Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Counseling Psychology - Lynch School of Education and Human Development (2023)

At a Glance

How many courses?

This program consists of 24 courses.

How long will it take?

You'll need a minimum of five years of full-time study. Students entering without a master's degree in counseling or a related field often need longer.

When can I start?

You can begin the program only in the fall semester.


The program is designed to qualify candidates for membership in the American Psychological Association (APA) and its Division 17 (Counseling Psychology), and to provide the pre-doctoral educational requirements for licensure as a psychologist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and for inclusion in the National Register of Health Care Providers.

1. Students demonstrate foundational knowledge, and identification with, the field of psychology, generally and counseling psychology, specifically.

  • Consistent with the APA training model, students take courses in each of the core domains of psychology: biological, cognitive/affective, and social aspects of behavior, history and systems of psychology, psychological measurement, research methodology, and techniques of data analysis. Additional coursework allows students to learn about the counseling psychology specialty. Taken together, these two bodies of foundational knowledge create a platform for the development of skills in practice and research.Throughout the foundational training, students are provided with multiple opportunities to develop a counseling psychology identity and to expand upon this identity.

2. Students demonstrate competency as theorists, researchers, and scholars, who are knowledgeable of the ways in which practice influences science.

  • This content knowledge from the core coursework provides the substantive context for the identification of problems that frame students’ research agendas. Training in research skills, which takes place in courses, research assistantships, the research qualifying paper, and dissertation research, provides students with an increasingly more sophisticated set of tools, encompassing multiple methodologies and perspectives. Another major venue for research training is student assistantships, which provide a carefully supervised apprenticeship, with skill development encompassing a broad spectrum of activities within the research enterprise. These streams of research training are linked in our program by a focus on the interface of research and practice.

3.Students demonstrate competency as practitioners and are knowledgeable of the ways in which science influences practice.

  • The development of practice skills is integrated throughout the program. Students learn foundational theories and research in psychotherapy, career counseling, and assessment in their first two years of coursework, includingin the First Year Experience, which provides training in a diverse array of non-therapy roles in practice contexts. The practicum, begining in the second year, is also crucial to student's development Throughout their practicum work, students integrate science and research into their work via theory-driven and evidencebased case conceptualizations. Each year, the practicum increases in levels of complexity and responsibility.

4. Students demonstrate social justice practices in their professional work.

  • Most of the content courses in counseling psychology provide explicit opportunities to consider social and political issues, thereby fostering an integration of social justice ideas in relation to specific foci within psychological practice and research. Students begin their training in promoting social justice in their professional work in their first year through a required course, Counseling Psychology in Context, and the First Year Experience, where they engage in nontraditional roles in a community program or context over the course of one year. Students also are required to take a course entitled Critical Perspectives on the Psychology of Race, Class, and Gender, which provides an opportunity for integration and application of knowledge about social justice to a wide array of issues and challenges in counseling psychology. In addition, students have opportunities to further develop their social justice skills via their work with master’s students in the skills training lab. Doctoral students typically attend the Diversity Challenge (the annual diversity conference held at Boston College) wherein they learn about how others in the field are infusing social justice ideas and practices in research and practice.

The Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program atBoston Collegehas been accredited by theAmerican Psychological Association(APA) since 1982when it received full accreditation. The program has been continuously accredited since that time. For more information, contact the American Psychological Association.

As part of this accreditation, the program is required to disclose specific educational/training outcomes and other information to prospective doctoral students.

Our APA accredited program achieves its mission and aims by remaining steadfastly committed to providing outstanding training in the scientist-practitioner model, which emphasizes a developmental contextual perspective with attention to the intersectionality of multiple forms of diversity, and a firm commitment to social justice and community-based practice. Our degree candidates have access to a breadth of top-notch practice opportunities in diverse mental health settings, including universities, schools, hospitals, and outpatient community mental health facilities. They are closely mentored by our internationally recognized counseling psychology faculty, who are applying their cutting-edge and purposeful research to address some of the most complex and challenging questions facing our society. Students are exposed to areas of research spanning school, workplace, community, and international concerns, including immigration, trauma resiliency and recovery, domestic violence, the psychology of working, bias-based bullying, culture, race, and gender issues, youth mentoring, and positive youth development.

Doctoral Student Handbook

Professional Associations

Info for Direct Admits

Direct admit students will be required to take 2-3 courses (3 credits each) in addition to those listed in the program of study. (They may also need to take 1-2 prerequisites courses depending on their background.) At the end of their second year and the successful completion of the master's comprehensive exam, they will receive their master's degrees. Additionally, direct admit students will be required to complete three years of practicum training. Students will work individually with their advisor and the Program Director to determine their specific plan of study.


