The MA degree requires completion of an MA thesis, clinical coursework, and departmental requirements for a statistics course and a breadth course (note that the clinical program requires particular types of breadth training experiences).  The schedule below outlines the typical curriculum that students follow in the MA program.  A second statistics course and other breadth courses may also be taken during the first or second year of the MA degree and can be counted towards PhD requirements.  Beginning at the end of their second year, students begin to complete community practica training. The program requires a minimum of one full-time (or part-time equivalent) practicum placement, but it is expected that most students will complete additional practica placements in order to acquire competencies relevant to their own career goals.

Recommended Sequence of Courses for MA

Year l (MA)

PSYC 537 Ethics & Professional Issues

PSYC 541 Intro to Psychotherapy

PSYC 530 Assessment: Critical Survey

PSYC 531 Assessment: Clinical Implications

560 Clinical Research Design

PSYC 545 Advanced Statistics

Prepare and defend MA thesis proposal



Year 2 (MA)

PSYC 534 Practicum

Case Conference / Professional Issues Seminar

PSYC 542 Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Breadth Course

PsychFest Presentation

Completion and defence of MA thesis

Possible full-time summer community practicum

Over the course of the MA and PhD program, students must take at least three courses to complete the Assessment requirement (the basic introductory courses 530 and 531 plus one advanced assessment course such as Child Assessment, or Neuropsychological Assessment), two courses in Psychopathology (either Adult Psychopathology or Child Psychopathology), and two courses to complete the didactic Therapy requirement (the basic course 542, plus one advanced therapy course such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or Treatment of Childhood Disorders).  One of these advanced clinical courses must have a focus on children (i.e., Child Psychopathology, Treatment of Childhood Disorders, or Child Assessment). 

Students must complete an empirically-based Master's thesis (or equivalent; see also the Graduate Student Handbook) prior to admission to the PhD program. Departmental guidelines encourage MA completion in a maximum of 2 years. The expectation is that students start early with their research and that supervisors and students adopt MA research plans that can be completed within the 2-year timeframe. 

The PhD degree requires the completion of a dissertation, an additional statistics course and two non-clinical breadth courses.  Together with the breadth course at the MA level, the three breadth courses must provide the student with broad and general training in biological, social, and cognitive/affective bases of behaviour.  Additionally, students must complete the advanced clinical course requirements outlined above.  At the PhD level, students must also complete the comprehensive examination, the history requirement, and an approved accredited internship. Throughout the MA and PhD degree, students must also complete the life span developmental training requirement. Before being approved to apply for internship, students must demonstrate knowledge and skills across a wide range of competencies identified by the program as reflecting achievement of program objectives and readiness for internship.

Recommended Sequence of Courses for PhD

Year 3 (PhD 1)

PSYC 534 Practicum

Breadth Course

Advanced clinical courses in assessment, treatment, or psychopathology

Comprehensive Examination

Possible community practicum


Year 4 (PhD 2)

Advanced clinical courses in assessment, treatment, or psychopathology

Breadth Course

Possible community practicum

Ph.D. thesis proposal defence and data collection


Year 5 (PhD 3)

Elective courses

Possible community practicum

Ph.D. thesis completion and departmental defence


Year 6 (PhD 4)

Internship (at an APA- or CPA-accredited setting)

Ph.D. thesis university defence

To accomplish the general objectives of the program, the plan of MA and PhD study includes a series of clinical and non-clinical courses and practica supervised by professional psychologists in university and community agencies.  In the first year, students gain basic clinical knowledge and skills to prepare them for practica in subsequent years.  In the second and third academic years, students carry out clinical work under the direct supervision of departmental clinical faculty.  In subsequent years of the PhD program, students engage in advanced practica in community settings to prepare them for internship and beyond.  As students progress through the program, they engage in ongoing assessment of their developing competencies reflecting broad and general training in clinical psychology as well specialization in the student's area(s) of interest. In order to acquire sufficient breadth, all students must adhere to the following guidelines. In consultation with their faculty advisor, students may also plan additional experiences to supplement development of relevant competencies.

