Scientist Practitioner Model Apa Essay

The scientist–practitioner model, also called the Boulder Model,[1] is a training model for graduate programs that aspires to train applied psychologists with a foundation of research and scientific practice. It was initially developed to guide clinical psychology graduate programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

David Shakow created the first version of the model and introduced it to the academic community. From the years of 1941 until 1949, Shakow presented the model to a series of committees where the core tenets developed further. The model changed minimally from its original version because it was received extremely well at all of the conferences. At the Boulder Conference of 1949, this model of training for clinical graduate programs was purposed. Here, it received accreditation by the psychological community and the American Psychological Association.[2]

The goal of the scientist-practitioner model is to increase scientific growth within clinical psychology in the United States. It calls for graduate programs to engage and develop psychologists' background in psychological theory, field work, and research methodology. The scientist-practitioner model urges clinicians to allow empirical research to influence their applied practice; while simultaneously, allowing their experiences during applied practice to shape their future research questions. Therefore, continuously advancing, refining and perfecting the scientific paradigms of the field.[3]


After World War I, returning veterans reported decreased life satisfaction after serving. This was primarily due to the lack of clinical psychologists available to treat victims of "shell-shock" (now known as post traumatic stress disorder). At this time, psychology was primarily an academic discipline, with just a few thousand practicing clinicians.[4] The Second World War also influenced the development of the Boulder Model by fueling the growth of clinical psychology. Psychiatrists in the US military requested help from psychologists in efforts to treat "psychological and psychiatric casualties the war was producing" (p. 426).[3]

In order to increase life satisfaction for World War II veterans the federal government increased funding to clinical psychology graduate programs and created the GI Bill.[3] As a result, after the war Psychology graduate programs flourished with applicants and resources. The field's increasing popularity called for action, by the academic community, to establish universal standards for educating graduate psychologists.[3] Although the model has not been as prominent in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology, Campbell[5] acknowledged that the model later influenced I/O psychology (see page 447).


David Shakow is largely responsible for the ideas and developments of the Boulder Model. On May 3, 1941, while he was chief psychologist at Worcester State Hospital, Shakow drafted his first training plan to educate clinical psychology graduate students during a Conference at The New York Psychiatric Institute, now referred to as Shakow's 1941 American Association for Applied Psychology Report.[2] In the report, Shakow outlined a 4-year education track:

  • Year 1: establish a strong foundation in psychology and other applied sciences
  • Year 2: learn therapeutic principles and practices needed to treat patients
  • Year 3: internship, gain supervised field experience
  • Year 4: complete research dissertation.

Overall, the report aimed to help clinical graduate students perfect their abilities to complete diagnoses, therapy, and scientific research.[2] The report was endorsed and recommended its review to the American Association for Applied Psychology (AAAP). Later in the year, the AAAP accepted the recommendation and planned a conference to address training guidelines for graduate programs.[2] The following year the Penn State Conference was held with 3 subcommittees containing representatives from educational institutions, health establishments, and business/industry. These measures were taken to ensure that the final model was not biased towards Shakow's profession, although only minute changes were made to his original model.[2]

In 1944, a conference was held at the Vineland training school to reexamine Shakow's report. The American Association for Applied Psychology integrated into the American Psychological Association. Meanwhile, increased demand for professional psychologists prompted the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and the Veteran Administrative (VA) to increase funding for clinical psychology graduate programs. With more resources at hand, APA president, Carl Rogers asked David Shakow to chair The Committee on Training in Clinical Psychology (CTCP). This committee's primarily responsibility was to decide upon an effective model for education at the graduate level.[2]

Shakow's revised report was published in the Journal of Consulting Psychology in 1945 titled Graduate Internship Training in Psychology.[2] Shakow presented his published report to the CTCP and received minimal critique. So, the committee submitted his report to the APA for approval.[6] The APA endorsed Shakow's training model and published it in the American Psychologist declared as the set agenda for an upcoming conference discussing training methods in clinical graduate programs. By December, the report was known as "The Shakow Report".[6]

The CTCP members made site visits and evaluations of universities who had clinical graduate programs. At a joint meeting of the USPHS and the CTCP, a six-week conference was suggested to discuss reported inconsistencies in current clinical training programs. The conference would be sponsored by the APA and would be granted $40,000 in financial backing by the USPHS.[6]

