Expectations and Professional Behavior

Earning a degree from the SMU doctoral program in clinical psychology requires mastery of a coherent body of knowledge and skills. Doctoral students must acquire substantial competence in the discipline of clinical psychology as specified in the American Psychological Association (APA) Standards of Accreditation and must be able to relate appropriately to fellow doctoral students, faculty and staff members, research participants, clients/patients, undergraduate students, and health care professionals and community partners.

Students in the SMU doctoral program in clinical psychology will have the opportunity to work with diverse populations in their research, teaching, and clinical training. Professional competencies are determined by the profession for the benefit and protection of the public; consequently, doctoral students do not have the option to refuse or avoid working with particular client or research populations or refuse to develop professional competencies because of conflicts with their attitudes, beliefs, or values.

Combinations of behavioral, emotional, intellectual, and communication abilities are required to develop these competencies and progress through the program satisfactorily.

Attitudinal, Behavioral, Interpersonal, and Emotional Attributes

The doctoral program in clinical psychology often involves taxing workloads and requires the ability to manage stressful situations. Doctoral students must have the physical and emotional attributes to maintain a high level of functioning in the face of multiple and varied research, academic (i.e., coursework), teaching, and clinical responsibilities.

The ability to participate collaboratively and flexibly as a member of an inter-professional team is essential. For example, on research teams, doctoral students must demonstrate the ability to interact appropriately with research participants, other students, and faculty and staff members.

Doctoral students must be able to take responsibility for their behavior in all professional settings, which includes being responsible (i.e., meet deadlines) and open to feedback from their supervisors, academic instructors, and research advisors. They must also be open to examining personal attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes (especially those that may negatively impact client/patient care and professional relationships) and willing to modify behavior in response to constructive criticism.

Intellectual Skills

Doctoral students must possess a range of intellectual skills that allows them to master the broad and complex body of knowledge that comprises clinical psychology education.

Doctoral students must be able to analyze and synthesize information from a wide variety of sources and must demonstrate sophisticated critical thinking skills. They must be able to learn effectively through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to: classroom instruction, clinical supervision, small group discussion, individual study of materials, independent literature review, preparation and presentation of written and oral reports, and use of computer-based technology.

Doctoral students must be able to critically evaluate their own and others’ research, including the ability to identify limitations in the research literature or design of a specific study, to critique a manuscript as an ad hoc reviewer, and to “make psychological sense” of their own data. They must be able to use theory to inform the conceptualization, design, and interpretation of research. Additionally, doctoral students must be able to effectively understand the theoretical literature in their identified substantive research area, to appropriately discuss this literature in individual and group lab meetings, and to integrate their understanding into scientific writing and presentations. They must further demonstrate an ability to generate novel hypotheses and to design a study that follows from those hypotheses.

Communication Skills

Doctoral students must be able to ask effective questions, to receive answers perceptively, to record information about client/patients, and to translate psychological science to applied settings (e.g., clinical and community settings). They must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with clients/patients, their families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, clinical supervisors in varied practicum settings, and with other clinical and community partners. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., interpretation of facial expressions, affect, and body language).

Doctoral program faculty are committed to a training model that helps students develop the competencies and technical skills laid out in this handbook.

Professional Behavior

Students are expected to behave in a professional and appropriate manner at all times.