  1. Required Clinical program Courses: Psychopathology, Assessment, and Therapy.  Requirements for each of these areas were outlined above.  All first year students must take Ethics and Professional Issues in Clinical Psychology (PSYC 537) and Introduction to Psychotherapy (PSYC 541), and all first and second year students are required to attend the weekly Clinical Case Conferences during the Spring semester.  More senior students are encouraged to attend the case conferences as well.

    Clinical Research Design (PSYC 560) is required of all students.  Students are required to take at least one course with a focus on children (either Child Assessment [PSYC 532], Psychopathology of the Child [PSYC 536], or Treatment of Child Disorders [PSYC 556]). 
  1. Required Departmental Courses:

    a)  Statistics:  MA students (and PhD students who have not already had a comparable graduate course) are required to take one 3-credit courses in statistics.  Advanced Statistics (PSYC 545) is taken in the first semester of the first year.  A second statistics course is required for the PhD program, but may be taken during the MA Year 1 or 2.  Available courses cover topics such as Analysis of Variance, Multiple Regression, or Factor Analysis.  Additional advanced topics courses may be taken at any time.  The goals of the courses are (a) to provide practical understanding and experience with the major parametric statistical techniques, (b) to convey a reasonable understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of modern statistics to the extent that students can grasp the nature of obvious statistical/design fallacies, and (c) to sharpen the capabilities of the student in reading, writing, and criticizing the method and results sections of experimental reports.

    b) Breadth courses:  As a departmental requirement, students are required to take 6 credits outside of the clinical area (in biological, cognitive, developmental, health, personality, or quantitative areas).  However, the clinical program requires that students acquire broad and general training in accordance with CPA/APA accreditation guidelines in each of the following areas (see also the Graduate Student Handbook for additional details):

    (i)  biological bases of behaviour (e.g., physiological psychology, comparative psychology, functional neuroanatomy, psychopharmacology)
    (ii) cognitive/affective bases of behaviour (e.g., learning, memory, perception, cognition, motivation, emotion)
    (iii) social bases of behaviour (e.g., social psychology; cultural, ethnic, and group processes; social development)
    (iv) individual behaviour (e.g., personality theory, human development, individual differences, abnormal psychology).  Psychopathology courses such as 535 and 536 fulfill this requirement.

    In addition to these courses, students who have already achieved considerable exposure to one of these areas of psychology (usually through undergraduate courses) may petition the program for permission to take a more specialized graduate course in that content area to delve further into an area in which the student already has basic knowledge.
  1. Practica/Internship (Refer also to the Practica and Internships: Policies and Procedures Handbook):

    a)  In the first year, students prepare to begin clinical training by taking Introduction to Psychotherapy, the two Assessment courses, and ethics.  Formal supervised clinical practicum begins in the second year. Students are required to take Clinical Practicum (PSYC534) in both Years 2 and 3.

    b)  A community-based practicum experience (minimum 450 hour placement) is required of all students.  This practicum takes place in a community agency. It can be done as a fulltime experience during the summer after Years 2 or 3 or as a part-time experience during the 3rd or 4th year of graduate studies.  Practicum plans are developed in conjunction with the student’s faculty advisor and are submitted in writing for approval by the Clinical faculty.  See the Practica and Internships Policies and Procedures Handbook for more detail.

    c)  Students subsequently identify additional practicum training to augment their clinical skills in preparation for internship.  As with the required practicum, plans for these elective training opportunities must be developed in conjunction with the student’s faculty advisor and are submitted in writing for approval by the Clinical faculty. Practica that are not approved in advance by the clinical program will not be certified as training hours toward readiness for internship and are not covered by the university's liability insurance that covers required practicum training in pursuit of a degree.

    d)  A year-long internship in an APA and/or CPA accredited setting must be completed prior to awarding of the PhD.  Internship plans are submitted in writing for approval by the clinical faculty.  The student must have all dissertation data collected before an application for internship can be submitted, and all required course work must be completed before beginning the internship. 