In January 1949, a planning meeting for the upcoming conference was held in Chicago by members of the CTCP and representatives from the APA board of directors. Here, details including the conference's name, attendants, and location were decided upon. The planning committee of 1949, agreed to name the conference, The Boulder Conference on Graduate Education in Clinical Psychology, and invited participants from a variety of disciplines. The conference would be held at the University of Colorado at Boulder, thereby allowing participants to attend the proceeding annual meeting of the APA scheduled in Denver.[2]

Boulder Conference[edit]

The Boulder Conference met from August 20 till September 3 in 1949. A total of 73 committee members attended the conference representing fields of academic and applied psychology, medicine, and educational disciplines. This conference's goal was to agree upon a standard training plan for clinical psychologists. The Shakow Report was on the agenda, and was received with unanimous support. Due to this consensus, the Shakow report is now referred to as the Boulder Model.[2]

This model aims to teach clinical graduate students to adhere to the scientific method when executing their applied practices. The model states that in order to master these techniques, graduate students need to attend seminars and lectures that strengthen their background in psychology, complete monitored field work, and receive research training. Ultimately, most psychologists specialize in either research academia or applied practice, but this model argues that having sufficient knowledge in the entire field will enhance a psychologist's ability to perform their specialty.[3]


Despite the Boulder Model's observable success in training graduate psychology students, it was met with mounting criticism after its installment in 1949. The debate over the Boulder Model's value centers around two main criticisms:

  • That the Boulder Model lacks validity, meaning that the Boulder Model does not actually help graduate students become better scientists and practitioners.
  • That the skills needed for practice in clinical psychology versus those needed for research are not compatible. This could possibly drive off bright students who wish to focus their degree around their strengths and interests.[7]

Criticisms continued to accumulate until 1965 at the Chicago Conference. Here, it was recommended that clinical graduate programs restructured their training methods for students who wanted to focus their careers on applied practices. This idea was reinforced by the Clark Committee of 1967. The committee developed the practitioner-oriented model for clinical graduate programs, and presented it at the Vail Conference in 1973. This model was accepted readily to coexist with the Boulder Model, which is still used by many psychology graduate programs today.[3]

Core tenets[edit]

Core tenets of the today's model included in the current Boulder Model:[8]

  • Giving psychological assessment, testing, and intervention in accordance with scientifically based protocols
  • Accessing and integrating scientific findings to make informed healthcare decisions for patients
  • Questioning and testing hypotheses that are relevant to current healthcare;
  • Building and maintaining effective cross-disciplinary relationships with professionals in other fields
  • Research-based training and support to other health professions in the process of providing psychological care;
  • Contribute to practice-based research and development to improve the quality of health care.


Further reading[edit]

  • Hayes, S. C., Barlow, D. H., & Nelson-Gray, R. O. (1999) The scientist practitioner research and accountability in the age of managed care (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Soldz, S., & McCullough, L. (Eds). (1999). Reconciling empirical knowledge and clinical experience: The art and science of psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

External links[edit]

  1. ^Association, American (2007). Getting in. Washington: American Psychological Association. ISBN 1-59147-799-9. 
  2. ^ abcdefghiBaker, David B.; Benjamin Jr., Ludy T. (2000). "The Affirmation of the Scientists-Practitioner: a look back at boulder". American Psychologist. American Psychologist. 55 (2): 241–247. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.2.241. PMID 10717972. 
  3. ^ abcdefFrank, G., (1984). The Boulder Model: History, rationale, and critique. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 15(3), 417–435. doi = 10.1037/0735-7028.15.3.417
  4. ^Munsey, Christopher (2010). "The Veterans who Transformed Psychology". 41 (10). American Psychological Association: 54. 
  5. ^Campbell, J. P. (2007). Profiting from history. In L.L. Koppes (Ed.), Historical perspectives in industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 441-457). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  6. ^ abcPeterson, Christopher; Park, Nansook (2005). "The Enduring Value of the Boulder Model: upon this rock we build". Journal of Clinical Psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 61 (9): 1147–1150. doi:10.1002/jclp.20154. PMID 15965936. 
  7. ^Albee, George W. (2000). "The Boulder Model's Fatal Flaw". American Psychologist. American Psychologist. 55 (2): 247–248. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.2.247. PMID 10717973. 
  8. ^Shapiro, David S. (2002). "Renewing the scientist-practitioner model". Psychologist. 15 (5): 232. 

Types of Programs: 
Ph.Ds, PsyDs, and EdDs?
Clinical or Counseling or School?

