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What is a Ph.D. in Clinical Science?

A Ph.D. in clinical science is a very common degree for psychologists who either want to become licensed clinical therapist or academia-based researchers.

Program Goals and Outcomes

The mission of clinical science programs is to advance clinical concepts, theories and practices. Clinical science refers to standard processes and methods that promote cognitive functioning and well-being. This means that practitioners strive to assess, understand, ameliorate and prevent behavioral problems and health conditions. Students are taught to research, interpret and apply knowledge in ways that are consistent with scientific evidence. These programs emphasize the use of empirical approaches to evaluate the validity of testable hypotheses. Students are encouraged to become
active in applied and translational research and evidence-based approaches.

Program Specializations

There are many types of clinical science Ph.D programs.

There is psychopathology, which teaches students how to identify, treat and prevent mental health problems in clients. Psychopathology is divided into three subfields. First, developmental psychopathology focuses on mood disorders and atypical problems in children and adolescents, such as autism and depression. Second, adult psychopathology focuses on things like schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Third, developmental disabilities is concerned with only autism and Asperger syndrome.

Another common specialization is clinical neuroscience, which includes neuro- and psycho-physiological approach to studying abnormal behavior and normal biological and cognitive processes, such as emotions.

A prevention and intervention concentration will combine different fields to focus on certain health disorders, such as diabetes, and other common biomedical conditions. These psychologists may attempt to identify which potential genetic markers are associated with heightened risks of depression.

Health psychology uses a biopsychosocial approach to studying health and illness throughout the entire life span. For example, they may study eating disorders such as anorexia. Quantitative analysis is for students who want to learn how to apply advanced statistical techniques to the clinical issues.

Sample Curriculum

Most Ph.D. in clinical science programs require around 40 to 42 credits for graduation. There are usually core, track and advanced requirements, so courses are carefully selected after consultations between the student and their advisor. Depending on the student's specialization, such as patient, laboratory and population-based science, additional courses and field work may be required. During the first year, students will take around 10 credits of core courses and over 10 for their specialization. Four to six lab rotations are typically required. During the first year, they must study research project and methodology basics.

They also complete two to three research experiences or lab rotations that last six to eight weeks. A lab thesis paper and comprehensive exam will probably be required. During year two, they take advanced elective courses in their areas of interest and continue with their thesis research. This requires them to gather data, prepare a thesis proposal for a grant application and work with a mentor. During the third year and fourth years, students will participate in seminars and workshops while they complete their thesis and prepare for their presentation and oral exams.

A Ph.D. in clinical science is the perfect degree choice for psychology students who want to research and work with clients.

Recommended Resource: The 50 Best Ph.D. Programs in Clinical Psychology 2016