Practicum Policies and Procedures

Preamble. The Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has a strong commitment to the Clinical Science (Academy for Psychological Clinical Science [APCS]) model of clinical training.  The Clinical Science model calls for rigorous integrated training in the application of scientific principles to both the empirical and applied aspects of clinical psychology.

Students are oriented to the PSC in their first year and conduct phone screens with potential clients.  The majority of applied clinical training will occur in the Psychological Services Center (PSC) across students’ second through fifth years in residence.  In their third year, students who are in good standing may apply to engage in an outside clinical practicum during their fourth year.  We anticipate that most students in good standing will participate in an outside practicum in their fourth year.  This external training experience should be consistent with a student’s research interests and career goals.  Decisions about external practica should be made with one’s advisor and also in consultation with the PSC Director and/or the Director of Clinical Training (DCT).  In some circumstances, fifth year students who are in good standing may do another external practicum.  The student would be required to justify the placement based on the integration between a student’s clinical science career goals and research interests.  Students will be required to demonstrate how this work would not interfere with other activities that are required by the program, such as continuous engagement in research.   

Outside practicum involvement will only be approved when the student is making satisfactory, timely progress toward degree requirements, and when the student can be reasonably expected, with the added responsibilities of the practicum position, to continue doing so. It is the responsibility of each student's faculty advisor, in consultation with the clinical faculty at the twice-annual student evaluation meetings, to assure compliance with these goals.

In the spirit of this preamble, the clinical faculty has adopted the following specific practicum policies.

  • Policy 1. Payment.  When positions pay a stipend, and that stipend is equivalent to a University Teaching Assistantship for each semester, students may receive a tuition waiver and the opportunity to purchase health insurance at the student rate.  This stipend amount increases periodically based on rates negotiated between the University and the Graduate Student Organization (GEO).  To qualify for this waiver, students must be guaranteed the minimum stipend level, even if they are paid on an hourly basis.  As full-time students, benefits and social security deductions are not required.
  • Policy 2. Academic Progress. The student's overall academic progress must remain the faculty's primary concern. Therefore, students will not be allowed to apply for or accept any outside practicum unless they have successfully completed the expected academic, clinical, and research requirements at the time of application or acceptance and for their year in the Program.        
  • Policy 3. Timing. Practicum placement hours range from 10 to 20 hours per week for 38 weeks, with vacations and/or sick leave negotiated according to the policies of the external practicum.  Practicum may also extend into (or occur exclusively in) the summer months when this is mutually satisfactory and approved by the clinical program. Practicum hours should ideally be confined to one or two days, leaving three full days free for academic, PSC, assistantship, and research work.
  • Policy 4. Supervision and Evaluation. Students will receive at least one hour of individual or group supervision for every five hours of direct clinical service.  The student's primary supervisor will be a licensed clinical psychologist.  Supervision by other licensed mental health professionals may be allowed, but must be approved by the clinical program.  Supervisors agree to complete a thorough clinical evaluation once per semester on a form provided by the program.  Supervisors engage in direct observation of the student's clinical work at least once per evaluation period.  These evaluations and direct observations are in addition to any other evaluations that normally occur at a practicum site.  Supervisors are also asked to certify the hours students have accrued at a particular site.
  • Policy 5. Training Opportunities. Training opportunities routinely made available to regular staff at the practicum site will also be made available to practicum students as part of their practicum experience.  In addition, it is understood that every effort will be made to accommodate a practicum student's participation in professional development activities (seminars, conventions, workshops) that occur within an agency.
  • Policy 6. Resolution of Difficulties.  If either the practicum supervisor or the student recognizes that a difficulty has developed in their work, they should try to resolve the difficulty between themselves.  If such an attempt fails, they should seek consultation and/or mediation from their immediate supervisors (i.e., the supervisor's supervisor, as specified in the practicum site's organizational chart, and the student's clinical faculty advisor, the PSC Director, and/or the Director of Clinical Training).
  • Policy 7Liability and Clinical Responsibility.  Students engaged in outside practicum are provided with full liability insurance by UMass Amherst, a certificate of which can be obtained upon request.  Students are also required to register for course credit for the practicum.  It is understood that the clinical responsibility for the cases assigned to practicum students in an outside practicum belongs to the supervisor working with that student at that site.