Overview of PsyD Program
Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in clinical psychology trains future practitioner-scholars who reflect the diverse populations of Los Angeles, the nation and globe. In addition, the program is closely aligned with the mission of our University – serving the needs of traditionally underserved and marginalized populations. Embedding these foci and values throughout our course of study and training, the PsyD program offers doctoral students a choice of two emphases: 1) Latinx mental health and 2) diverse populations. Doctoral students in our Latinx mental health emphasis have passed an oral proficiency examination as part of their application to the program.
In addition, PsyD faculty integrate a critical theory and social justice framework to coursework (e.g., assessment, psychometrics, quantitative research methods, etc.) and clinical training. All students are required to complete a social justice immersion during the summer of their first year to fulfill the mission of the University and our commitment to our communities. Our practitioner-scholar doctoral program strives to successfully train and empower the next generation of psychologists to prepare them to become leaders and agents of social change in Health Service Psychology and the larger world.
The entrance criteria for our PsyD are a combination of “broad” entrance criteria (e.g., undergraduate GPA), as well as competence-based assessments (e.g., letters of recommendation from a current or past supervisor familiar with the applicant’s clinical or professional work; specific coursework in undergraduate psychology). We select applicants who are prepared for advanced education and training in psychology, who we believe can succeed in our program. The curriculum is structured in accord with the goal of doctoral-level competence by containing the following elements: 1) Integration of empirical evidence and practice: Practice is evidence-based, and evidence is practice-informed; 2) Training is sequential, cumulative, graded in complexity, and designed to prepare students for practice or further organized training; and 3)The program engages in actions that indicate respect for and understanding of cultural and individual differences and diversity. We are confident that these criteria relative to the curriculum maximize student success.
Residency Requirements and Time to Completion
After acceptance into the PsyD program the student is expected to remain continuously enrolled each regular semester up to and including the semester in which the degree is awarded.
The PsyD Program is designed to be completed in five years; this includes four years of full- time academic coursework at MSMU and one year of full-time internship (or two years of half- time internship) completed at another institution. The residency requirements of the program are as follows: four years of full-time academic study plus one year full-time or two years part- time internship prior to receiving the doctoral degree. All four academic training years must be completed within the MSMU PsyD Program. The Program is year-round, with academic breaks in May, July, August, and December.
Requirements for graduation:
- 120 instructional units are required for completion of the doctoral program. Students are responsible for following the designed degree plan. Please note that curriculum sequencing is subject to Students will be notified of any changes through the Canvas Portal and during mandated academic advising.
- Students complete the Clinical Proficiency Exam (CPE) the summer semester of the third year and is a prerequisite for application to Internship. The CPE evaluates the student's knowledge, understanding of, and skills in clinical assessment, intervention, ethics/legal standards, cultural diversity as they apply to health service psychology. It also evaluates communication/interpersonal skills and professional values and behaviors as they relate to the profession. The CPE requires the student to successfully pass a written exam before preparing an oral case presentation.
- Students complete a Clinical Dissertation. The goal of the Clinical Dissertation is to ensure that the student possesses advanced scholarly competencies consistent with the aims and competencies of the PsyD Program. The student demonstrates this competence by completion of a written document and by the successful oral defense of that document. Faculty mentors prepare and guide students as they produce the document and prepare for the oral defense.
- Students complete 9 Internship units during their 5th year of program, which is concurrent with their fulltime one-year Internship.
Distance Learning Technologies
The PsyD program was designed as with a 100% face-to-face (f2f) format of learning; there was no expectation of using distance learning technologies. However, COVID 19 lockdowns have necessitated “temporary” utilization of zoom as a distance learning technology. We are transitioning back to face-to-face (on ground) learning as is safe and prudent. We expect to be back to 100% “on-ground” fall 2022.