I. Introduction

When looking at doctoral programs in professional psychology, applicants have several options in the types of programs that are available. For example, there are clinical, school, and counseling psychology programs. A single university may even offer two or more of these choices to potential students. Then, there are further distinctions to consider. Programs will differ on several factors including the type of degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD), training model (Scientist-Practitioner, Scholar-Practitioner, Clinical Scientist), and type of institution (traditional university-based, not-for-profit, for-profit, etc.) This section is designed to orient applicants to the practical implications of these differences and to introduce them to what the distinctions may mean for their future careers.

This section will cover:
II. Clinical vs. Counseling vs. School
III. Models and Degrees
IV. Type of Institution
Click the link above to download our excel worksheet for helping to decide which programs to apply to!

Read more about the importance of accreditation, understanding internship, and understanding C-20 data in the other sections of this web site.


II. Clinical vs. Counseling vs. School

The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits three different types of doctoral programs: clinical, counseling, and school psychology. Additionally, combined programs (programs providing any combination of these three) can also receive accreditation through the APA, leading to four total types of programs that are eligible for accreditation. It is important to note that all other types of doctoral programs (e.g., social, cognitive, experimental) are outside the realm of professional psychology and ineligible to be accredited by the APA. Although doctoral programs outside of professional psychology may prepare students well for research careers, they will not lead to licensure at the doctoral level. This means that graduates of these programs will not be able to practice therapy, deliver psychological testing, and perform other such services for the public. Clinical, counseling, school, and combined programs, on the other hand, prepare students to become practicing psychologists or health service providers. In fact, in order to receive accreditation, all four of these types of programs must supply a core curriculum that ensures that their students are prepared to practice in a generalist manner. So, with that being said, what are the differences between clinical, counseling, and school psychology programs?

II.I. Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology programs at traditional universities are most often housed in the psychology department within the college of arts and sciences. Clinical programs tend to emphasize understanding and diagnosing the development of pathology, and working with populations with various mental or behavioral health disorders. Additionally, clinical programs tend to train students in assessing psychological disorders with a variety of measures such as projective tests, intelligence evaluations, clinical interviews, neuropsychological batteries, and personality assessments. Although welcome in all settings that employ psychologists, those from clinical programs may find themselves particularly interested in doing their internship in hospitals and medical centers (Neimeyer, Rice, & Keilin, 2009). The majority of doctoral degrees conferred in professional psychology are in the clinical arena.

II.II Counseling Psychology

Some counseling psychology programs at traditional universities, like their clinical counterparts, are housed in psychology departments within the college of arts and science. Other counseling psychology programs are housed within schools of education. Where the department is housed will make a difference in the emphasis of the program (psychological science vs. education) as well as in the culture of the department itself. Some counseling programs in education departments award a different degree—the doctorate of education, or EdD. However, because the vast majority of programs award either the PhD or the PsyD, our discussion will focus mainly on these two types of degrees.

In general, counseling psychology programs tend to place less emphasis on psychopathology and more emphasis on a whole-person approach to treatment, including human aspects like cultural background and normative development. Additionally, these programs focus on vocational and career assessments more than clinical programs. Counseling psychology students may be inclined to seek out internships at university counseling centers and similar settings (Neimeyer et al., 2009).

One myth involving type of program is that counseling psychology programs focus more on practical clinical skills whereas clinical programs focus more on research skills. In fact, both clinical and counseling programs vary widely in how much they emphasize research versus hands-on clinical work. To this end, the program’s training model matters more than the distinction between clinical versus counseling.

II.III. School Psychology

School psychology programs are often housed in a university’s school of education. However, as with counseling psychology programs, they can also belong to the university’s psychology department within the college of arts and science. Some programs award an EdD, but most award a PhD or a PsyD. School psychology programs prepare students to work in primary and secondary school systems (including elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools). School psychologists provide important services in these systems including assessment and diagnosis of behavioral and learning problems; the implementation of therapeutic interventions; and consultation with families, administrators, and teachers. A common misconception is that school psychologists are the same as guidance counselors. However, in reality, school psychologists have more training in child development and child psychopathology than school counselors do.  School counselors assist students with career/college counseling, scheduling, and conflict management while school psychologists typically assess disability and risk, provide individual and group therapy for students in need, and design interventions for crisis prevention.

School psychology programs supply ample training in assessment techniques, as this is a core part of the school psychologist’s job. Additionally, a large portion of time in school psychology programs is devoted to learning about child development, child therapy, and disorders that typically appear in childhood. School psychology students typically choose to do their internships within school systems, but may seek internships elsewhere provided they have obtained experience in these settings during their practicum placements.

