Note to incoming students

Welcome to the clinical psychology program! Your hard won efforts have paid off and you have been greeted with success at the end of a very competitive process. We look forward to working with you and learning together as you begin this journey of personal growth, professional development, academic scholarship, and clinical training.

The first year of the program is very course intensive. We do this in order for you to complete a number of fundamental courses in theory, clinical applications, statistical methods, and professional issues to prepare you for your supervised summer practicum and to prepare for transfer to the PhD program at the end of the following summer. Usually we try not to schedule more than 3 courses a term given that each is quite heavy and you will have a number of other responsibilities (e.g., teaching assistant or research assistant work) as well as attending other training seminars and events. The required courses and the program milestones are listed in a table on the clinical psychology website as well as later in this chapter.

Although there are a number of goals and objectives in your first year there are at least four primary foci. These foci should be completed by the end of August to prevent delays in transfer from the MA to the Ph.D. program.

1. Coursework: A primary goal for you will be to focus on your coursework and to take in as much as possible. It will inevitably be a steep learning curve, as we will be expecting you to learn about mental disorder diagnosis and classification, administration of standardized psychological tests, clinical interviewing, report writing, and ethics in professional practice. You will meet with the DCT for course advising in order to chart out the courses you are required to take, the timing of these courses, and to schedule the foundational courses.

2. Summer clerkship (PSY 903) and logging of hours: This is a 15-week 4-day per week summer placement in a clinical setting spanning from May to about the first or second week of August. The practicum coordinator and/or DCT will assign this placement to you based on placement availability, your training interests and the population you would like to work with, and perceptions of fit with the setting and supervisor(s). In some settings you can be expected to work with multiple supervisors, while in others you may have only one. Your clinical coursework is intended to help you develop some of the foundational knowledge, skills, and abilities (and to build on existing ones) to prepare you for this supervised training experience. More information is provided regarding clerkships and practica on the website and further in this document.

It will be important from the first volunteer client you interview and the first test you administer to begin logging your clinical hours. This is done in preparation for your internship application. Most students apply out for their pre-doctoral internship in their fourth or fifth year, which requires documentation of all face-to-face client hours and supervision hours from applied coursework and clinical practica. Usually more detailed is better since these will be organized into categories based on client demographics, presenting concerns, and the nature of the service delivered. There are also a number of online resources to help clinical psychology students structure and assist with record keeping. Guidelines for application for internships are provided further in this document as well as guidelines on reporting face-to-face hours and supervision.

3. Transfer document: This is intended to be a thumbnail sketch of your proposed program of doctoral dissertation research. It is not intended to be a formal dissertation proposal (which comes later) and usually the transfer document can be written in about 10-15 pages, although there is much variability. You will work on your transfer document with feedback from your supervisor, who may be able to provide you with examples of past documents from students in their lab to give you an idea of their expectations and how to structure this. Historically, the summer clerkship was structured at four days a week to allow students the opportunity to work on their transfer documents on a designated day, given that the two terms of academic coursework are very heavy which can make additional research/scholarly activity challenging. The expectations of individual research supervisors vary, however, and yours may expect you to begin basic work and some writing earlier in the academic year. It will be important for you to inquire about your research supervisor’s preference and to work with them to plan accordingly. Guidelines for the development of the transfer document and transfer from the Master’s to Ph.D. program are provided on the website and further in this chapter.

4. Formation of advisory committee: A related goal is the formation of your graduate thesis advisory committee. Usually this will be a dissertation committee (master’s thesis committees are structured somewhat differently) which includes: i) your research supervisor as chair, ii) two internal committee members (i.e., faculty members from any stream in the Department of Psychology), and iii) a cognate, that is, an internal-external committee member who is external to the psychology department but internal to the university (e.g., they could be from a college such as Law, Medicine or Nursing, another department within Arts and Science such as philosophy, sociology, etc.). In short, there will be four members who will oversee your doctoral research planning, progress, and development leading up to your defense. They also serve as your broader advisory committee who will evaluate your progress in the program in general, including your progress on coursework, satisfactory progress on the clerkship, and the completion of the transfer document. When it comes time for defense an external examiner and department chair or designate will be added to your committee for a total of six members.