MSMU consists of two campuses within Los Angeles (LA), Chalon and Doheny. The Chalon campus consists of 36 acres along the foothills of Santa Monica in Brentwood. The Psy.D. program is housed on the Doheny campus, 20 acres near Downtown LA, in the Adams District (adjacent to the University of Southern California). Most of MSMU’s graduate programs are located at the Doheny Campus including the Mount’s other doctoral program, a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT).
The Psy.D. program offices are housed in the Amat House, an Edwardian mansion gifted to the Catholic Diocese. Psy.D. classes are taught in Smart Classrooms throughout the Doheny campus, most regularly in the Amat Annex building adjacent to the program’s offices. Faculty in the PsyD program are allotted office space, a computer (desktop or laptop), copying and printing machine access and codes, and office supplies as needed.
Institutional and Administrative Structure
Institutional Administrative Structure & Accreditation
MSMU is a private, Catholic liberal arts university in Los Angeles, California, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1925. The University sits on two campuses within the city: 1) Chalon – in Brentwood – a primarily female traditional undergraduate student population and 2) Doheny – Downtown Los Angeles – an administrative, graduate, and non-traditional undergraduate campus, serving all genders. Our PsyD program is housed at our Doheny campus.
Grounded in a calling to serve those in need, also known as “thy dear neighbor,” the University’s mission is to educate and empower the surrounding communities in the liberal arts tradition, including the biological and behavioral sciences. The majority of our undergraduate and graduate students are first-generation college students, half are eligible for low-income grants, and 90% are classified as a “minority” race/ethnicity. MSMU is a majority Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), with over 60% of the student body identifying as Latinx/o/a or Hispanic. In 2020, MSMU was ranked #1 in Top Performers on Social Mobility and #18 in Best Value Schools out of Regional Universities West by U.S. News and World Report.
MSMU has been continuously accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC), Senior College and University Commission (WSCU) since 1952.
MSMU’s first graduate courses began in 1931, offering our first doctoral program in 2002 – a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT). MSMU’s DPT program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) with graduates eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Exam in all 50 states. Additional MSMU program-specific accreditation includes accreditation by: 1) the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), 2) the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and 3) the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
MSMU’s graduate programs in psychology further embrace the university’s history, mission, and local communities with a Master’s of Science (MS) in counseling psychology and the PsyD in clinical psychology. The MS counseling psychology program includes a general counseling or marriage and family therapy specialization with an emphasis/certification in counseling within the Latinx, Spanish-speaking community (¡Enlaces! certification). These graduate programs, including the PsyD, are housed within, and governed departmentally by, the psychology department’s Chair and faculty as well as program-specific directors.
Building on the success of MSMU’s DPT program and our graduate psychology programs, the PsyD program in clinical psychology is congruent with the institution’s mission and goals for structural growth at the doctoral level. While housed within the Mount’s psychology department, the PsyD’s administrative arm consists of an independent program director who answers directly to the department’s chair. The psychology department’s chair and the PsyD’s program director function within the campus administrative structure and answers to MSMU’s graduate council, vice presidents, president, and provost.
In addition to its program director, the PsyD has its own budget (e.g., independent funding stream from the Office of the Provost) and core faculty, separate from other undergraduate and master’s programs within the psychology department. In a demonstration of support for our burgeoning PsyD program, the institution allocates scholarship funding, as well as funding for assistantships, for our current and incoming doctoral students.
Commitment to Cultural and Individual Differences and Diversity
The mission of MSMU’s founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs)– centers in the "practice of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy…which will most benefit the dear neighbor" as well as the humility of “service without distinction.” This mission continues to shape the Mount’s academic programs, policies, and institutional culture nearly a century later.
The PsyD program integrates this mission through clinical training and empowering students from traditionally marginalized populations. We instill a calling of service to those in need through our social justice immersion as well as with the integration of equity-focused curriculum and training. Reflected in our admissions and employment policies, the program prioritizes program “fit” in addition to academic achievement and clinical experience. Representative of our mission, current students report being dedicated to serving their communities and the “dear neighbor.”