III. Models and Degrees

A major facet of training in psychology that is often discussed by applicants, current students, and psychologists lies in the distinction between the PsyD and PhD degrees. This next section will cover the differences and similarities between these two degree types. In leading up to this discussion, it is important to understand training models.

III.I. Training Models.

Training in professional psychology can be approached in a number of ways. A program’s approach to training will be at least partially determined by the model it follows. Two of the primary training models in psychology were developed during conferences held in cities in Colorado. Therefore, you may see these models referred to by city names (i.e. The Boulder model and the Vail model).

1. The Scientist-Practitioner model, or the Boulder model, was developed in 1949. The hallmark of this model is the balance between research and applied clinical training. Proponents of the Scientist-Practitioner model believe that a thorough grounding in both clinical work and in conducting research is necessary for psychologists working in all settings. Consequently, Scientist-Practitioner programs incorporate both clinical work and empirical research into their training. Students generally conduct original, basic research in a collaborative lab environment for their master’s theses and dissertations. They also devote a large portion of time to learning applied skills during clinical practica. Scientist-Practitioner programs award the PhD degree.

2. The Scholar-Practitioner model, or the Vail model, was developed in 1973 in order to address a new type of program that was springing up to train psychologists. The Scholar-Practitioner model was conceived to produce clinicians in psychology along the same lines that medical schools and law schools produce physicians and lawyers respectively. The model prioritizes the acquisition of clinical skills and emphasizes practical, hands-on training as a way to inform scholarly projects. Similar to the Scientist-Practitioner model, students in Scholar-Practitioner programs complete applied training by doing supervised practica. The research portion of the curriculum, on the other hand, focuses on being a consumer of research instead of on conducting research. The research that is conducted in these programs tends to focus more on the application of clinical procedures and on the completion of clinical projects. Vail model programs predominantly award the PsyD degree.

3. The Clinical Science model was developed following a paper published in 1991 called “Manifesto for a Science of Clinical Psychology” (McFall, 1991). The premise of this model is that psychologists need to be trained first and foremost in the science of psychology. Students in these programs still complete applied training during practica, but spend the majority of their time working with faculty to produce original research. This often includes applying for national grant funding, presenting work at conferences, and publishing in academic journals. Additionally, the applied training at these programs tends to focus on empirically supported treatments that have been validated by research. Clinical science programs award the PhD and typically seek to prepare students for academic careers, though some students from these programs do pursue positions in clinical settings.      

Due to the various emphases of the training models, students applying to these programs will need to demonstrate different proficiencies in order to gain acceptance.

III.II The PhD vs. the PsyD

The different training models provide a starting point for thinking about whether to pursue the PhD or the PsyD, but the situation is not as clear as the training models may indicate. In fact, studies have found that there is quite a lot of variability in training even among programs that promote the same model (Rodolfa et al, 2005). It is a common myth that the PsyD leads to a career as a practicing psychologist and the PhD leads to a career as a researcher. In fact, most graduates of PhD programs end up working in clinical as opposed to research settings (Walfish, Moritz, & Stenmark, 1991). Furthermore, according to the data collected by APPIC, by the time students apply for internship, students from PhD programs report having more clinical training hours than students from PsyD programs. One reason for this finding is that PhD programs—especially those that follow the Boulder Model—have a wide range of foci. That is, although some PhD programs are explicitly geared toward training researchers, others openly cater to students who are more interested in practicing psychology (Sayete et al., 2011). Similarly, students at PsyD programs do have opportunities to conduct and publish original research, though data indicates that, on average, they are less involved in this than their PhD counterparts (Cherry et al., 2000).

The chart below compares the PhD and the PsyD on several criteria. It is important to note that some of the differences between the degrees, such as the number admitted, can be explained by the tendency for the PhD to be offered by traditional universities and for the PsyD to be offered by free standing professional schools. However, not all PsyDs are granted by free standing professional schools and not all PhDs are housed within traditional universities. Therefore, the decision about which type of institution to attend is just as important as which degree is right for you.
IV. Type of Institution

The type of institution a student attends as an undergraduate (public, private, university, community college, online, etc.) will make a difference in his or her overall school experience; likewise, the type of graduate institution one attends impacts the training environment. There are a few different types of institutions that provide doctoral degrees in professional psychology, so it is beneficial for applicants to be aware of the differences and similarities between these offerings.

