‘Summer Intensive Week’ Brings Online and Distance Learning Masters Students Face to Face

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Master's in Counseling Students

Master's in Psychology Students

Every summer, online and distance learning students in PAU’s psychology and counseling master’s programs have a chance to come face to face with their faculty and online peers during a required week-long summer session after their first year. In addition to getting to know each other ‘offline,’ students attend courses that are core components of their program and that are often better taught in person.

“It was amazing to connect in-person with people I’d come to know virtually,” said Ashton Scherrer, who recently completed her Master’s in Psychology and is now in Palo Alto University’s doctoral psychology program. “Attending class online, and around my work schedule, is something I could only find at PAU, and meeting my peers in person brought us all closer together.”

The psychology and counseling programs each have their own summer curriculum. The M.S. Psychology program is a part-time online program preparing students for Ph.D. studies in clinical psychology or designed for those interested in research or education. During summer, students take a course in “Clinical Interviewing,” which helps facilitate knowledge about what it’s like to meet with clients from both a research and therapeutic background. The class is taught in an “intensive” style format, meeting in a classroom Monday through Friday for up to eight hours a day. During the intensive, students learn what it takes to successfully lead a therapeutic conversation with a client, with the mid-term and final designed around video recordings of their learning and role-plays. 

“I look forward to meeting the students in person,” said Rowena Gomez, Ph.D. “Teaching distance learning has made me a better instructor for in-classroom and online teaching. It taught me to be more strategic and student-centered in my courses. I also admire and appreciate the energy, discipline, and commitment that those students have to be successful in the graduate courses, while balancing their other commitments such as their job and family."

While the intensive week is sometimes the first time students meet their cohort classmates in-person, professors enjoy the experience, too!

“Teaching through video conference takes the ‘distance’ away from ‘distance learning’ and interacting live with students from all around the world is a unique experience,” says M.S. Psychology program director Eduardo Bunge, Ph.D. “The thing [I like] the most from the M.S. Psychology program is that it is very personalized— we get to know the students, and they get to know and learn from each other.”

PAU’s M.A. Counseling program offers a residential hybrid (on-campus/online) and a low-residency distance learning (online) program for students who need flexibility. Students in the program choose between the Marriage, Family and Child or the Clinical Mental Health tracks, both of which are CACREP accredited. California graduates of this program can pursue both the Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) license and the Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) license, and graduates from other states can pursue similar licenses, dependent on their state’s licensure board.

During their summer intensive week, students also study clinical interviewing and other counseling skills involving role-playing, which is best taught in a classroom setting. 

"We have about 90 distance counseling students attending our one-week intensive clinical interviewing classes,” said assistant professor Szu-Yu (Darlene) Chen. “The Clinical Interviewing course provides our students with an opportunity to practice foundational counseling skills and prepares them for the clinical practicum. Besides the clinical training, this is also a great opportunity for them to meet professors, staff, and classmates face-to-face.”

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