Traditionally, those seeking a doctorate level degree in psychology have had to be content with a PhD in psychology, a degree with coursework that is really designed to prepare the graduate for a career in academics or research in psychology rather than professional practice. Today, Psy D programs have emerged, providing students who are seeking a more active career as practicing psychologists the opportunity to earn a doctorate degree which emphasizes professional practice as much as scholarly study and coursework. This type of degree is often called a professional doctorate, a descriptive name which implies the goal of the degree which is to prepare the student for professional practice. With a PsyD, a graduate has the opportunity for directed study and practicum which provide skills and experience that is directly relevant to a career practicing psychology, whether as a member of an existing practice or creating one's own individual counseling practice.
The PsyD initials are short for Doctor of Psychology (sometimes called the Psychology Doctorate); this title stands in stark contrast to the more traditional PhD which stands for Doctor of Philosophy, followed by an emphasis such as psychology, education, information technology, and so on. The name of the degree title itself, with psychology listed so prominently in the title, provides some insight into the intention of these programs. They are designed to emphasize not research skills and philosophy as much as practical skills for practicing counselors and psychologists. Of course, any psychology practitioner needs to have a firm understanding of research to inform their practice and hopefully publish their own additions to the literature, but the PsyD puts more emphasis on developing professional skills that can readily transfer into actual practice, directly impacting the psychologist's daily work with their clients.
The Advantages of a PsyD Program
Psy D programs, of course, can vary significantly from school to school, at least in the specific number of credit hours, costs and courses required. However, most of these programs are designed to better suit the schedule of working adults, as compared to traditional PhD programs. Often Doctor of Psychology programs require fewer credits than a traditional Doctor of Philosophy program, or allow some of the credits to be earned through internships or demonstration of existing knowledge; this can help to make the degree more affordable. In some cases, a PsyD can be earned a year or more sooner than a PhD in psychology can be earned. Furthermore, these programs usually encourage the student to be working actively in the field of psychology, allowing working adults to continue to support their family while in school, whereas traditional PhD programs often discourage students from working during their studies.
Relationship of the Psychology Doctorate to a Career Path
The Psychology Doctorate is usually the best choice for those who know that they want to work directly in therapy or counseling upon completion of their graduate program. While some coursework will be similar between a PhD and a PsyD, the latter would emphasize more practical skills with significantly less emphasis on conducting original research. In fact, many Psychology Doctorate dissertations are case studies or professional portfolios, illustrating the work that the student has done on the job during their education rather than requiring original, statistics heavy research common to PhD level dissertations. Whereas most PhD programs teach a student to be a scholar and researcher first, and practitioner second, most Psy D programs are the opposite, employing a practitioner - scholar model, which puts strong emphasis on job training and practical skills, making for a more seamless transition into the full time career of a practicing psychologist.
Choosing a PsyD
The PsyD requires a comprehensive combination of coursework, research and practical experience, all of these types of learning working together to create a well rounded, educated professional readily prepared to immediately engage in practical practice. Just as with the traditional PhD, the earning of a Psychology Doctorate culminates in the bestowing of the title Doctor, allowing a person to be called, for example, Dr. Anderson. However, rather than inserting PhD behind one's name, the name of a person possessing a Psychology Doctorate would read like this: Kris Anderson, PsyD. While Psy D programs concentrate more on practical skills over heavy research theory, they still emphasize the scholarly skills necessary to ensure that PsyD graduates are good consumers of research, that they are able to stay abreast of modern theories and treatment approaches, consistently working to find the best solutions for the clients they serve.