Clinical Psychology - PhD Program

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About Clinical Psychology - PhD

Program Policies

Comprehensive Examination and Clinical Practice Examination

The Clinical Psychology Program (CPP) at the Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences utilizes two broad measures for the formative evaluation of student learning, the Comprehensive Examination (CE) and the Clinical Practice Examination (CPX). The CE focuses on the assessment of knowledge acquired on the foundations of the discipline, the profession and in research. The CPX is designed to assess clinical competencies related to relationship, clinical and psychological assessment and diagnosis, intervention and consultation. 

Comprehensive Examination (CE)

The CE is offered by the end of the second year. All students must take the CE, even those who are admitted after completing a master’s degree program from other institutions. Students must have approved all the courses of the first two years of the program, equivalent to 49 credits, and must be in satisfactory academic progress, as described elsewhere in this catalog.

The format of the CE is similar to the licensing examination prepared by the Board of Registration of Psychology of Puerto Rico. It is designed to cover the following three areas: Foundations of the profession, clinical application and knowledge of research, data gathering and data analysis. The test is administered in one day with the foundational and clinical components offered in the morning and the research area in the afternoon.

The areas covered under the foundational aspects of the discipline are:

Ethics, Personality Psychology, Social Bases of Behavior, Neurobiological Bases of Behavior, History of Psychology, Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior, and Human Growth and Development.

The areas covered under the clinical components of the discipline are:

Clinical Psychopathology, Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Cognitive Assessment, Objective and Projective Personality Assessment, Cognitive and Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

The areas of the CE covering the research and data analysis components of the discipline are:

Test Construction, Descriptive and Inferential Statistics, Quantitative Research Methods, Research Proposal Development

Students receive a letter notifying them of their scores on the CE. They must obtain a general score of 70% and passing scores in all areas of the test to approve the CE. Failure to obtain a global passing score of 70% requires the student to repeat the CE. Students who obtain a global score of at least 70% but fail to approve one area of the test, will repeat that specific area during a subsequent administration. However, students who obtain a passing score on the global test but fail two or more areas, fail the CE and must take it again. A remedial plan may be developed to assist students to address their deficiencies as detected from their performance.

Clinical Practice Examination (CPX)

All students must approve the CPX before beginning their pre-doctoral internship. To be able to take the CPX, students must have approved a minimum of 60 credits and must have approved the Comprehensive Examination.

To approve the CPX, the student must obtain a minimum global score of 70%. They should obtain 70%, or the established passing score, on each of the following sections of the test: Relationship skills, clinical and psychological assessment and diagnosis, intervention, and consultation. Students receive a letter notifying of their scores on the CPX. Failure to obtain a global passing score of 70% will require the student to repeat the CPX. A remedial plan will be elaborated with the student’s advisor and other faculty members as assigned by the Program Director, to help the student overcome the deficiencies noted through the test.

If a student obtains a global score of at least 70% but fails to approve one area of the test, he/she will engage in a remedial plan to address the deficiencies noted in that specific area. However, a student who obtains a passing score on the test but fails two or more areas does not approve the CPX and must repeat the entire exam. A remedial plan will be elaborated to assist the student to address the detected deficiencies.

Unjustified absence or tardiness to CE or CPX

A student who arrives 15 to 30 minutes late to the CE will have to complete the rest of the exam within the same period of time given to other students, except when the tardiness is justified. However, a student who arrives over 30 minutes late will not be allowed to take the exam unless the tardiness is objectively justified A student who does not take the CE on the assigned day will not be able to take it until the next administration of the test, usually during the following year.

Tardiness to the CPX will prevent the student to see the patient assigned for that period of time and will receive a grade of “0” on that particular exercise. A student who does not take the CPX on the assigned day will not be able to take it until the next administration, usually during the next year.

Academic Honesty related to CE and CPX

The CE and the CPX are complex assessment methods developed by program faculty and implemented through a staff of employees. These evaluation techniques are costly and time consuming in terms of preparation, implementation, scoring and reporting. Therefore, any violation to the honor code is considered a serious offense that will usually result in dismissal from the School. Violations include cheating during the CE or sharing the content of the test with other students. Divulging information of the CPX to students waiting in the reception area may result in immediate suspension from the test and from the program.

