The LIU-Post Psychological Services Center (PSC) provides a year long (September – July) practicum training experience for all students in their second year of the LIU-Post Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology (terminal degree Psy.D.). The PSC practicum distinguishes itself, from those at other institutions and doctoral programs in clinical psychology, in a number of ways. These distinguishing factors – indeed advantages – fall under several domains:
- A high degree of integration with the LIU-Post doctoral program – facilitating the translation of theory and coursework to application and intervention;
- Physical proximity to the academic seat of the LIU-Post doctoral program – facilitating the continuation of coursework and the transition to field work;
- A wealth of diversity in clinical, research and consultation training experiences;
- An abundance of supervision of all forms of practicum work; and,
- Numerous opportunities for collaboration with and service to the LIU-Post community (including undergraduates, staff and administration) and communities locally and worldwide.
The following details many of the specific activities, and advantages these activities provide for PSC practicum students (who are also known as Graduate Student Therapists or GSTs – the terms will be used interchangeably in this report).
Integration with the LIU-Post Doctoral Program
The PSC offers doctoral students training that complements and adds to the academic instruction they receive within the doctoral program. While all courses prepare the doctoral students for functioning as a psychologist, there are some intersections of academic coursework and PSC practicum work that warrant particular mention.
Assessment – part of the requirements for successful completion of the PSC practicum include the administration of at least two complete assessment batteries. These batteries must entail multiple domains of functioning (i.e., cognitive, personality, etc…) to ensure that the practicum student can consolidate the often complex and extensive information a psychological assessment can produce.
During the first year of graduate training doctoral students take a number of assessment courses. These include: Psy 803 (Cognitive and Neuropsychological Assessment), Psy 826 (Clinical Interviewing), Psy 804 (Personality Assessment) and Psy 851 (Assessment of Children).
During their practicum at the PSC students apply what they have learned during their first year in the application of numerous assessment tools that include, but are not limited to those that measure:
- Cognitive functioning (e.g., the WISC);
- Academic achievement (e.g., the WIAT);
- Personality dynamics (e.g., the Rorschach); and/or,
- Neuropsychological functioning.
Faculty and supervisors at the PSC supplement the first year course work with training in the use of additional assessment materials including:
- The Multi-Modal Life History Survey (Lazarus) to supplement data obtained during clinical interviewing;
- The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III to provide further information for diagnostic and personality assessment;
- Evidence-based, nationally used, computer assisted surveys such as Lambert’s Outcomes Quotient (OQ) to assess symptom level and progress in therapy; and,
- Measures assessing therapeutic process and outcomes such as the Assessment for Signal Clients (ASC).
In their second year, graduate students take Psy 805 (Integrating Test Findings and Report Writing) during their PSC practicum. Their experiences conducting assessments at the PSC brings this area of their training “to life.” The strategic scheduling of this course allows the students to apply academic knowledge immediately to interventions they are providing.
Theoretical Orientation – the LIU-Post Doctoral Psychology program emphasizes the mastery of two major theoretical orientations: Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) and Psychodynamic theories and techniques of clinical intervention. Of course clients coming in for service do not present with specifically “CBT” or “psychodynamic” concerns. Intervention may require a combination or integration of theoretical concepts and techniques. The PSC practicum experience helps the second year graduate student apply concepts learned in coursework and how what they have learned is applied in the actual clinical setting. This application requires a certain level of mastery of distinct theoretical orientations as well as thoughtful, ethical and strategic ways the concepts and techniques of different orientations could be integrated in actual intervention. There are unique aspects of the PSC that complements this focus on mastery and integration:
- While both the PSC Director and the Assistant Director are fluent in their mastery of theory and technique in CBT, psychodynamic and other theories and techniques, each of these leaders particular interests and strengths are more grounded by one or the other schools. Specifically, the PSC Director, a Hofstra graduate, specializes in CBT interventions. The Assistant Director, a graduate of the University of Michigan, specializes in psychodynamic approaches. The professional, and sometimes humorous, interactions between these two leaders brings to the training a healthy conversation of the comparison and combination of CBT and psychodynamic approaches.
- Client assignment at the PSC includes careful consideration of the appropriate theoretical orientation(s) that will guide treatment interventions. While this does not preclude a practicum student from exploring and utilizing techniques from other schools of thought, the focus on mastering CBT and psychodynamic theory within intervention is highlighted.
