James Madison University

Professional Identity as a Doctoral-Level Psychologist

Because many students enter the program with different professional backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, it is essential to address the growth of each student's professional identity as a doctoral level psychologist. The following components have been developed to facilitate the growth of professional identity in our students.

Mentoring Relationships and Close Faculty-Student Relations


The program places a strong emphasis on the development of mentoring relationships between faculty and students as a means of enhancing students' professional identity. Because the program is small (i.e., approximately one Core Faculty member for every three on-campus students), students have the benefit of considerable interaction with faculty, and there is ample opportunity to receive individualized guidance, instruction, and consultation. These mentoring relationships allow faculty to model professional attributes in a more personalized fashion. Students historically report very positive benefits associated with the strong emphasis placed on close student-faculty relations.

The Role of the Advisor


The student’s Advisor plays a pivotal role in student progression through the program as well as ongoing assessment processes. In consultation with the Program Director and other faculty as appropriate, the Advisor 1) ensures that the Advising Packet for each student is current and complete, 2) consolidates individual performance data on students, 3) identifies goals as well as areas of strength and weakness, 4) develops preliminary remediation plans if necessary (in consultation with the student and Core Faculty), 5) identifies areas that should be addressed to help the student achieve program and professional goals, and 6) addresses and resolves issues relevant to the student's progress through the program. Students may also offer feedback through the Advisor to the program. For example, unexpected setbacks in health or other program difficulties can be communicated from the Advisor to other faculty during program meetings. In addition to recommended ongoing contact and regular meetings, all students must arrange formal meetings with their Advisor in 1) late November/early December and 2) late May/early June in order to review and complete all relevant forms from the Advising Packet.

Process Group


To help students readjust to the role of graduate student, facilitate personal and professional growth, and manage the stress of graduate study, the program has identified a skilled clinician who is not directly affiliated with the C-I Program to provide a "process group" for all students during their first year in the program. The process group meets for 1.5 hours weekly during the spring semesters of students’ first academic year (e.g., approximately 10 weeks each semester). All process group activities and discussions are regarded as confidential between program students and the process group clinician.

Individual Therapy for Students


One of the most important components of the C-I Doctoral Program is to encourage each student to acknowledge and address personal characteristics that may interfere with competent clinical care. The program faculty believes that individual therapy can be an important part of student growth and development, as a clinician, peer, and professional. Although the program does not mandate that students participate in personal therapy, the program strongly encourages its students to do so. In fact, the majority of students in the program report that they do participate in therapy during the training process, and that this experience is crucial to their overall growth and development, both personally and professionally. To assist with referrals, the program has identified several clinicians in the larger area who have agreed to work with C-I Program students. All therapy arrangements are made between the student and his or her therapist, and all therapeutic discussions are regarded as confidential between the student and therapist.

Doctoral Seminar in C-I Psychology


All first and second year students participate together in an ongoing weekly seminar in C-I psychology (PSYC 825). The seminar begins upon entry into the program and continues for the first two years of each student's program (in the fall and spring semesters). The seminar facilitates the examination of issues such as the differences/similarities among various specialty areas (e.g., clinical, counseling, and school psychology), ethics, professional standards, theoretical orientation, the history of the field, potential career options, multicultural service delivery, managed care, and other topics relevant to the practice and profession of psychology. The Core Faculty members as well as other faculty and professionals from the community contribute to and participate in this course.

Facilitator of a Multicultural Workshop


The C-I Program plays a crucial role in conducting a yearly multicultural workshop for faculty and undergraduate students in the Health and Human Services. Students are exposed to a range of multicultural readings and taught how to facilitate group processes around multicultural issues. Participation in the workshop is conducted as part of the Doctoral Seminar in C-I Psychology.

Faculty/Student Involvement in Regional, National, & International Conferences


In an effort to promote further inter-faculty and faculty-student dialogue, faculty and students in the Combined-Integrated Doctoral Program participate in yearly regional, national, and international conferences.

Program students are required to conduct a scholarly presentation or submit a publication prior to leaving for internship. Although students have a range of forums from which to choose (e.g., the Virginia Psychological Association, the Eastern Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association, the Virginia Play Therapy Association), one acceptable venue is the Department of Graduate Psychology’s annual Research Symposium. These forums and the presentation requirement help cultivate a “practitioner-scientist” identity, while presenting students with models of professional interaction.

Professional Organizations


All students are encouraged to become members in professional organizations which best reflect their burgeoning identities as doctoral-level psychologists. All students join APA as a means of initiating this important process. The program also strongly encourages students to become actively involved in the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) (an APAGS representative is chosen by the students at the beginning of each academic year). Students are especially encouraged to explore APA Divisions 12 (Clinical Psychology), 16 (School Psychology), 17 (Counseling Psychology), 29 (Psychotherapy), 37 (Child, Youth and Family Psychology), and 53 (Child Clinical) since these specialty divisions closely match program foci.

Practicum in College Teaching


All students in the Combined-Integrated Doctoral Program are required to teach undergraduate courses (e.g., Introductory, Developmental) during the fall and spring semesters of their second year of study. Most students find this experience to be very rewarding, key to the development of their professional identity, and relevant to prospective internships and employers. In preparation for teaching in their second year of study, students complete a teaching assistantship during their first year. In addition, all students complete an orientation to teaching seminar during the summer semester of their first year. Students are then permitted to teach under the supervision of a PSYC 895 (Teaching Practicum) supervisor during the fall and spring semesters of their second year of study.

Community Service


Throughout their program, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of community services projects. Such activity serves to further the student developing professional identity and a unique role in the community. This integration of research, clinical practice, and community responsibility provides students with experiences beyond the classroom which increase their awareness of the unique and dynamic role that they, as professionals, play in the greater community.