Technical Standards

The clinical psychology degree granted by this program attests to competencies in terms of basic knowledge and clinical practice in the discipline of clinical psychology as specified in the American Psychological Association (APA) Standards of Accreditation’s Profession Wide Competencies (including areas related to Assessment, Intervention, Supervision, Consultation and Interprofessional skills, Research Methods, Ethics, Communication and Interpersonal Skill, and Individual and Cultural Diversity, as well as Professional Values, Attitudes, and Behaviors). Graduate students in this program must be able to relate appropriately to clients/patients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care professionals. Combinations of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, intellectual, and communication abilities are required to perform these functions satisfactorily. As such, essential abilities/characteristics are required to ensure that candidates for admission, promotion, and graduation are able to complete the entire course of study and participate fully in all aspects of clinical training. 

In addition to required academic achievement and proficiency, the Technical Standards described below set forth non-academic qualifications the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program considers essential for successful completion of its curriculum. Delineation of technical standards is consistent with other clinical training programs (e.g., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; U.S. medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education). Therefore, in order to be admitted to, to successfully progress through, to be approved for internship by, and subsequent graduation from the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, applicants for admission and current students in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program must satisfy these Technical Standards. Students who are unable to meet these standards may be recommended for remediation or may be terminated from the program, consistent with policies articulated in the Clinical Program Handbook.Although these standards serve to delineate the necessary physical and mental abilities of all candidates, they are not intended to deter any candidate for whom reasonable accommodation will allow the fulfillment of the complete curriculum. Candidates with questions regarding technical standards are encouraged to contact the Psychology Graduate Chair immediately to begin to address what types of accommodation may be considered for development to achieve these standards. Admission to UMass Clinical Psychology Program is conditional on candidates having the ability to satisfy these technical standards, with or without reasonable accommodation, and results from a process that examines and values all of the skills, attitudes and attributes of each candidate on a case-by case basis. 

I.      Attitudinal, Behavioral, Interpersonal, and Emotional Attributes

Graduate students must be able to relate to clients/patients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers with honesty, integrity, and dedication and in a non-discriminatory manner. They must be able to understand and use the power, special privileges, and trust inherent in the psychologist-client/patient relationship for the client/patient's benefit and to know and avoid the behaviors that constitute misuse of this power. Graduate students must demonstrate the capacity to examine and deliberate effectively about the social and ethical questions that define psychologists' roles and to reason critically about these questions. They must be able to identify personal reactions and responses, recognize multiple points of view, and integrate these appropriately into clinical decision making. In research teams, graduate students must demonstrate the ability to interact appropriately with research participants, other students, and faculty and staff members. Graduate students must be able to collaborate well with others on joint projects (e.g., effectively accept and provide input).

A clinical psychology student must be of sufficient emotional health to utilize fully their intellectual ability, to exercise good judgment, to complete client/patient care responsibilities promptly, and to relate to clients/patients, families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers with courtesy, compassion, maturity, safety, and respect for dignity. The ability to participate collaboratively and flexibly as a member of an inter-professional team is essential. Graduate students must be able to modify behavior in response to constructive criticism. They must be open to examining personal attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes (especially those that may negatively impact client/patient care and professional relationships). Graduate students must be able to take responsibility for their behavior, which includes being open to feedback from their supervisors, academic instructors, and research advisors. Graduate students must be open and empathic with others and show respect for different viewpoints, perspectives, and opinions. They must strive to work collaboratively with others in the classroom, laboratory, clinic, and in all other academic or professional settings. They must convey genuine interest in other people and demonstrate affect tolerance (i.e., appropriately manage and contain emotions in academic and professional settings). As an essential part of conducting research or clinical practice, graduate students effectively tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. They must be emotionally mature (e.g., intellectually and emotionally open to and appropriate when receiving feedback). Graduate students must be able to advocate for their own needs in the work place without being inappropriately aggressive.  They must also seek the resources and build the relationships needed to advance in their academic or professional career.

The study and ongoing practice of clinical psychology often involves taxing workloads and appropriate management of stressful situations. A doctoral student must have the physical and emotional stamina to maintain a high level of functioning in the face of multiple demands on their time and energy.