- During PSC team meetings practicum students are required to present 2 clients (one each academic semester) they are working with to the PSC faculty and their peers. This case conference challenges all trainees to conceptualize and integrate their clinical work from multiple theoretical orientations and multi-modal intervention strategies. Trainees also evaluate and respond to consultation questions their peers raise (during the latter’s case presentations).
Practice-Specific Education – in addition to academic courses on such larger domains as Developmental Psychology and/or Psychopathology, GSTs receive training at the PSC in more specialized topics that include:
- Taking a sexual history;
- Psychiatric Mental Status Examination;
- Formulating treatment goals and objectives;
- Determining level of care with clients with substance abuse; and
- Case conceptualization from different theoretical orientations.
These trainings are offered during weekly inservices as well as specially scheduled trainings (when needed).
As a part of their second year curriculum in the Doctoral Program, the GSTs also take a Professional Development Seminar. Instructors of this course include core and community faculty and assist the GSTs in their understanding of larger professional issues as well as issues that arise during their practicum placement. It is a course ideally scheduled for trainees who are often facing new professional issues for the first time.
Multi-Disciplinary Consultation – finally, GSTs benefit from training from interactions with experts from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. These have included:
- Trauma Art Narrative Therapy - Lyndra Bills, M.D. via Skype at Trauma Therapy Supervision meetings;
- Psychiatric consultation from staff psychiatrists at Nassau University Medical Center NUMC; and,
- Local school psychologists and counselors.
The Family Check-In Program – Select GSTs may opt to work with specific faculty on specialized research or intervention projects. One of these is the Family Check-In Program. In this program, families with any concerns about their infant or toddler aged children can come in for an assessment and feedback about their child’s mental health status and for guidance in the best possible ways to enable health promoting functioning within the family.
Experiences for Advanced Doctoral Work – GSTs at the PSC, with administrative and supervisory approvals, may sometimes provide longer term interventions for clients they have begun work with in their PSC practicum.
- Training, guidance and experiences at the PSC are also informed and guided by the fact that GSTs are required to complete and pass their Clinical Competency Exam (CCE) during their 3rd year in the doctoral program. Therefore, GSTs are encouraged to videotape sessions and review these during supervision for this purpose as well.
- More recently, the Doctoral program and PSC administration determined that GSTs would benefit from more formal evaluation of their administrative and clinical performance during the PSC practicum. As such, a grading system was developed and implemented.
- Advanced doctoral students (typically in their 4th year of the graduate program) provide peer mentoring for 2nd year students during their PSC practicum placement. This added support from more senior students has been well received and enriches both the mentor and mentee.
Proximity is a Plus
The building that houses the PSC is located directly next to the one that houses the academic seat of the LIU-Post doctoral psychology program. This advantageous location presents a number of benefits for a practicum student. Specifically, it:
- Decreases the burden of travel and commute – leaving more time for the actually work and experience of their graduate program and practicum;
- Facilitates the continuation of coursework while the GST begins their first clinical experience as a ‘psychologist’ in training – GSTs can see a client, take a class and see another client afterwards;
- Helps maintain access to professors and advisors for academic and clinical work. Many of these faculty also serve as PSC supervisors; and,
- All of the above helps to smooth the transition from student to clinician – an often daunting change for a trainee.
Diverse Clinical Training Experiences
PSC practicum students benefit from a variety of clinical training experiences that is comprised of a diversity of clientele and interventions.
Clientele - Located on the campus of LIU-Post, the PSC serves clientele from both LIU and the surrounding geographic area. In short it is a community clinic on a university campus. This presents some unique benefits for both populations.
Clients from LIU benefit from:
- Quality psychological services that are free of charge;
- The availability of low-cost, high-quality psychological services if students wish to continue treatment after graduation;
- Multiple locations and depth of service provision. Students can seek assistance from the Student Health & Counseling Center; however, should their struggles be of a more chronic or severe nature, transfer to the PSC can be made quickly and efficiently. Sometimes a student can be seen in one location and walk (or be escorted) to the PSC for enhanced services. It should be noted that, as a free-standing community clinic, privacy and HIPAA regulations, enable LIU students to receive services at the PSC without fear of those services negatively impacting their academic experience and progress.