Program Administration and Structure
Housed within MSMU’s psychology department, the PsyD’s administrative arm consists of an independent program director who answers directly to the department’s chair. Under the Program Director, the Psy.D. has its own core faculty, separate from other undergraduate and master’s programs within the psychology department. All core faculty have either Ph.D.s or Psy.D.s, and are experts in their relative pedagogical, training, research, and clinical practice areas.
The PsyD’s programmatic governance is overseen by the program director and includes the Psy.D. core faculty. These individuals are responsible for the following within the program: 1) admissions, 2) advisement, 3) student policies and handbook, 4) course development that is aligned with APA guidelines and MSMU’s graduate learning goals, 5) preparation for clinical training 6) professional development, 7) program assessment, as well as 8) teaching, scholarship, and research. Additionally, the Psy.D. program director and core faculty oversee faculty: 1) hiring, 2) review and evaluation, and 3) mentorship and teaching development.
MSMU’s Psy.D. program was successfully reviewed by WSCUC via “substantive change” procedures in 2018. Due to this WSCUC accreditation, graduates of MSMU’s Psy.D. program are eligible to apply for licensure as a psychologist in California (as well as other states based on individual state requirements), once their doctoral degree and required postdoctoral hours are completed.
Length of Degree and Residency
The Psy.D. program is designed to be completed over five years (60 months), each year consisting of fall, spring and summer terms. Utilizing a strict cohort model, students will only be admitted in the fall term of their first cohort year and are required to retain full-time status for the duration of the five-year program. Students will enroll in and complete: 1) coursework, 2) practicum training, 3) Clinical Proficiency Exam [CPE], and their 4) dissertation, within the first four years of the program. Students’ fifth year consists of their required full-time, 12-month clinical internship program.
Our PsyD program is designed as a traditional, in-person, “bricks n mortar” program. Classes generally meet mornings and afternoons, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with first-year students expected to attend professional development seminars on-campus on Fridays. The fifth year consist of internships that are often located outside of the greater Los Angeles area thereby necessitating online communication with faculty and staff, most specifically a timely check-in with the director of clinical training (DCT). PsyD students are required to maintain contact with our DCT throughout their internship, as a source of additional support and mentorship.
Upon admission into the program, students are not allowed to transfer any credits or hours from any previous programs. Thus, residency will be required for all 120 units, without exception, in order to maintain systematic quality of our PsyD coursework towards their degree.
Each cohort completes their academic study across the first four years, with the dissertation completed at the end of the fourth year. Students are expected to take all courses with their cohort-mates holding to the designated sequence. Courses are completed throughout the fall, spring, and summer terms. Our full-time doctoral students must enroll in a minimum of 6 units per semester. The one exception is Year 5, their full-time internship year, when students enroll in 3 units per semester.
The program is designed as a cohort model, with 10-12 students per cohort admitted each fall term.
A small cohort model ensures students’ needs are addressed directly and faculty can provide the mentorship that follows MSMU culture and tradition. Faculty work with students individually to address issues pertaining to leave of absences, makeup assignments, professional interpersonal behavior, etc. Students who need to withdraw during a semester term, must wait until the following year to re-enroll (assuming good academic standing).
The Psy.D. offers two emphases, Latinx mental health and diverse populations. Both emphases will enroll in the same coursework for the first two years (6 semesters). Differentiated instruction is integrated during this time in order for students to develop specialized knowledge and expertise in their chosen area of emphases.
Beginning Year 3, emphasis courses are offered on different topics allowing students to focus and refine their chosen emphases. These courses may also address pressing topics that may not be part of the designated APA curriculum.
Students enrolled in the Latinx mental health emphasis will focus their dissertation research, practicum and internships on the Latinx communities; students in our diverse populations emphasis may select any population(s) in which they would like to build expertise (e.g., LGBTQIA, low-income, children with special needs, specific ethnic groups, psychiatric populations, homeless, etc.). All students will be encouraged to work closely with their program advisor, as well as the career advisors at the Professional and Academic Resource Center (PARC), to frame their CVs and strategize their practica, internship, and job search.
Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation
Students begin the foundation of their dissertations Year 1 of the program, utilizing their research methods courses as a forum to explore prospective questions, topics, methodologies, and methods. Beginning Year 3, course units are built into their schedules where students meet, discuss, write, and defend their dissertation proposal (Chapters 1- 3 of their dissertation). Students are expected to assemble a dissertation committee throughout this year. Year 4 consists of dissertation completion (Chapters 4- 5) and defense. Our program’s objective is to support and encourage completion of dissertations prior to Year 5’s full-time internship.
Students’ clinical practica function as supervised clinical experience, allotting students “real world” experience in clinical settings. This allows for practice application of fundamental skillsets (e.g., assessment and intervention) under the guidance of a licensed supervisors. Students’ introduction to “real world” experience begins with a non-clinical social justice immersion, the summer of their first year. Clinical practica during are required Years 2-4 of the program. Clinical practica hours are generally 20-24 hours per week over 9-12 month contracts.
Internships are completed during the final (or fifth year), for the equivalent of one year, full-time (40 hours per week). Students’ internships ideally offer challenging experiences with a higher level of independence and responsibility. Interns assume a direct service role and may present at case conferences and interact with other staff and professionals as junior colleagues. Interns also participate intensively in consultations, psychotherapy, full diagnostic test battery analyses, and other advanced or specialized activities, such as supervision and management. Additionally, internships may offer further opportunity for our students to specialize, such as working predominantly with the homeless populations or the Latinx, Spanish-speaking community.
The Psy.D. program is a single administrative entity within the psychology department at MSMU, not a consortium. The PsyD program, however, is an active member of the Southern California Association of Training in Psychology (SCAPTP), a consortium of local universities (both Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs) and agencies dedicated to training doctoral-level psychology students.
Financial support for training and educational activities
MSMU is a private Catholic institution financially supported by tuition, the Catholic Diocese, endowments ($144.9 million in 2018), as well as federal (e.g., Title V of the HEA, $3.1 million) and state grants. The Psy.D. program utilizes monies from the psychology department, MSMU graduate studies, as well as a direct funding stream from the Office of the Provost.
Psy.D. faculty are financially compensated for travel to and from research and practice conferences, as well as conference fees, etc. Annually, Psy.D. core faculty attend the American Psychology Association (APA) conference, National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) conference, the National Latinx Psychology Association (NLPA) conference, one research conference accompanying the first-year doctoral students (e.g., APA or WPA), as well as additional practitioner and research conferences given roles, networking, and presentations. Funding for faculty professional development and training activities are also available at the programmatic, departmental, and institutional levels.
Student Financial Resources
All Psy.D. students are offered a $25,000 Merit scholarship at the time of admission, that will be dispersed over the four years of academic coursework. Paid teacher assistantships (TA-ships) are also available to our doctoral students. TA-ships are allotted according to students’ experience, proficiency and/or specialization areas. MSMU participates in the Ahmanson Veteran Scholarship Initiative, granting postsecondary scholarship funding to Post/911 Veterans. Our Psy.D. students regularly attend scholarship/funding workshops led by an “in-house” faculty/coordinator, also tasked with checks-in around financial aid deadlines and opportunities. In addition to state and federal loans, MSMU offers a Deferred Payment Plan for all graduate students. All Mount students are encouraged to consult with the Financial Aid Office regularly.
Through MSMU’s Financial Aid Office, students receive assistance in answering financial aid related questions, directed to necessary resources, and made aware of the responsibility of financial aid options with caution to avoid long-term indebtedness. Our Financial Aid Office representatives are trained on federal guidelines and regulations. Additionally, the Mount offers a dedicated financial aid officer assigned to work primarily with veterans and active duty personnel.