Core: 6 Courses

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Seminar: Counseling Theory

Deepens students' understanding of psychological theory, and facilitates a life-long journey of integrating theory with practice. Provides knowledge and understanding of traditional and contemporary theories of psychotherapy, and helps students develop a critical perspective that will enable them to evaluate the usefulness of these theories for their clinical work with clients. Class discussions cast a critical eye on the development of the discipline, including its philosophical and contextual roots, and analyze the values inherent in mainstream psychological practice. Considers strengths and limitations of each school, and uses case examples to gain expertise in applying theory to practice.


Seminar: Professional Issues in Counseling Psychology

This course traces the development of school counseling as a profession, and helps students understand the major functions of school counselors. Students gain an understanding of schools as dynamic organizations and learn to recognize and appreciate the intersection of family, school, culture, and community. Professional issues related to the practice of school counseling are examined, and recent innovations in the field are reviewed.


Seminar in Career Development

Advanced doctoral-level seminar on career development theory and research and on the psychology of working. First part of course consists of critical review of major approaches to understanding career behavior and development, empirical support for prevailing theoretical constructs, and empirical efforts related to career interventions. Special attention to issues specific to persons of color, women, gays, lesbians, individuals with disabling conditions, working-class adults, and non-college-bound youth. Examines space between work and interpersonal relationships.


Seminar: Counseling Psychology in Context: Social Action, Consultation, and Collaboration

Accompanying the First Year Experience (FYE) practicum, exposes students to research and practice at the meso- (community, organizations) and macro (government, policy, social norms) levels, in addition to the more traditional micro (individual) level. Students discuss their personal experiences within their FYE placement and read and discuss a series of articles and chapters central to the developing fields of critical psychology, liberation psychology, or counseling with a social justice orientation.


Critical Perspectives on the Psychology of Race, Class, and Gender

Using social and critical psychological frameworks, introduces multiple strategies for thinking culturally about select psychological constructs and processes (for example, the self, family and community relations, and socio-political oppression). Also pays particular attention to race and class as sociocultural constructs important for the critical analysis of the relationships of culture and psychology. Explores the implications of these constructs for intercultural collaboration, advocacty, and action.


Student will choose one of the following courses (or anequivalent):

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Counseling Families

The purpose of this course is to provide students with an introduction to family and couple counseling theory, and perspectives of family therapy along with issues of diversity. This course will focus on theory and practice, viewing the couple/family as a unitary psychosocial system. Major topics will include history, theory, and practice models, healthy family functioning, family dysfunction, and intervention techniques. This course will also address issues relative to diversity in families and couples along with perspectives of family therapy.


Group Counseling

This course examines both the theory and practice of group counseling. Among the theoretical positions discussed are client centered, behavioral, existential, and rational emotive. Important aspects of group process are also discussed including group leadership, group membership, establishing a group, and maintaining a group. As such the course covers therapist issues, patient selection criteria, group structuring as well as basic therapeutic techniques. The course prepares students to design structured counseling groups, to prepare group counseling materials, and to lead counseling groups of various types.


Statistics and Research: 7 Courses

Students will take the below 7 courses will choose 1 (3 credit) advanced course in statistics and research.

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Intermediate Statistics
Prerequisite: APSY7468 Introductory Statistics

Topics and computer exercises address tests of means, partial and part correlations, multiple regression, analysis of variance with planned and post hoc comparisons, analysis of covariance, repeated measures analysis, elements of experimental design, and power analysis.


General Linear Models

Addresses the construction, interpretation, and application of linear statistical models. Specifically, lectures and computer exercises cover ordinary least squares regression models; matrix algebra operations; parameter estimation techniques; missing data options; power transformations; exploratory versus confirmatory model building; linear-model diagnostics, sources of multicollinearity; diagnostic residual analysis techniques; variance partitioning procedures; dummy, effect, and orthogonal coding procedures; and an introduction to structural equation modeling.


Quantitative Research Design in Counseling and Developmental Psychology

In this year-long seminar, students examine quantitative research designs and application employed in the Counseling and Developmental Psychology literatures, including randomized, nonrandomized, cross-sectional, and longitudinal designs. Students present and critique published research exemplifying specific designs, propose empirical studies that could advance counseling and developmental psychology, and present findings from their own empirical work.


Qualitative Research Methods

Introduces the foundations and techniques of carrying out qualitative research. Topics include philosophical underpinnings, planning for a qualitative research project, negotiating entry, ethics of conducting research, data collection and analysis, and writing/presenting qualitative research. Requires a research project involving participant observation and/or interviewing.


Dissertation Seminar in Counseling/Developmental Psychology

This course is designed to assist students in the preparation of a formal doctoral dissertation intent. All aspects of dissertation development will be discussed. Students must present a series of draft proposals for faculty and student reaction. An acceptable dissertation intent is required for completion of the course.


Dissertation Direction

Dissertation related course work for advanced doctoral students.


Psychological Measurement: 1 Course

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Advanced Psychological Assessment

Provides an introduction to a variety of assessment tools commonly used to diagnose psychological disorders and inform treatment planning for children, adolescents, and adults. Assessment tools covered in this course include projective and personality tests, intelligence tests, tests of achievement, neuropsychological tests, and symptom checklists. Focus will be upon the theory, administration, scoring, and interpretation of these tools. Critical issues in the use of these measures, including ethical, psychometric, social, and legal concerns will be addressed. Students will complete and present integrated test batteries.


