Program Requirements - Divine Mercy University

PsyD Program Requirements

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology Degree Requirements

The Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology consists of 122 credit hours of coursework and a non-credit course in library and information use and research. The Psy.D. curriculum consists of 101 credit hours in psychology, 12 semester credit hours of integrative studies in philosophy and theology, and a minimum of 9 credit hours of dissertation research.Students in the doctoral program must also complete a minimum of 1,780 hours of clinical externship (of which 750 hours occur in the Center for Psychological Services and 1,030 hours occur in off-site clinical settings), take a series of comprehensive exams, author and defend a doctoral dissertation, and complete a pre-doctoral internship. Typically students will also complete additional clinical placements in other sites outside of the Institute.

Clinical Training Handbook

Dissertation Handbook

Time to Degree

All students admitted to the Psy.D. Program must complete all degree requirements within seven academic years from the date of admission to the Psy.D. program, with an academic year comprising a fall semester, spring semester, and summer semester. Doctoral students must remain continuously enrolled until they have completed all program requirements, including the dissertation and pre-doctoral internship. Those students who have completed all required coursework, including the dissertation, but are not yet enrolled in a pre-doctoral internship must follow the normal registration process each applicable semester and pay the Psy.D. Continuous Enrollment Fee to fulfill the continuous enrollment requirement. These students are considered part-time.


Students enrolled in the Psy.D. Program are expected to be in residence throughout the entire course of the academic program (all years prior to the pre-doctoral internship). Students must maintain full-time status at IPS for at least three of the four years of academic training. In rare cases where significant extenuating circumstances are present, students may petition the Dean to enroll part-time during academic training. However, this period must not exceed one academic year.

Clinical Externship

In order to ensure that students are adequately formed in their clinical skills, in addition to clinical coursework, students are required to complete a minimum of 1,780 hours of supervised clinical practice at an IPS-approved facility. 750 hours of this requirement are completed at the IPS Center for the Psychological Services during the third year of the program. Supervision will be provided by on-site supervisors, who will provide regular feedback to the student regarding their progress. After the first semester in the IPS Center, if the supervisors determine that the student is in need of remediation, the supervisors will convene a meeting with the student and a faculty committee by the fourth week of the spring semester to discuss the parameters of the remediation plan. (See “At-Risk”/Termination/Due Process Policy)

Clinical Comprehensive Exam Process

The evaluation of a student’s clinical competency is an ongoing process. During the first and second years of training, clinical experiences occur in courses via in-class demonstrations and practice opportunities with volunteers from the greater Washington, D.C. community. In the third and fourth years, practicum experiences and accompanying practicum courses provide students, under supervision, with increased responsibility for assessment and treatment with actual clients. Clinical training is culminated during the pre-doctoral internship year. In addition to the regular rating of clinical skills and feedback obtained during the initial skills training courses, advanced clinical courses, and practicum evaluation, it is required that the student demonstrate basic clinical and diagnostic skills by successfully completing the clinical comprehensive exam process prior to applying for a pre-doctoral internship placement.

The Psy.D. clinical comprehensive exam process includes three components: Clinical Competency Probes; a Written Comprehensive Examination; and a Formal Case Presentation.

  1. Clinical Competency Probes are ratings that are given by course instructors based on performance in various clinical courses in which students are expected to demonstrate specifically-defined areas of expertise (e.g. assessment skills, therapy skills, or ethical reasoning). Such clinical probes occur throughout the curriculum, during basic and advanced coursework centering on clinical skills.
  2. The Written Comprehensive Examination covers areas such as basic science of psychology, ethics, theology and philosophy as applied to psychology, and basic clinical knowledge. The Written Comprehensive Examination is taken as part of the students obtaining the M.S. degree from IPS and serves to qualify the student for Psy.D. Candidacy status within the Psy.D. Program.
  3. The Formal Case Presentation requires the student to demonstrate the ability to integrate knowledge through a written document as well as through presenting a clinical case before an examining panel that consists of faculty members. The purpose of this component is to ensure that the student has adequately integrated their knowledge of psychology in order to competently provide services to the public, as well as to ensure that the student has the working ability to integrate the Catholic view of the person into their clinical work. Members of the examining panel will review a written report submitted by the student prior to the formal case presentation, and the student will orally defend their work during this meeting. Students will be rated by the examining panel on several parameters consistent with the Practitioner-Scholar Training Model and the Psy.D. Program objectives, including: diagnostic and assessment skills, case conceptualization, treatment planning and execution, ethical considerations, diversity issues, conceptualization and application of an integrated Catholic understanding of the person, and presentation skills.

Passing of the written comprehensive examination serves as a formal criteria for admission to Psy.D. Candidacy. Students may not attempt the formal case presentation component of the comprehensive examination process until they are admitted to Candidacy within the Psy.D. Program. Furthermore, completion of both the written comprehensive examination and formal case presentation components of the comprehensive exam process must be completed prior to a student’s application for the pre-doctoral internship.

Doctoral Dissertation

A doctoral dissertation must be completed and successfully defended. This requires a minimum of six credit hours taken consecutively over two years. The doctoral dissertation can take the form of a critical review and analysis of a topic or area in the field of psychology, or it may take the form of original research which can be either theoretical or empirical. The dissertation topic must be defined in close consultation with the student’s Dissertation Chair and a dissertation committee. Psy.D. students must begin enrollment for dissertation credit in the semester following the completion of PSY 832: Integrative Dissertation Seminar, taken during the spring semester of their second year of the Psy.D. curriculum. Once students have their Dissertation Chair appointed, they must be continuously enrolled and registered for PSY 899 until all dissertation requirements are completed, or will be considered withdrawn from the program. Students must have their dissertation proposal approved by their dissertation committee prior to applying for a pre-doctoral internship. The dissertation is expected to meet scholarly standards and be of publishable quality. It must be defended orally before the dissertation committee.

Pre-Doctoral Internship

Students in the Psy.D. Program must obtain and successfully complete a year-long pre-doctoral internship following the completion of all coursework as a requirement for graduation. In addition to the requirements of completing comprehensive examinations and successfully defending the dissertation proposal, all students who are required to complete clinical skills remediation plans (see section entitled Clinical “At-Risk”/Termination/Due Process Policy) must successfully complete the plans prior to applying for the pre-doctoral internship. In the case that the clinical skill remediation plans are developed following application for the pre-doctoral internship, all such plans must be successfully completed prior to beginning the internship.