Clinical Comprehensive Examinations

Purpose and Timing

The comprehensive examination in clinical psychology is required of all doctoral students. The broad purpose of comprehensive examinations at UBC is to assess whether the student has developed strong analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking abilities; sufficient breadth and depth of knowledge and skills of the discipline; the academic background required for the specific doctoral research to follow; potential ability to conduct independent original research; and the ability to communicate knowledge of the discipline. This examination must be passed within two years of admission to the Ph.D. program (i.e., by the end of the fourth year of graduate study).


The comprehensive examination requirement is fulfilled by completing a paper, which may take one of several formats (see Description below). The formats have been constructed to require comparable time and effort. Students should choose the option that best addresses their particular career and professional goals. Students may consult with their research advisor, the Director of Clinical Training, or other clinical faculty regarding the most appropriate format.


The department expects the comprehensive examination to be written by the end of the 2nd PhD year. Meeting this deadline requires that you begin work on your comprehensive examination well in advance.


The clinical comprehensive examination can be fulfilled through completion of a review or conceptual paper of relevance to clinical psychology.  The paper can take one of many forms, including: a) narrative review of empirical research that integrates or consolidates information in a manner that substantively benefits the field, b) meta-analysis of empirical research, c) a conceptual paper which offers a new or revised theoretical perspective based on a body of empirical research, or d) written essay responses to four essay questions.

For options a through c, the paper should take the format of those published in journals such as Psychological Bulletin, Psychological Review, Clinical Psychology Review, Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, or other similar journals.  Examples of papers consistent with options a through c can be provided by the student’s research advisor and/or other clinical faculty.  The paper should be written with the aim of making a substantive and potentially publishable contribution to the literature.  A proposal must be approved by the Examiners (see Committee below) before the paper is written. 

For option d, the written examination consists of four essay questions corresponding to each of four clinical breadth topics: a) clinical research methods, b) measurement and psychopathology, c) intervention, and d) ethics/professional issues.  A large pool of questions corresponding to each topic has been generated.  Questions will be written to address both child and adult domains.  For each topic students will select one question at random from an envelope containing several possible questions.  Students then have three weeks to conduct a literature review and complete an 8-12 page written response.  Only one question is completed at a time.  Therefore, total time to complete the written examination is 12 weeks; however, students may allow as little or as much time as they like between essays, as long as all four essays are completed by the deadline (end of 2nd PhD year).  Each essay is submitted to Examiners when it is completed, but the paper will not be considered complete and ready for evaluation until all essays are completed and submitted to the Examiners.  Unlike options a, b, c, essays written for option d are expected to be in exam format rather than a potentially publishable format.

Differentiation from Dissertation

Differentiation from dissertation is a concern for those choosing a review paper format falling under options a, b, or c. The comprehensive examination may address the same topic as the student’s dissertation, or a different topic.  However, the paper produced must be more than the Introduction section to a dissertation or empirical paper.  Whereas an Introduction sets the stage for a study, a review/conceptual paper offers a more substantive contribution.  For example:

  • A narrative review (option a) may systematically summarize an empirical literature that has not yet been reviewed or that would benefit from an updated review and thereby provide an authoritative statement on what is known and not known in that area. 
  • A meta-analysis (option b) can establish with precision the direction and size of a given effect or association, as well as the variables that influence the effect.
  • A conceptual paper (option c) can offer a theoretical advance by proposing a new or revised conceptual model to parsimoniously account for a variety of empirical findings, and/or by comparing the abilities of different conceptual models to account for existing empirical findings.

  • Committee

    The Examination Committee consists of a Principal Examiner and an Examiner; the Chair of Comprehensive Exam Committee serves as the Chair ex officio (without vote). The Principal Examiner must be a primary clinical faculty member and will be appointed at random by the Comprehensive Exam Committee Chair. The student, in consultation with the Principal Examiner, will recruit an Examiner, who must be a UBC faculty member. Neither the Principal Examiner nor the Examiner may be the student’s research supervisor.  In case of an unresolvable difference in judgment between the two examiners, a third examiner selected from among the core clinical faculty may be consulted for resolution.  After the Examiners make their final evaluation, the Principal Examiner should notify (email is sufficient) both the Director of Clinical Training and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology.

