Ph.D. Clinical Psychology: Trauma Emphasis

Overview

Among mental health professionals, the potential long-term psychological costs of exposure to trauma has long been recognized. Adverse consequences have been well documented by researchers who study combat veterans, people who have experienced mass casualty events (e.g., disasters and terrorist attacks), domestic violence, and adult survivors of genocide, sexual assault, childhood abuse, or car accidents. In response to the growing scientific literature, there is national support for developing a trauma-informed workforce across all healthcare domains, as evidenced by initiatives undertaken by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Joint Commission. Recent natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and international conflicts have hastened demand for clinicians with competence in assessing and treating trauma survivors. Alongside clinicians, trauma researchers, teachers, and policy makers who possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to meet growing public health needs are greatly needed. The Trauma Area of Emphasis provides students with a theoretical, research, and clinical foundation necessary for developing competency in working with traumatized adults, children, adolescents, and their families.

New Haven Trauma Competencies

The learning objectives of the Trauma Area of Emphasis are aligned with the New Haven Core Competencies (Cook & Newman, 2014). The competencies broadly include foundational knowledge, a range of functional skills, and professional attitudes. Specifically, five areas are delineated as important to master through specialized education and training by those who work with trauma survivors: 1) scientific knowledge about trauma, 2) psychosocial trauma-related assessment, 3) trauma-focused psychosocial intervention, 4) trauma-informed professionalism, and 5) trauma-informed relational and systems. The Trauma Area of Emphasis uses a series of benchmarks to identify and to assess successful attainment of trauma competencies.

Objectives

Students enrolled in the Trauma Area of Emphasis receive specialized education and training in evidence-based assessment and treatment modalities used in trauma psychology. The courses required as prerequisites and offered in the Trauma Area of Emphasis fulfill the didactic education criteria laid-out in the New Haven Trauma Competencies. For more information on the New Haven Trauma Competencies click here. Successful completion of the Trauma Area of Emphasis at Palo Alto University is only one component in the education and clinical training necessary to become a competent clinician. Further specialty preparation and development is expected at the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral level as part of a commitment to life-long learning in psychology.

Eligibility

All students may take the Assessment and Treatment trauma courses if the prerequisite courses are completed. No exceptions will be made for waiving CBT prerequisite course. Students can elect to complete one or both of the Trauma Area of Emphasis specializations in Child and Adolescent Trauma or in Adult Trauma. With carefully planning, students can complete both specializations if desired.  

Students can only report completion of the Trauma Area of Emphasis if they have fulfilled all requirements of one or of both specialization tracks (i.e., required trauma courses, trauma focused practicum, dissertation).

Trauma Psychology Area of Emphasis Course Requirements

Students who participate in the Trauma Area of Emphasis must complete the core coursework required of all clinical students. In addition, they must complete a series of three required courses (9 units) that focus on trauma psychology. Trauma core coursework must be completed over the course of two years, [2nd and 3rd] or [3rdand 4th] of the Ph.D. program. Students should plan their schedules carefully as successful completion of the perquisite CBT course are required for enrolling in the advanced courses. 

Prerequisite Coursework

To enroll in the Assessment and Treatment of Trauma courses, CBT and the Foundations of Clinical Trauma Psychology must be completed with a grade at or above an A-.

Required Coursework 

Child, Adolescent and Family Trauma Specialization Course Requirements (9 units): 

  1.  Foundations of Clinical Trauma Psychology (required prerequisite for the Assessment and Treatment course)
  2.  Assessment and Treatment of Trauma in Children and Adolescents
  3.  Elective PAU course with a child or adolescent trauma component* 

Although the focus of assessment of this specialization track is on children and adolescents, it also includes adult family members, such as parents and grandparents, who are integral members of the process and outcome.

Adult Trauma Specialization Course Requirements (9 units):
 
  1.  Foundations of Clinical Trauma Psychology (required prerequisite for the Assessment and Treatment course)
  2.  Assessment and Treatment of Trauma in Adults
  3.  Elective PAU course with an adult trauma component*

Students who elect to complete both the Child and Adolescent Trauma Specialization and the Adult Trauma Specialization may fulfill the elective requirement (i.e., #3 requirement listed above) by completing a single course (i.e., not two courses – one for each specialization track) if aspects of adult and child/adolescent trauma are addressed at some point during the course. No course approval for the selected elective course is needed from the Director of the Trauma Area of Emphasis.

*  Students can take CBT concurrently with Foundations of Clinical Trauma Psychology course, but not concurrently with the Assessment and Treatment of Trauma courses. CBT and Foundations of Clinical Trauma Psychology are prerequisite courses that need to be completed prior to taking the Assessment and Treatment of Trauma in Children and Assessment and Treatment of Trauma in Adults courses. 

 
1.  Research Requirement
Students who want to be competitive for obtaining a top tier internship should possess excellent writing and statistical skills and strive to publish papers and give presentations on trauma related topics while in graduate school. Students should be actively involved with a research group that is focused on trauma related projects.
 
2.  Professional Development Requirement

Students in the Trauma Area of Emphasis are expected to actively take part in professional activities to advance their knowledge in the field. This includes student membership in the American Psychological Association, Division of Trauma Psychology (56) and regular attendance at the Palo Alto University Trauma Journal Club.

3.  Dissertation Requirement
Students in the Trauma Area of Emphasis must complete a dissertation that makes a scientific contribution to the field of trauma psychology.
 
4.  Practicum Requirement
In their 3rd or 4th year, students must complete an official practicum placement (one year of full or supplemental training) in a setting that includes a caseload of patients with PTSD or other trauma-related disorders in which trauma is the primary treatment focus.
 
5.  Internship
A search of the APPIC site in May 2020 using the terms “trauma” and “PTSD” in the program description resulted in a list of 169 and 63 internship programs, respectively. Students are required to complete an internship in a setting that includes a caseload of patients with PTSD or other trauma-related disorders in which trauma is the primary focus for at least 33% of the total internship hours.
 
Completion of the Trauma Area of Emphasis
Completion of the Trauma Area of Emphasis will be granted following the completion of all coursework requirements, completion or securement of a trauma focused practicum, fulfillment of internship requirements, and approval of the dissertation proposal by the dissertation committee. Students who have successfully completed the Trauma Area of Emphasis may apply for a certificate of completion by clicking here.
 
Contact for Further Information
Lisa M. Brown, Ph.D., ABPP
Director, Trauma Program
 

 

 

 
 
 
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