clinical curriculum detailed within the course plan above, the following courses are required:

  1. Breadth requirement: One course from each of the following areas:
    1. Cognitive/Affective Aspects of Behavior (Psych 727)
    2. Biological Aspects of Behavior (Psych 727 or Psych 854. Psych 727 can satisfy both Cognitive/Affective and Biological Aspects of Behavior requirements)
    3. Social Aspects of Behavior (Psych 930)
  2. History of Psychology (Psychology 750 or Ed Psych 833)
  3. A graduate level course on multicultural issues in clinical or counseling psychology
  4. A graduate level lifespan developmental course, including coverage of the affective aspects of behavior
  5. Optional departmental minor: Available areas (and required number of courses) for the minor are:
    1. Cognition and Perception (2 courses)
    2. Developmental Psychology (3 courses)
    3. Health and Social Psychology (2 courses)
    4. Neuroscience (3 courses)
    5. Quantitative Methods (2 courses)