    Role of Student's Research Supervisor and Consultants

    For options a, b, and c, the student's research supervisor may act in a consultative role to the student up until the point at which the proposal is submitted. In this capacity the research supervisor can help the student select a topic and format that meet the guidelines for the clinical comprehensive examination paper. The supervisor can also be helpful in ensuring that the scope and aims of the proposed paper will offer a potentially substantive contribution to the literature that is more than an Introduction section to a dissertation or empirical paper. However, the student's contribution must be sufficiently original and independent to clearly warrant first-authorship on a published version. Although the supervisor can play a consultative role leading up to the proposal, and can play a co-authorship role in a publication-version once the comprehensive exam is completed, the student should complete the paper independently once an appropriate topic has been selected and approved. In addition, once an appropriate topic has been selected and approved, the student may not receive assistance from anyone – including peers, faculty, or statistical consultants.  Such consultation is only permitted in advance of the proposal's approval.

    Steps For Completing the Requirement

    After requesting that the Chair of the Comprehensive Exam Committee select Examiners, students selecting options a, b, or c must submit a two-page proposal for the comprehensive examination paper for approval by the Examination Committee. The proposal should include an explanation regarding how the topic is distinct from a literature review that would comprise the Introduction section of a paper or dissertation. The proposal is reviewed by the Committee and approved in writing within two weeks (e-mail from the Principal Examiner is sufficient) as an indication that the proposed paper appears to meet the requirements. Upon approval of the proposal, students will have a period of three months to complete and submit their paper. Students should plan to submit the comprehensive examination paper sufficiently early so that it can be resubmitted if necessary to pass before the end of the second year of the Ph.D. program. The Examination Committee must provide a decision on the paper within two weeks of submission (which means the student must gain committee members' agreement on a submission date well in advance).

    For option d, after requesting that the Chair of the Comprehensive Exam Committee select examiners, the Chair allows the student to select the first of the four topics to be addressed, and arranges a time at which the student can select a question at random from a large pool of potential questions on that topic. The student then has 3 weeks to complete the response. The process is repeated for the next three topics. After all four essays are completed, they are assembled into a single document, and submitted to Examiners for review. Examiners must provide a decision on the examination within two weeks of submission. Because examiners have just two weeks from the date of submission to complete their evaluation, the student must obtain committee members' agreement on a submission date well in advance.


    When the student submits the clinical comprehensive examination paper, the Principal Examiner and Examiner confer with each other to assign an outcome of Pass, Revise-and-Resubmit, or Fail. The Principal Examiner will communicate the decision and any feedback to the student.

  • A decision of Pass is given for exams that would warrant a numerical grade of 68 or higher out of 100. This means that the paper demonstrates passing analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking abilities; passing breadth and in-depth knowledge of clinical psychology as it pertains to the areas of inquiry addressed by the paper; and passing ability to communicate knowledge of the discipline using professional standards.
  • A decision of Revise-and-Resubmit is given for exams that would warrant a numerical grade of between 50 and 67 out of 100. This decision does not allow the student to pass the requirement, but does allow the student to revise and resubmit the paper. In this case the committee will provide written feedback to the student about which elements of the paper need revision in order to rise to the level of passing. The revised paper is then resubmitted (maximum of two resubmissions) to the same committee within 30 days. A decision of Revise-and-Resubmit can also be utilized for papers that are otherwise above threshold for passing but that are not sufficiently different than an Introduction section to a dissertation or empirical paper. In this case the committee will provide guidance regarding the addition of content or analysis required to achieve a passing grade.
  • A decision of Fail is given for exams that would warrant a numerical grade below a 50.  This decision indicates that the student has failed and must redo the comprehensive examination.  If a student also receives a failing grade on the second attempt, he or she does not advance to doctoral candidacy.  Failing grades are reserved for those papers that fall far short of the mark of demonstrating breadth and in-depth knowledge of the discipline, that show an inadequate academic background required for doctoral research to follow, and that signal serious lack of potential ability to conduct independent original research, which is required for completion of the doctoral degree.