Students Annual Evaluation and Feedback

At the beginning of their fist year in the program, an Academic Advisor is assigned to each student. The main objective of the academic advising process is to help students with their academic and/or educational needs and to offer guidance and support while progressing through their training program. The academic advisor seeks and receives information from the student and from other faculty members regarding the student’s academic performance and the professional roles expected for the student’s developmental level. Based on such information, the advisor evaluates the student’s performance each year using the “Standard form for student end of year evaluation”.

Every student signs an “Advisory Contract” during their first year in the program. Advisor and advisee will meet at least once per year. Any faculty member who has any concerns or comments about a student’s academic or clinical performance or professional behavior should present these in written form to the student’s assigned advisor. In case of a serious deficiency or concern, the advisor will refer the situation to the program director for analysis and remedial action. The program procedures and institutional policies are used in cases of academic problems, unprofessional behavior, or other concerns related to the student’s performance.

At the end of year each student meets with his/her advisor to discuss and to complete the “Standard Form for Student End of the Year Evaluation”. The student will get a signed copy of the evaluation and the advisor will keep a copy in the student’s file.

Evaluation of Student Non-Academic Competence

Our program has adopted the complete statement on evaluation of student non-academic competence developed by the Council of Chairs of Training Councils.

Students in psychology training programs (at the doctoral, internship, or postdoctoral level) should know—at the outset of training—that their faculty, training staff, and supervisors have a professional, ethical, and potentially legal obligation to: (a) evaluate the interpersonal competence and emotional well being of student trainees who are under their supervision, and who provide services to clients and consumers, and (b) ensure—insofar as possible—that the trainees who complete their programs are competent to manage future relationships (e.g., client, collegial, professional, public, scholarly, supervisory, teaching) in an effective and appropriate manner. Because of this commitment, professional psychology education and training programs, faculty, training staff, and supervisors strive not to “pass along” students with issues or problems (e.g., cognitive, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, technical, and ethical) that may interfere with professional competence to other programs, the profession, employers, or the public at large.

Therefore, within a developmental framework and with due regard for the inherent power difference between students and faculty, students and trainees should know that their faculty, training staff, and supervisors will evaluate their competence in areas other than coursework, seminars, scholarship, comprehensive examinations, or related program requirements. These evaluative areas include, but are not limited to, demonstration of sufficient: (a) interpersonal and professional competence (e.g., the ways in which students relate to clients, peers, faculty, allied professionals, the public, and individuals from diverse backgrounds or histories); (b) self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-evaluation (e.g., knowledge of the content and potential impact of one's own beliefs and values on clients, peers, faculty, allied professionals, the public, and individuals from diverse backgrounds or histories); (c) openness to processes of supervision (e.g., the ability and willingness to explore issues that either interfere with the appropriate provision of care or impede professional development or functioning); and (d) resolution of problems or issues that interfere with professional development or functioning in a satisfactory manner (e.g., by responding constructively to feedback from supervisors or program faculty; by participating in personal therapy in order to resolve problems or issues).

Our faculty will attempt to assist any student who presents any difficulties in any of these areas. If this assistance is not accepted or fails to produce the desired results, the Program Director will refer the student to the Professional Behavior Committee of the program for their recommendation on further action. The Program Director will decide on the most appropriate course of action to be taken according to the process outlined in the Student Referral Process and according to the situation presented by the student. The academic advisor will assist the student with this process.


Students will identify themselves to patients, to the public and to any other person both verbally and in written form by using the designation “Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student”. This designation will change when the student enters an internship program at which time the following title must be used “Clinical Psychology Predoctoral Intern”. Students will use whichever title is assigned or customary in internship site outside our program or our institution. Students will not present themselves as “doctor” and will not allow others to address them with such title. Failure to follow this rule will be considered as an ethical violation.

Use of cellular phones

While attending lectures or any other official activity of the program cellular phones will be turned off or changed to vibration mode. Students need to inform the professor when he/she is expecting an important call during class.