James Madison University

Program Training Philosophy

There are a number of key elements that guide the training philosophy of the C-I Doctoral Program and they include: a) an integrative model of training; b) a focus on integrative theory; c) a scientific humanistic approach that emphasizes critical thought, self-reflective awareness and deep, authentic, meaningful relations with others; d) a meta-level view that emphasizes international, interdisciplinary, and interprofessional perspectives and collaborations; e) a respect for diversity; and f) an individualized approach to training that attends to the personal as well as professional development of students. These elements are described in more detail below.

An integrative model of training. Combined-Integrated training is an innovative concept that merges the traditional professional areas of clinical, counseling, and school psychology into a generalist approach that provides students with a broad foundation from which to operate. It is a training model that the Core Faculty have played a leading role in articulating (e.g., Shealy, 2004). One of the defining principles of C-I training is an emphasis on integration, and our program exemplifies this in a number of ways. First, students are exposed to a wide variety of different supervisors with different backgrounds. Second, students work in a wide variety of different settings. Third, there is an explicit emphasis on the crucial role that beliefs and values play in what is promoted and legitimized and why, and this allows students a capacity to empathize with a wide variety of different perspectives.

A focus on integrative theory. Intimately related to the integrative training model, is a focus on integrative theory. The Core Faculty each have broad and general training backgrounds and offer students integrative lenses through which to view the field. Moreover, several of the core faculty have played a leading role in defining new visions for theoretically unifying the field (see Henriques & Cobb, 2004; Shealy, 2004).  Students are exposed to leading research in integrative theory; for example, in 2007 the CI program hosted two Visions of Integration Conferences that brought leaders from around the nation to discuss integrative theory both within psychology and between psychology and other disciplines.  

A scientific humanistic approach. One of the most perplexing challenges for the field of professional psychology has been its struggle to navigate the tensions between the cold logic of science and the moral necessities of humanism.

Several of the faculty have offered explicit articulations of how to effectively combine a scientific and humanistic ethic (e.g., Shealy, 2005; Henriques, 2004, 2005), and our program operates from a scientific humanistic philosophy that promotes critical thinking, self-reflective awareness, and the development and maintenance of deep, meaningful relationships.Because an individual psychologist has the potential for great influence over others, and because clinical work and professional practice can be inherently subjective, it is essential that our students are willing and able to understand and critically explore who they are, what they believe and why, and what they must do—personally and professionally—to become highly knowledgeable, skilled, and competent practitioners and leaders in mental health.

An Interprofessional, Interdisciplinary and International Focus. The ability to effectively collaborate with clients and professionals is a key competency that our program emphasizes (see Johnson, Stewart et al. 2004). One of the core faculty members, Dr. Stewart, is the Interprofessional Coordinator for the Department and has extensive knowledge and experience of how to train psychologists in working in a wide range of diverse settings with a wide variety of different health and mental health professionals, agency and organizational leaders, and government officials.

Our program also emphasizes an international perspective. In particular, Core Faculty members Drs. Savina, Stewart and Shealy have extensive international experience and connections.

Respect for Diversity. Another important facet of the C-I Program is respect for diversity.  First, students in this program show great diversity in a number of domains including ethnic and cultural backgrounds, age, life experience, educational and work background, clinical knowledge and skill, and professional identity. Second, throughout the curriculum plan and program, students are encouraged to understand and appreciate the relevance and impact of sociocultural factors on clinical practice, theory, and research in the mental health field. Third, a number of faculty in the C-I Program have research and professional interests in multicultural and international issues. These collaborations allow our students to interact with diverse professionals from both applied and non-applied backgrounds, and widen the purview of their practice, scholarly, and professional possibilities.

An individualized approach that emphasizes professional and personal growth.  The Core Faculty recognizes the uniqueness of each student and the training model is designed to accommodate the needs of individuals already possessing advanced degrees in applied areas such as clinical, school, or counseling psychology (or closely related fields such as clinical social work) who are returning to graduate school to pursue the doctoral degree. Training proceeds along a structured sequence of activities that are individualized to the needs of students who enter the program with varying levels of professional experience. Excellent faculty to student ratios (approximately 3 on-campus students to each core faculty member) allows for intensive one-on-one time, and each student’s level of clinical skill and knowledge are thoroughly assessed as they proceed through the program.