  • Historical and Scientific Foundations of Psychology

    All students in the clinical psychology program are required to demonstrate substantial understanding of the historical and scientific foundations of psychology.  This material is presented in most courses, particularly those didactic courses that satisfy breadth requirements for clinical students. 

    Students who entered the clinical program in 2007 or later must demonstrate their graduate level understanding of historical and scientific foundations of general psychology by preparing a 2-3 page book report on at least one book on this topic (see suggested titles below). Another option that may be used to demonstrate such knowledge is to take either PSYC 500 or PSYC 312, the upper-level undergraduate course UBC offers on this topic (or an equivalent course from another university). This requirement may be completed at any time before applying to internship. Students who choose the book report option should select a book that covers the breadth of scientific psychology, its history of thought and development, including its research methods and applications. Examples of books that would be appropriate include:

    Benjafeld, J. (2004). A history of psychology (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    Benjamin, L.T. (2006). A brief history of modern psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
    Godwin, C.J. (2004). A history of modern psychology (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley.
    Hergenhahn, B.R. (2004). An introduction to the history of psychology (5th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
    Leahey, T.H. (2000). A history of modern psychology (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    Robinson, D.N. (1995). An intellectual history of psychology (3rd Ed.). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
    Schultz, D.P., & Schultz, S.E. (2007). A history of modern psychology (9th Ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Wadsworth.
    Wertheimer, M. (1999). A brief history of psychology (4th Ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Wadsworth.

    To promote the development of skills in self-directed learning in psychology, students are expected to fulfill this requirement in a relatively independent manner.  That being said, students must obtain advance approval from their research advisor regarding the book they will use for this requirement.  The research advisor is also responsible for assessing the quality of the book report on a pass/fail basis.  The faculty’s expectation is that the book report will concisely review major themes presented in the book and make connections between material presented in the book and the science of clinical psychology.  For example, students may highlight historical foundations of major theoretical approaches underpinning their own clinical training thus far or outline the historical foundations of theories, methods, or research questions examined in their own laboratories.

    Students who have previously taken a senior undergraduate course on historical and scientific foundations of general psychology may apply to the clinical program for exemption from this requirement. Application for exemption includes a letter requesting the exemption, a hard copy of the undergraduate transcript showing the course, and a copy of the course syllabus. The course must be similar in breadth and rigor to PSYC 500, and the student must have achieved a mark of at least 80% in the course.

    Coverage of Lifespan Development Required of Clinical Psychology Students.

    Lifespan issues are incorporated in several courses, including Adult Psychopathology and Child Psychopathology (Psych 535 and 536). This involves readings/discussion of normal transitions across the lifespan. Lifespan issues also are covered in the assessment courses (Psych 530, 531, and advanced assessment courses), including discussion of appropriate assessment methods across the lifespan and normative developmental comparisons. In addition, all students are required to take at least one course with a child focus (532, 536, or 556).

    Beginning March 2013, we require student attendance at a Clinical Brown Bag that will cover various topics, including not only Lifespan, but also Drugs and Behavior, and other topics of interest to the clinical faculty and students. This is a monthly series that will be organized by a committee of faculty and graduate students with the Clinic Assistant involved in the pragmatic issues of scheduling etc. A minimum of half of the talks in any year would be devoted to Lifespan topics and presentations will be by experts in that area (e.g., faculty in the department, visiting scholars). Although all clinical students and faculty are encouraged to attend all of the Brown Bag talks, clinical students are required to attend at least 6 hours of talks specifically related to Lifespan over the course of their tenure as clinical graduate students. Attendance (sign-in) is taken to provide a record of talks attended by each student. The 6 hour requirement holds for all entering and current MA students. For students who are in years 1 or 2 of the PhD program as of March 2013, they are required to attend 3 hours before graduation. Students who are PhD 3 or higher as of March 2013 are exempt from the requirement.

    Students may petition the clinical faculty to allow Developmental Brown Bag talks to meet the Lifespan requirement instead of (in the case of scheduling conflicts) or in addition to, the Clinical Brown Bag series. Approvals would be made on a case-by-case basis and would be based on an assessment of the extent to which the Developmental talks focus on broad Lifespan issues

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