- The close collaboration of these two service providers also offers opportunities for joint larger scale interventions (e.g., workshops, presentations and the like).
Clients from outside of LIU benefit from:
- Location on a major thoroughfare, with accessibility to public transportation, the PSC offers individuals from the surrounding geographic area another resource for psychological services.
- The LIU-Post campus is located in the affluent town of Brookville, Long Island an area in close proximity to communities comprised of individuals of more modest means. For example, many of the inhabitants of Westbury, Long Island can be categorized as the ‘working poor’ (individuals with income sufficient to cover basic needs and little else). In fact, GSTs at the PSC see from all areas of Nassau County and some from western Queens and eastern Suffolk counties. This variety of clientele provides GSTs the opportunity to provide service to individuals from a range of economic situations.
- As GSTs are the direct service providers, and licensed faculty provide supervision, PSC clientele receive high-quality, low-cost service provision that is often less expensive than most insurance co-pays. Given the recent economic crises in our country, individuals from all economic strata have reported their relief at learning of the sliding scale, need basis fee determination in which no client is turned away for lack of resources.
- A number of clients from the larger community report less anxiety –regarding continued stigma regarding mental health needs and services - when coming to the PSC. The PSC’s location, on an academic campus, provides an extra level of privacy as the client’s destination can be for a variety of reasons.
Client Diversity - PSC practicum trainees provide services to individuals varying in:
- Age – clients include those ages 3 years and older;
- Ethnicity/Race – the LIU student and larger geographic area is comprised of individuals representing all possible ethnicities.
- Educational background and status;
- Economic status (see section above);
- Religious affiliation and level of observance; and,
- Sexual and gender identity and expression.
These characteristics represent a few examples, not a comprehensive list, of a larger range of diversity in clientele that the practicum students serve.
Intervention Modality – PSC practicum students benefit from a wide range of diverse experiences in which they can intervene and serve their clientele and the public. These include:
- Screenings – GSTs have provided voluntary screenings for LIU undergraduate students such as LIU-Post Student Wellness Days and LIU-Post V-Day (Against Violence towards Women).
- Intake Assessments – with structured and unstructured tools;
- Treatment Planning – required for all ongoing therapy interventions;
- Individual Psychotherapy for children, adolescents, adults and geriatric clients – in emergency, short and long term basis;
- Marital & Couples therapy for heterosexual or same sex couples;
- Family therapy with a specialized supervision group which focuses on this particular mode of intervention;
- Group therapy (support, psycho-educational and psychotherapy) for individuals of all ages, specific types of issues (e.g., anger management) and range of disorders (e.g., affective, spectrum, etc.) and specialized supervision is available for group interventions.
- Assessment and Psychological Testing – for individuals of a variety of ages and differing assessment needs. Specialized testing experiences (e.g., for gifted students) is also available.
- Case Management – while not the focus of training, practicum students are given guidance, education and participate in projects (e.g., collaborative development of referral resources) that enhance their abilities as clinicians to assist their clients meeting a variety of needs.
- Training/Psycho-education Workshops – practicum students can develop and lead or co-lead workshops for clients on a variety of topics such as interpersonal effectiveness, anger management and sexual assault prevention (RAVE - Rape & Violence Education).
Integration with Faculty/Student Research
PSC practicum trainees are encouraged and supported in their endeavors to develop as researchers as well as clinicians. They have a variety of opportunities to conduct, assist with and present (locally and nationally) research on numerous topics such as:
- Psychotherapy Process Research;
- Supervisory Processes involved in Doctoral Training;
- Impact of Theoretical Orientation on Treatment Outcomes;
- Identification of factors (e.g. trauma history, attachment style) influencing treatment; and
- Impact of theoretical orientation on therapy process and outcome.
GSTs in the PSC practicum are provided with a wealth of guidance and support in the form of supervision. The PSC is fortunate to be able to provide a significant amount of supervision time with professionals who have a variety of experience and training.
Each week all GSTs participate in the following required supervision:
- 1.5 hours of faculty and peer supervision during the PSC Team meeting;
- 2 hours total (1 hour each) of individual supervision from a CBT and a psychodynamic framework;
- 1 – 3 hours (depending on need) of supervision for psychological assessment/testing; and,
- Either Family Therapy (1 hour) or Group Therapy (1 hour) supervision
In addition, GSTs may opt to supplement the above supervision with:
- Trauma Therapy supervision (1.25 hours); and/or,
- Supervision in topic or area specific domains as available.
