Opening the doors
Three years after opening its doors in 1957 to engineering, math and science students, the University of Waterloo sought to include psychology studies in its curriculum. By 1963 three clinical academics were added to the small roster of Psychology faculty in order to establish a Clinical Ph.D. Program. The department grew steadily over the next years until it included over a half-dozen clinical faculty. All of our faculty appointments proved to be successful; each member became recognized leaders, with honours, statistical sophistication, and many publications (at peak, five of them had papers commended to be “citation classics”).
Furthermore, there is a shared conception about the education of our graduate students; all faculty accepted an approach fashioned by the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Training in Clinical Psychology, that met at Boulder, Colorado in 1949. The so-called “Boulder Model” gave equal emphasis to service and research skills. Provision of an integrated blend of these skills has been a prime goal in our seminars, in teaching professional service skills, and in research labs.
Because the Waterloo program quickly became one of the most popular clinical training sites in Canada, there were many student applicants. As a magnet for talent, we were able to choose among applicants who showed the most promising people skills, motivation, intellectual curiosity, and capacity to think critically about psychological literature. Our education employs traditional clinical topics (e.g., courses in assessment, personality, and psychopathology). Moreover, all students have been given teaching opportunities, and closely supervised work with their clients. We have placed research skill development largely in the hands of faculty-led teams that focus on particular issues (e.g., in the early years of our program, there were studies on hypnosis, learning disabilities, personality, psychopathology, psychotherapy*).
Waterloo’s training strategies have been rewarded. Nearly all graduates have competed successfully for their first-choice internships and received commendations from field work placements. Moreover, they have landed excellent jobs after graduation (approximately 1/3rd in academic/research jobs) and the rest in service roles that led to director positions in agencies. From its beginning, the Waterloo program has received accolades from researcher and practitioner communities. In particular, an analysis published in a 1997 issue of the journal Psychological Science showed post-doctoral Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) exam scores that ranked Waterloo’s clinical graduates second from the top among 185 North American clinical training programs. We take this as firm evidence that students have excelled in the Waterloo program.