Department of Psychology Graduate Studies
- By John Thomas Green
The UVM Department of Psychology offers graduate study leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree with a specialization in either General/Experimental or Clinical Psychology. The Department has about 55 graduate students at any given time. Our graduate education mission is to train the researchers, practitioners, and teachers of psychology who will create the future of the field and who will benefit humankind by increasing knowledge about the nature and causes of human behavior, by treating mental and emotional disorders, and by preventing such problems. UVM’s Graduate Program in Psychology strives to produce versatile psychologists who are able to work in academic, research, or applied positions. To this end, all students are expected to establish a research program and to construct a coherent plan of study.
UVM’s Psychology Graduate Program is housed within the Psychology Department, which currently has 23 full-time faculty with labs, 6 lecturers, 4 clinical faculty in our in-house training clinic for the clinical program (the Behavior Therapy and Psychotherapy Center), and 7 faculty with joint-appointments in Psychology and another department at UVM. The Department has longstanding collaborative research programs within the Department and with other UVM departments and programs, including the Neuroscience Graduate Program, Biology, Psychiatry, Pharmacology, Education, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Pediatrics, Surgery, Women's and Gender Studies, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and several departments at Fletcher Allen Health Care.
Within the General/Experimental Graduate Program, students concentrate in one of four areas: Biobehavioral Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, or Human Behavioral Pharmacology.
The subprogram in Biobehavioral Psychology focuses on the behavioral and neurobiological components of learning, memory, and emotion. The shared focus among biobehavioral faculty provides a unique environment and learning experience for the student interested in learning, memory, and emotion. Graduate students in the subprogram can also gain experience in a variety of behavioral and neuroscience techniques.
The subprogram in Developmental Psychology focuses on human development. Faculty and student interests include basic research, community psychology, and prevention efforts to promote healthy development. The central focus of the subprogram is on normal development; however, a number of faculty and students also examine the role of developmental processes in adjustment and psychopathology.
The subprogram in Social Psychology consists of faculty members who emphasize theoretically driven, socially relevant research with a focus on stigma, coping, intergroup processes, and the self and others. Much of this work starts off with college students participating in a tightly controlled laboratory experiment, but then moves on to consider the complexity of the phenomenon by concentrating on other populations in real-world contexts.
Finally, the Human Behavioral Pharmacology subprogram studies environmental and pharmacological factors that influence drug abuse and diverse new treatments for drug abuse. Their research spans alcohol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabinoids, caffeine, cocaine, nicotine, and opioids. Research includes both clinical research on behavioral and pharmacological treatments for cocaine, nicotine, opiate, alcohol and marijuana dependence and human laboratory research on the behavioral effects of abused drugs.
Regardless of subprogram, General/Experimental students also gain teaching experience. One General/Experimental student describes the program coursework as "a well-rounded educational experience." Another notes that "the work we do not only prepares us for a future as scientists, but allows us to make real discoveries.”
The graduate program in Clinical Psychology, which was started in 1969 and is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), is designed to develop competent scientist-practitioners, as prescribed by the “Boulder Model.” Therefore, the program provides opportunities for students to conduct research that is clinically relevant and to use clinical interventions and assessments that are validated by empirical research.
All clinical students are required to receive substantial training in both research and clinical practice through hands-on faculty/student research mentorship, formal coursework, practicum placements (at least 1,000 clinical hours), and a yearlong (2,000 hours) pre-doctoral clinical internship after the fourth or fifth year at a medical center, VA hospital, or mental health center. Furthermore, clinical students are required to be involved in selected teaching experiences to acquire skills in teaching.
As a relatively new innovation, the clinical program now offers a Developmental Psychopathology concentration focusing on the origins and progression of patterns of adaptive and maladaptive behavior across the lifespan. Clinical faculty members have diverse research interests spanning such topics as adult anxiety and mood disorders, sexual dysfunctions, and HIV/AIDS; parenting interventions and preventions; childhood ADHD and antisocial behavior; and the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.
Amy Paysnick, an advanced clinical psychology graduate student and former UVM Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year, said, "I have thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by such a supportive group of faculty and students in this program. The excellent training and experiences in clinical work, research, and teaching have prepared me well for a career involving any of these areas." Jennifer Mahon is an advanced clinical graduate student who received a prestigious National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institute of Mental Health to fund her final two years of graduate training at UVM. Jennifer, who is now preparing to begin her internship year at the Puget Sound Seattle VA Medical Center, said, "The clinical program offers a unique depth of research and clinical training by wonderfully supportive faculty."