PSC Supervisors include PSC administrators, doctoral program faculty and professionals within the community (often LIU-Post alumni). Each GST is assigned a core or faculty supervisor and one supervisor from the larger professional community.
The combination of a supervisor grounded in the department and one working in the field/community provides the GST with at least two views of the life of a psychologist.
Leadership of Supervisors
Oversight of all supervision provided to PSC Practicum students falls to the PSC Director, Dr. Thomas Demaria. He brings a particular set of experiences and skills to this work including:
- Years of direct clinical work in multiple settings and modalities;
- Extensive administrative oversight experience (e.g., Director of Psychological Services for South Nassau Communities Hospital); and,
- Specialization in Trauma Care and supervision.
For his work at the PSC, Dr. Demaria:
- Provides the specialized trauma supervision;
- Founded and runs the LIU-Post Trauma Response Team (a nationally recognized and award winning service program);
- Conducts and supervises research on trauma interventions;
- Is an active member, and attends meetings held by, the Association of Directors of Training Clinics (ADPTC); and,
- Attends and presents at the annual International Supervision Conference at Adelphi University.
PSC Supervisors collaboration - PSC practicum supervisors work together to monitor, check the quality of and further develop the PSC practicum training process and supervision. To ensure the best practicum experience possible for the GSTs:
- Faculty supervisors participate in a monthly meeting - to review the status and address outstanding training and supervision issues;
- Community supervisors meet on - a minimum of - an annual basis with the PSC Director for any particular issues needing resolution;
- All supervisors conduct their work of training, monitoring and guiding students based on the PSC Supervisor manual. This manual – developed by a subcommittee of PSC supervisors provides guidance and consistency between supervisors.
- Meetings and events can be scheduled at any time should the need arise.
Integration, Collaboration and Service to the LIU- Post Community
In addition to the aforementioned integration with the LIU-Post Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, the PSC also enjoys a healthy and active working relationship with many offices and services in the LIU-Post community. These collaborations ensure a fuller integration into the LIU-Post community which enhances both the PSC and LIU-Post as a whole. Current collaborations include PSC work with:
- The LIU Student Health & Counseling Center A respectful and effective working relationship between the PSC and the Student Health & Counseling Center enables each entity to direct their resources in the most effective manner possible. The Student Health & Counseling Center is able to serve a higher volume of students and address broader public health issues. The GSTs at the PSC are able to work with individuals with more chronic or debilitating issues and disorders. Together the PSC and the Student Health & Counseling Center ensure appropriate referral, triage and follow-up care for LIU students at no cost.
- The office for Academic Success In conjunction with the LIU-Post Doctoral Program, the PSC Assistant Director, Dr. Josette Banks, coordinates the Freshmen Success Program – a collaboration between Doctoral Psychology students and the office of the Associate Provost for Academic Success. This collaboration focuses the strengths and resources of both partners on the retention and success of undergraduate students identified as academically “at risk.” Research, consultation, teaching and other interventions provided by Doctoral students and GSTs enable the Associate Provost understand the composition and needs of this select group of students more thoroughly so that effective interventions can be developed and implemented.
- The LIU Global College Program The PSC Director and select GSTs provide consultation to members of the LIU Global College to assist students who have been victimized in other parts of the world including China and Australia.
Collaboration and Service to the Larger Community
The LIU-Post PSC provides a wealth of experiences for practicum students through service opportunities beyond the borders of the LIU-Post community and campus. Giving back while getting specialized training and experiences create a unique experience that can impact a professional long after their graduate training is complete. Current projects and collaborations include:
- Outreach and collaboration with community school districts (e.g., Levittown schools) for provision of assessment and clinical services;
- Community resource identification and evaluation of services offered through direct contact with the community agencies. Psychological services are provided at community-based locations such as Salvation Army (Manhattan), Girls-Hope a program of McCauley Girls Residence (Brooklyn), Elementary @ Middle School showcases of PSC services and Skype-supported consultation with refugee counselors (Cairo, Egypt)