In addition to the four primary foci listed above, there are a number of other training opportunities and program expectations for students. These are listed in brief below to orient you and are described in further detail in this brochure.

• Clinical Seminar: These are usually scheduled Tuesday afternoons for an hour from 4:00-5:00. All clinical students from years 1 through 4 are required to attend.

• Research Team (PSY 900): Clinical psychology students are expected to attend a weekly or bi-weekly research team meeting, which will be chaired and/or attended by your research supervisor and attended by other graduate students and faculty with similar research interests.

• Application for External Funding: Clinical psychology students are expected to apply for external funding from a granting agency. Usually this is the Tri-Council (SSHRC, CIHR, NSERC) but over the years, many of our students have been very successful applying for other external grants and fellowships. There are master’s and doctoral level awards, and the one that you should be applying for is determined based on consultation with your research supervisor and/or the Graduate Program Chair. Application deadlines are typically in mid to late fall, which means that most students will have the opportunity to apply for one of these awards in their first term of the program. Please also see Chapter 4 of this brochure and visit the relevant links for further details.

• Research Activity Outside of your Graduate Thesis: Research supervisors vary in terms of their expectations for graduate students working under their supervision to participate in the research activities of the lab. Some may have set hours and have structured lab meetings and specific expectations; others may have less specific or minimal expectations for you to be involved in their research. At the most basic level, your top priorities are performance in your coursework, clinical training, and graduate research. That said, participating in additional research projects and having your hand in presenting at conferences, manuscript writing, navigating the publication process, and so on are important professional activities that can enrich your graduate training and increase your competitiveness for internship and future job prospects. It will be important for you to obtain a clear understanding what your research supervisor’s expectations are for contribution to their lab research activity, and to negotiate this so that it does not impede your progress in the other major domains of training.

Note to continuing students

Welcome back! You will be abundantly familiar with the information provided above. The years to follow involve a combination of coursework and weekly practica, preparation for your comprehensive exams in year 3, and ongoing progress on your doctoral dissertation research, leading up to the application for, and completion of, your pre-doctoral internship. All of these components are described in further detail in the chapters that follow and on the clinical psychology program website. The program subscribes to a 5-year training model. The program milestones that follow provide a roadmap to keep you oriented toward the primary training activities, coursework, and evaluative components of the program in years 2 through 5.

Transfer from MA to PhD

Students admitted to the graduate program in clinical psychology are normally expected to transfer from the MA to the PhD program at the end of their first year.  All of the following requirements for transfer must be completed.

1. Successful completion of all first year graduate courses.

2. Successful completion of first year practicum placements.

3. Approval of PhD Research Transfer Document by the student’s PhD supervisory committee

The PhD Research Transfer Document is a document outlining the student’s intended PhD research program. It must include a statement of research objectives, theoretical and empirical rationale and a description of methodology including the population, measures, research design and anticipated analytical strategy for at least the first study, as well as an indication of the direction of future reseach.   Ideally, the document will be 10-12 pages long (double-spaced, plus references, and appendices if needed), and will be similar in scope and style to a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship proposal. In past years some students have submitted acceptable proposals around 9-10 pages long. In no case should it be longer than 12 pages. The advisory committee will understand that not everything can be covered in this short proposal.  Also the student should remember the purpose of this document, which is not to be a comprehensive research protocol, but just a way of showing the advisory committee that the student is embarking on a realistic and well-considered course of research.

Expectations for PhD Dissertations

The thesis, based upon original investigation, must demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgment on the part of the candidate, as well as familiarity with tools and methods of research in the candidate's special field. To be acceptable, it must be a worthwhile contribution to knowledge, and warrant publication in whole or in part. It must comply with specifications described in the Guidelines For Preparation of a Thesis.

Thesis preparation involves a long-term commitment through the stages of preparing a research proposal, completing a literature review, developing methodology, carrying out research and writing the results. Throughout this process the student will maintain contact with the Supervisor, as well as the Advisory Committee. When, in the opinion of the student and the Supervisor, the work is virtually complete and ready for defence, the student will submit a draft of the thesis, substantially in its final form, to the Supervisor. The Supervisor will review the thesis, making any appropriate suggestions to the student and will then submit it to the Advisory Committee. It is the student's responsibility to make available the number of copies needed by the Advisory Committee. When the Advisory Committee has agreed the manuscript is ready for examination the candidate will receive permission to make the final copies required for the Examining Committee.

