What is a Psy.D.?

Doctorates in Psychology
A Psy.D. is a doctorate in psychology. The emphasis is on clinical practice, as opposed to research. In many university psychology programs one way they screen applicants is by something like this statement: “If you are interested in becoming a therapist then this is not the right program for you. Please don’t waste your time or ours by applying to this program.” In other words, their focus is on the research side.

Two Training Models: Vail and Boulder
This poses a dilemma for those that want to pursue doctoral-level training in psychology. One of the options is going to a professional school. The professional schools tend to focus more on the clinical side, that is, working with clients/patients/human beings. So there are two basic models for training in psychology: the Vail model and the Boulder model.

Professional Degrees

Another way to think of a Psy.D. is that it’s a professional degree — like an M.D., D.D.S., J.D., etc. Generally you don’t go to someone with a Ph.D. in medicine for treatment. Nor a dentist with a Ph.D. in dentistry. Nor a lawyer with a Ph.D. in law. These people and these degrees exist, but they are academic degrees. Generally, they are for those that teach or do research in the field.

That said, this is not exactly the case in psychology. Plenty of Ph.D. therapists do psychotherapy.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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