In order to foster a burgeoning research culture, as well as networking and collaboration opportunities, our first-year doctoral students are fully funded to attend one research conference chosen by the Psy.D. faculty (e.g., APA Annual Convention, WPA Annual Meeting). Funding options for subsequent conferences are available through research and/or travel grants allocated at the institutional level. Students are encouraged and supported in these application and funding processes via the program’s faculty, specifically the research methodologist (all Psy.D. students are required to submit at least one proposal to a psychological research conference prior to program completion).
Students’ fifth-year internships are financially compensated by their agency/workplace, commensurate with other regional clinical psychology internships.
Clerical resources for the Psy.D. program consist of the PsyD Program Coordinator, the Psychology Department Coordinator, student workers, and the clerical resources available to the university.
Technical and electronic support
MSMU provides the essential technical infrastructure needed for our Psy.D. program. In addition to an accessible wireless network throughout the campus, each classroom is equipped with a TechPod providing the instructor with a central control for lectures, presentations and interactions with internet resources. Most classrooms are also equipped with video conferencing capabilities, allowing for two-way communications.
Funded through a $3.1 million Title V Federal Grant, MSMU updated computer labs, faculty computers, software options, and technological support over the last few years. Student computer labs utilized for classes or individual work are available on both campuses: two media centers, seven computer labs (two available 24-hours, seven days a week), as well as several computer lab classrooms. The Doheny campus housing the Psy.D. program consists of: one media center, two computer labs (one available 24-hours), library computers, as well as various computer lab classrooms available by request.
Other applications and resources include the learning management system, CANVAS; automated grammar checker and plagiarism tools, Grammarly and Turnitin; a campus portal, myMSMU; Microsoft’s Office Suite 365, and Zoom. Office 365 provides our students and faculty with email, calendaring, PowerPoint, Skype, planning tools, and OneDrive for collaborations. Psy.D. students and faculty are reimbursed for SPSS statistical software licenses and supported in their use of SPSS, R, and Qualtrics by the program’s research methodologist. Zotero and SPSS are also available for student use on all university computers.
Training materials and equipment
Housed within the MSMU’s Doheny Library, the Psy.D. program’s collection consists of the following assessments, videos, and tools:
Student Academic Services
Professional and Academic Resource Center: PARC
In addition to the support offered by PsyD faculty, administration, and staff, our PsyD students receive support offered all graduate students at the Mount. This includes access to the Professional and Academic Resource Center (PARC) on our Doheny campus, providing: 1) academic writing, 2) APA formatting, statistics, 3) research methodologies, and 4) career support (e.g., C.V.s and mock interviews). PARC partners closely with MSMU’s graduate division to support students in research writing and overall organizational and structural writing support. Our doctoral students also attend one-on-one appointments and presentations with library staff on APA formatting as well as research skillsets using the digital library.
Library information resources
The MSMU library offers a variety of academic services and support, workspaces, as well as physical and digital holdings including memberships and subscriptions to external databases. Holdings include 88,758 print books and provide electronic access to 396,855 books, 39,316 journal titles, and 215 databases in a variety of disciplines. Digital library holdings include access to a variety of databases including PsychInfo, ProQuest as well as Link+, allowing student borrowing from other Link+ member libraries. Included in this collection is 349 peer-reviewed psychology journals, 281 clinical psychology e-books, and more than 500 print psychology and behavioral sciences resources. Students are also able to access librarians and IT specialists, physically at our Doheny Library as well as online for research and tech support. We currently have online access to DSM-5 and all legacy DSM references to the libraries' collection, as well as the Sage Research Methods database, which includes case studies, data sets, and video tutorials.
Three librarians are available to create customized instruction sessions to support students' research skills. Our librarians are experienced with information literacy instruction and pedagogy and are available to work with faculty to create scaffolded assignments that achieve specific information literacy outcomes.