The Examining Committee consists of at least six persons, as follows: the External Examiner, the Supervisor, three members of the Advisory Committee (including the Cognate member), and the academic unit Head, or designate, who will chair that part of the defence devoted to questioning the candidate.
In the "sandwich" dissertation which is now becoming well-accepted, the dissertation comprises the following. (See more at .)

  • An introduction summarizing and critiquing the research on the topic as a whole, and the rationale for the current study
  • A brief section between each manuscript indicating its relationship to the thesis in its entirety
  • A general discussion which links the separate manuscripts and relates the student's research to the topic as a whole.
For more information, see the Calendar and Guidelines for Preparation of a Thesis

  Additional Information

  • The dissertation proposal should be completed by August of Year 2 and defended in September of Year 3.
  • It should include a comprehensive and up-to-date literature review followed by detailed protocols for two or more studies (for which pilot work may already have been completed).
  • The specific scope and nature of the studies are as determined by the student and supervisor in conjunction with the advisory committee.
  • While part of a dissertation may be based on existing data banks or data from previous studies, it is normally expected that at least one study including original data collection will be carried out.


Core content area courses

To meet our accreditation requirements and to ensure that students are eligible for registration as a clinical psychologist, clinical psychology students are required to take 3 credit units of senior graduate courses in each of biological, cognitive, social/cultural, and historical foundations of behaviour. These requirements can be met by evidence of successful completion of the equivalent of 6 credit units in each area at the senior undergraduate level (i.e., year 3 or 4), with the exception of history and systems, for which equivalency can be achieved from 3 credit units at the senior undergraduate level. CPA also requires training in psychopharmacology. Exemptions will be determined by the Director of Clinical Psychology Training when students register in their first year of the program.

Benefits of meeting the progress deadlines

If the deadlines for each year are met, then for the following year:

  • GTF funding is available if needed (for years 2, 3 and 4)
  • Full-time student status can be approved if appropriate (this may affect student loans and taxes)
  • Practicum placements will be arranged
  • Students will be registered in courses in the appropriate year
  • Students will be eligible for conference travel, workshop registration, and other minor funding from the Department when it is available

Specifically, GTF funding for Year 2 depends on meeting all of the progress deadlines for Year 1 and being transferred into the PhD program.  No funding for the MA-2 year will be available for students entering the program after September, 2000.

In each case where a students does not meet progress deadlines, clinical psychology faculty will consider the situation, with the input of the student's adviser, and recommend a course of action, which may include limiting access to the resources listed above, or in severe cases, recommending probationary status to CGSR.

The goal in all cases will be to facilitate students' continued and timely progress toward completion of the program.

Research Teams (PSY 900)

All clinical psychology graduate students should be on research teams from the time they start the program until they go on the full-year internship. As a member of a research team, you may have opportunities to:

1. Bring in references you come across that may interest other members of the team.
2. Present and discuss important articles in the research literature, as in a journal club.
3. Act as a research assistant in a project being carried out by the team leader or by another student.
4. Receive assistance from other team members in carrying out your own research (e.g., rating, scoring, entering data, assistance with analysis).
5. Offer constructive criticism of documents written by other members of the team (e.g., articles to be submitted to journals, thesis proposals, grant proposals, conference presentations, posters).
6. Rehearse talks for conferences, dissertation defenses, etc., and obtain feedback.
7. Carry out a joint research project in which all team members contribute.
8. Brainstorm and refine ideas for further research.
9. Discuss and demonstrate specific research techniques (e.g., statistical methods, psychometric methods).
10. Give and receive social support to help get through the tribulations of completing research.

Normally each student will participate on her or his adviser's research team. If the adviser does not have a research team, or if the adviser is away, the student should take the initiative to locate another research team. In any case students are encouraged to visit other research teams over the course of their time in the program.