Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology


Alex Pieterse, Ph.D.
Director of Doctoral Training

Greetings and thank you for your interest in our program.

While our Program Description provides a good sketch of who we are and what we do, I’d like to highlight some aspects of the PhD program that are speak to the quality of educational experiences that we seek to provide for our students. Additionally, you may find answers to your questions on the FAQ page.

First, all our faculty are committed to training future Counseling Psychologists/Health Service Psychologists in both clinical work and scholarship. With respect to scholarship, we are active researchers, nationally and internationally recognized. Typically, research assistantships are offered to all of our incoming doctoral students, and the mentorship that takes place in these research teams is invaluable. First-year students collaborate on projects with more advanced PhD students, and most present their work at conferences and publish studies in well-respected journals with their mentors. Students find that the faculty encourage and support their independent research efforts, and University funding is available for graduate student research. With respect to clinical training, not only do we personally supervise students' first practica (in vivo and on video at out community based psychology clinic), but several of us are practicing psychologists ourselves -- therapists in private practice and consultants to community agencies. Thus, we bring to our work with students not only clinical expertise but also an in-depth understanding of the health care system.

Second, I believe we have been successful in creating a friendly, warm, cohesive atmosphere in the program. Our class sizes are small and interactive. Our faculty is attuned to students’ individual needs, and we are committed to providing a supportive and affirming atmosphere for students of all backgrounds. We take our commitment to racial and cultural diversity seriously. As such we have adopted the educational philosophy of the American Psychological Association Education Directorate as well as the 2009 Training Values Statement Addressing Diversity that was developed by the Council of Counseling psychology Training Programs, the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies, and the Society of Counseling Psychology (APA). Here is the link to these statements, which will give you a good idea of our values as a training program and as a profession: APA Education Directorate’s Commitment to a Supportive Environment and CCPTP Values.

Third, we've devised a doctoral program that is sensitive to students' clinical and research development. Our professional coursework is developmental, progressing from basic skills (e.g., in assessment, counseling and vocational theory and practice, supervision and consultation) to more advanced, integrative work in seminars. We begin with pre-practicum (for first-year students who enter the program without a master's degree in counseling or clinical psychology), which is an experiential, interviewing skills course. Second-year students see clients at the Psychological Services Center, our training clinic (shared with the clinical psychology program), which serves the community. The Center provides opportunities for individual, couple, group, and family therapy, career counseling, and psychodiagnostic assessments. Third- and fourth-year students continue their practica at college and university counseling centers, community agencies, and hospitals (Veterans' Administration, a state psychiatric center, a general hospital), supervised by adjunct faculty who are licensed psychologists. With regard to research, we begin with methodology and basic statistics courses in the first year, along with research mentorship with faculty and advanced students within research teams. Typically, first-year students receive funding during the first summer to continue doing research with faculty. As students advance, we encourage them to undertake more independent projects, culminating in the dissertation. See a list of selected dissertations from 2007 to now.

Fourth, we have an excellent track record of funding doctoral students. Since ours is a full-time program, we aim to fund all students throughout their time with us. Although we can't guarantee funding beyond the current year (since we are a state school that depends on the NY state budget), almost all PhD students who request funding receive research, teaching, or clinical assistantships for four years. Typically, first-year students have research assistantships, second-year students have research or teaching assistantships (they teach our undergraduate courses in career and life planning, cultural diversity and social justice, intro to counseling psych, sport psychology) or work in the Career Services Center or Middle Earth (the University's peer counseling center). Third- and fourth-year students can obtain clinical assistantships at the Psych Services Center or have supervisory assistantships (supervising master's students who are on practicum in the community).

Fifth, a unique and exciting aspect of our program is our international connections. We have colleagues in Portugal who hosted the faculty and 15 doc students for a counseling psychology conference in 2008, and we returned to the University of Coimbra for a second conference in Fall, 2012. We also have an ongoing opportunity for students to study couple and family therapy in Spain. We have developed an exchange program with the Universidad de La Coruña, in Galicia, northwestern Spain (on the Atlantic coast!) Our students can visit (for a month, two or more months) or actually enroll for a year in their Master's Program in Family Interventions, which involves practicum and seminars taught by professors from Europe and the U.S. The program also offers opportunity for research collaboration on family therapy effectiveness with faculty in La Coruña (see website: www.softa-soatif.net).

Sixth, we strongly encourage students to get involved at the local, state and national levels in psychology associations. One of our students sat on the board of our local psych association, the Psychology Association of Northeastern New York (PANNY), taking part in planning local educational programming. In 2010 we were selected to host the Student Affiliate Section (SAS) of the Society for Counseling Psychology (Division 17 of the American Psychological Association) for a term of three years, from August, 2010 to August, 2013. This was a tremendous honor, and our program was chosen over several others that applied. Hosting SAS gave our students (and our program) increased national recognition, and students who directed SAS had a chance to network with professionals and faculty across the country and influence the development and direction of future counseling psychologists. To encourage student involvement in SAS, our Department will pay the first year of membership dues for incoming doctoral students (membership includes the quarterly Division 17 journal, The Counseling Psychologist). To learn more about SAS, visit the SAS website.

Seventh, we have a specialization opportunity in health disparities, a 12-credit graduate certificate program that we co-sponsor with the schools of Public Health and Social Welfare. Students can take 4 courses in our program, public health and/or social welfare and receive this credential, which can be important for practice, leadership positions, and scholarship productivity around race, culture and mental health.

Eighth, we are continually involved in evaluating and improving our program--see Student Admissions and Outcomes. Students are encouraged to be active in the Doctoral Student Association, in planning and running our Diversity Conference (which is planned, organized, and run by doctoral and masters students), and in various other ad hoc Departmental and University committees. Many of our students use the leadership skills they develop in these activities in their later professional pursuits.

Ninth, our graduates are very successful in obtaining APA-accredited internships, post-docs, and eventually getting licensed as psychologists (in many different states) and finding diverse kinds of employment. The majority of our grads work in clinical settings (community agencies, hospitals, counseling centers). We also have a smaller cohort of graduates who pursue academic careers along the tenure track, and others who maintain a connection with academic world as adjunct instructors. The Letters from Doctoral Alumni provide examples of the varied areas in which our graduates have been able to build meaningful careers.

Finally, we believe it is important to acknowledge and celebrate our accomplishments and the community of graduates that we have built. For example, in Fall, 2000 and again in 2005 and 2010, we hosted alumni/ae reunions to celebrate our 20, 25 and 30 years of (full) APA accreditation and the many accomplishments of our graduates, who now number over 250. (See photos of the reunions here.)

Thank you for taking time to read about our program, I value you interest and am happy for you to reach out to me should you need additional information. My contact information is as follows: Email - apieterse@albany.edu, Office phone - (518) 437-4423. I look forward to hearing from you and I wish you success in your efforts to become a Counseling Psychologist.