II.     Intellectual Skills

Graduate students must possess a range of intellectual skills that allows them to master the broad and complex body of knowledge that comprises clinical psychology education. 

Graduate students must be able to critically evaluate their own and others’ research, including the ability to identify limitations in the research literature or design of a specific study, to critique a manuscript as an ad hoc reviewer, and to “make psychological sense” of their own data. They must be able to use theory to inform the conceptualization, design, and interpretation of research. Additionally, graduate students must be able to effectively understand the theoretical literature in their identified substantive research area, to appropriately discuss this literature in individual and group lab meetings, and to integrate their understanding into scientific writing and presentations. They must further demonstrate an ability to generate novel hypotheses and to design a study that follows from those hypotheses. 

Graduate students must be able to analyze and synthesize information from a wide variety of sources and must demonstrate sophisticated critical thinking skills. They must be able to learn effectively through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to classroom instruction, clinical supervision, small group discussion, individual study of materials, independent literature review, preparation and presentation of written and oral reports, and use of computer-based technology.
Because the practice of psychology is governed by the ethical principles set forth in the current APA Ethics Code and by current state and federal laws, including the statutes and regulations in Massachusetts, a clinical psychology graduate student must have the capacity to learn and understand these ethical standards and legal requirements and to perform consistent with those principles and mandates as a student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program.

III.    Communication Skills

Graduate students must be able to ask effective questions, to receive and comprehend answers perceptively, to record information about client/patients, and to provide effective psychoeducation to clients/patients. They must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with clients/patients, their families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, clinical supervisors in varied practicum settings, and with other members of the health care team. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., interpretation of facial expressions, affects, and body language). Mastery of both written and spoken English is required, although applications from students with hearing and speech disabilities will be given full consideration. In such cases, use of a trained intermediary or other communications aide may be appropriate if this intermediary functions only as an information conduit and does not serve integrative or interpretive functions.

IV.   Commitment to Non-Discrimination

The University is committed to equality of educational opportunity. The University does not discriminate in offering access to its educational programs and activities on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

The Clinical Psychology Program has an institutional commitment to provide equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities (including prospective and current students). A student with a disability (e.g., diagnosed psychiatric disorder or other physical, mental, or emotional disability) may participate in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program as long as the condition is managed sufficiently with or without reasonable accommodation to permit the student to satisfy the requirements of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, including these Technical Standards. This requirement is in full compliance with state and federal laws and regulations (including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Massachusetts law (consistent with fair employment practices under Mass. Gen. L. ch. 151B and Mass. Regs. Code tit. 804, § 3.00 et. seq., pursuant to Mass. Gen. L. ch. 151B, section 2.[2] Civil code 51 and 54). An accommodation is not reasonable if it poses a direct threat to the health or safety of self and/or others, if making it requires a substantial modification in an essential element of the curriculum, if it lowers academic standards, or poses an undue administrative or financial burden. Except in rare circumstances, the use by the candidate of a third party (e.g., an intermediary) to perform any of the functions described in the Technical Standards set forth above would constitute an unacceptable substantial modification. Students who seek reasonable accommodations for disabilities must contact the University’s Disability Services office. The office will determine a student’s eligibility for and recommend appropriate accommodations and services.

In the event of deteriorating function, it is essential that a graduate student be willing and able to acknowledge the need for and to accept professional help before the condition poses a danger to the student, client/patients, other students, faculty and staff members, or research participants. 

V.    When a graduate student is not able to meet the Technical Standards

Graduate students are evaluated by the faculty at least once per year, with two exceptions: (1) first-year students are evaluated twice (in December and May), and (2) if concerns about a student arise between evaluation meetings (which are scheduled in December for first-year students and May for all students), we will have discussions about the student at that time, during as many closed-session faculty meetings as needed.  Please see the student evaluation policy, which includes steps that are taken when a student is failing to made adequate academic progress, including failure to meet these Technical Standards.

VI.   References

American Psychological Association (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from

Massachusetts Board of Psychology Statutes and Regulations.

UMass Clinical Psychology Program Handbook.

The University’s Nondiscrimination Policy –

The University’s Disability Services –