Psychological Foundations: 5 Courses

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Advanced Seminar in Psychopathology
Prerequisite: APSY7543 Psychopathology or equivalent

A developmental approach to understanding psychological disorders across the life span. The course will examine the emergence of a range of disorders in children, adolescents, and adults (e.g., depression, violent and abusive behavior). Particular attention will be paid to factors that increase risk and resilience. The implications for prevention and intervention strategies will be discussed.


History of Psychology

This course surveys the philosophical roots and the development of psychological thought from the Grecian and medieval periods to the present. Topics include: doctrines of human nature in early Greek philosophy; emergence of science in the post-Renaissance period; contributions of Descartes, Locke, the British empiricists and associationists to mental philosophy; major developments in nineteenth-century physiology; Darwin's evolutionary theory and its implications for psychology; emergence of psychology as an independent discipline; the rise and demise of the major systematic schools in psychology--structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt, behaviorism and psychoanalysis and, an overview of recent theoretical developments and controversies in contemporary psychology.


Biological Bases of Behavior

This course reviews a variety of topics within the biological bases of bahavior, employing a neuroanatomical starting point. Students learn neuroanatomy in some detail; moreover, course explores basic mechanics of the nervous system, basic psychopharmacology, and sensation and perception. Also examines cognitive functions associated with different regions of the brain as well as neurodevelopmental, psychiatric, and neurological disorders. In addition, students will have opportunity to read some of the more contemporary writings in the field of neuroscience.


Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior

This course discusses theories of human development and examines empirical research on cognitive and affective processes underlying behavior. In addressing the cognitive bases of behavior, it explores key mental processes (e.g., attention, memory, problem solving) and constructs (e.g., schemas, heuristics) that have been instrumental in understanding everyday functioning. The socio-affective bases of behavior addressed in the course include emotions, temperament, and self-concept. The students in this course explore fundamental theoretical questions, such as the role of biology and environment in development, and consider practical applications of current theoretical and empirical knowledge concerning the bases of human behavior.


Advanced Topics: Social Psychology

An advanced seminar covering the scholarship of social psychology.


Practicum: 3 Courses

Throughout doctoral training, students have an exciting assortment of opportunities for practice in the field of Counseling Psychology. Incoming students participate in the First Year Experience (FYE), which provides training in an array of non-traditional practice roles. Students learn to integrate a social justice approach to intervention at individual, community, and policy levels. Second and third year students engage in Advanced Practicum, which entails working 2-3 days per week in a field site, under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, as well as attending a doctoral practicum seminar on campus. Some students even choose to continue their practicum training into their fourth year with increasing levels of responsibility. In addition to training in psychotherapy, students gain supervised experience in assessment in at least one practicum. Science and research are integrated in the practice of therapy via theory-driven and evidence-based case conceptualizations.

We are fortunate that our students have access to a wide variety of high quality clinical training sites in universities, schools, hospitals, and outpatient community mental health settings. Being situated in the Boston area, we have developed excellent relationships with a number of these sites that frequently select our students for training. We also take pride in the fact that our doctoral students are considered highly sought after candidates for practicum training sites. In fact, our students are accepted to sites that are considered to be among the most competitive in the nation for practicum and internship training.

Examples of sites where students match:

  • Cambridge Hospital/ Harvard Medical School
  • University of Maryland Counseling Center
  • University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center
  • Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Administration Medical Center
  • Emory University/ Grady Health System
  • Walter Read Medical Center
  • Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School
CourseCourse TitleCredit

Advanced Counseling Practicum I & II

Pre-internship placement in a mental health setting accompanied by a biweekly seminar on campus. Placement requires 20-24 hours per week over two semesters. Focus will be on the integration of theoretical and research perspectives on clinical interventions utilizing the experience of site-based practice. Satisfactory completion of this course is a prerequisite for the doctoral internship.


Advanced Clinical Case Consultation in Counseling Psychology

This one-credit course is required for doctoral students who have completed both Advanced Practicum courses and have chosen to do another practicum. The course meets monthly throughout the year and is designed to help students further develop their capacity to integrate theory and practice in their work clients.


Internship in Counseling Psychology: 1 Course

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Doctoral Internship in Counseling Psychology

Internships cover a calendar year, and students must complete the equivalent of one full year (40 hours/week) or two semesters (two credit hours per semester). Applications should be submitted in November of the preceding year. Placement must be in an approved counseling setting for psychodiagnostic and interviewing experience with clients, group counseling, and other staff activities.


Doctoral Comprehensive Exam

CourseCourse TitleCredit

Doctoral Comprehensive Exam

In order to ensure that all students graduating from the program have a fundamental understanding of the field which they are about to enter, they are required to complete a comprehensive examination covering the broad areas of the core courses.



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