IV.I. Traditional University-Based Programs

A traditional university-based program is housed as a department within a larger university setting. The universities themselves generally offer a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The psychology graduate program is fully integrated into this setting rather than being a separate entity with its own administration. Boulder Model and Clinical Science model programs are almost universally housed in traditional university settings, along with a little under a third of Vail Model PsyD programs (Norcross, Castle, Sayete & Mayne, 2004). Students from traditional university-based programs have access to their university’s resources, including the academic facilities (library, computer labs, etc.). They also often have the opportunity to work with undergraduates as a course instructor, teaching assistant, or in their research labs. This can translate to funding opportunities for these graduate students that are not available to those who are at other types of institutions. University-based programs typically admit the fewest number of graduate students of all the institution types, thus maintaining the most favorable student-faculty ratios and financial support packages (Norcross et al, 2004). 

IV.II. University-Based Professional Schools

A university-based professional school is a program that is affiliated with a university, but is run separately from the other functions of that university. As a point of reference, most medical schools and law schools are university-based professional schools—they bear the name of their university affiliate, but are considered separate entities from the sections of the university that house undergraduates. Approximately 40% of Vail Model programs are housed in university-based professional schools, usually in the university’s school of psychology. These schools have their own administrative staff, registration policies, and academic facilities that are not shared with the university as a whole. Sometimes the school itself exists on a separate campus from the main undergraduate campus. Consequently, opportunities to work with undergraduate students or to collaborate with other areas of the university may be limited.

IV.III. Free-Standing Professional Schools

A free-standing professional school is a program that is housed by itself—or within a broader school of psychology—and is not affiliated with a traditional university. Frequently, these schools have names that contain the phrase “School of Professional Psychology.” Like university-based professional schools, free-standing professional schools have their own administrative staff, academic facilities, and buildings. Over a third of Vail Model PsyD programs are housed in free-standing professional schools as well as a very small number of Boulder-Model PhD programs (Norcross et al., 2004; O’Leary et al., 2011). Of the three types of institutions, free standing professional schools typically admit the highest number of students and have the least favorable student-faculty ratios and financial aid packages (Norcross et al., 2004).

Because free-standing professional schools do not have the same funding resources that are associated with traditional universities, they operate under a business model in order to maintain the school’s facilities. These models can be distinguished as for-profit or not-for-profit. However, it should be noted that these distinctions are tax designations and may or may not reflect an overall difference in the experience of the students.

1.  For-Profit Schools

For-profit schools operate with the purpose of making money over and above the costs of running, maintaining, and staffing the school. Money comes into the school from student tuition. Any profits that are made above and beyond the costs of running the school are passed on to share-holders, i.e. individuals who invested money in the school in the hopes that it would become a profitable enterprise. The recruitment and retention of students is, consequently, a primary function of these schools.
2. Not-for-Profit Schools

Not-for-profit schools, like their for-profit counterparts, take in money in the form of tuition. However, any money that is made over and above the cost of running the school is then re-invested in the school itself. This can take the form of bonuses for staff, new equipment, increased advertising and recruitment efforts, etc. 

The type of institution a particular program belongs to is not always clear cut. For example, some institutions have constructed numerous campuses across the United States. Some of these campuses are dedicated solely to providing degrees in professional psychology, while some have expanded to offer undergraduate degrees, thus moving in the direction of a traditional university.

IV.IV. Online Programs

As of now, the APA does not accredit any online programs in professional psychology, thus we will not cover this educational format. Although the field may change in the future, online training is not currently seen as an acceptable alternative to in-person learning within the field of professional psychology.

IV.V. Not-yet-accredited programs

Accreditation is not a sure thing, and a program that is not accredited cannot guarantee that it will be successful in obtaining accreditation. Likewise, a program presently accredited cannot guarantee that it will pass its next accreditation review. There are important questions you can ask of programs that are not-yet-accredited, though, to be more confident in a decision to attend such a program.
-Has the program graduated students already (under the present APA accreditation standards, the program MUST graduate two years of students before it can even apply for accreditation)?
-Has the program sought accreditation before, and been denied? If so, why was it denied, when is it going to apply again, and what's been done to make the next review go better? If not, why has the program never sought accreditation? What have been the consequences, if any, for graduates in applying for internships or getting jobs because of that?
-What is their timeline for seeking accreditation?
-Have they hired a consultant to help with accreditation, or are they seeking mentorship in accreditation from an accredited program?
These are vital facts to know to make an informed decision about applying to grad school, and you should not hesitate to be asking them of a program. Programs should be clear and forthcoming with this information.
Academy of Clinical Science
Carnegie Foundation
This chart can help you understand some of the broad differences between programs


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