Through a unified curriculum, the Counseling Psychology graduate program offers two degrees, a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology (MSCP) and a Psychology Doctorate (PsyD) in Counseling Psychology. The curriculum provides academically rigorous education and training through an applied active learning model to produce professional practitioners who can integrate theory, practice, and research to provide practice and leadership excellence. A strong social justice theme embedded in the curriculum helps to create a learning environment and practitioners who are supportive of diverse and thriving individuals and communities. The program embraces place-based learning and cultural relevancy as critical training components for mental health practitioners serving Alaska’s diverse communities. The program curriculum is designed to meet requirements leading to licensure in Alaska and is informed by “The Standards of Accreditation” promulgated by the Council on Accreditation/American Psychological Association.
The Master of Science in Counseling Psychology may be awarded following successful completion of the first 60 credits of the curriculum sequence, completing any required comprehensive examinations, and by achieving “meets expected competencies” on student evaluations. The degree is designed to fulfill academic requirements for licensure in Alaska as a Licensed Psychological Associate or as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Students desiring the MSCP are identified during the admissions process and during the program orientation. These students are then advised and monitored to ensure completion of all requirements leading to the degree. Students achieving the MSCP are expected to have mastered adequate foundational knowledge and training to prepare them for professional practice at the Master’s level in Alaska.
The Doctor of Psychology in Counseling Psychology may be earned by students who are first named as a “Candidate for Advanced Studies” after finishing the first 60 hours of program curriculum, successfully passing required comprehensive examinations, and showing evidence of successful annual evaluations. The advanced studies include work beyond the first 60 hours in interventions, assessment, dissertation, and extensive continued practical training experiences; the PsyD requires a minimum of 93 credits. The degree is designed to fulfill academic requirements for licensure as a Psychologist in Alaska. Students achieving the PsyD are expected to have mastered adequate foundational and advanced knowledge and training to prepare them for professional practice at the doctorate level in Alaska.
Graduate Program Outcomes are shared between the two degrees, as both are designed to enable well-trained practitioners. The difference between the two degrees rests with the emphasis on foundational knowledge and training with the MSCP and advanced knowledge and training with the PsyD.
Upon completion of the degree, students will have:
- Demonstrated foundational self-understanding as the basis of applying professional standards, skills, and theoretical concepts to the work of a counselor;
- Demonstrated foundational understanding of the impact of social context and culture on individual and group behavior including the counselor’s own behavior;
- Focused on career goals and networking within the professional community;
- Completed all educational requirements for licensure including internship hours and documentation.
Upon completion of the degree, students will have demonstrated competence in the following areas of practice:
- Ethical and legal standards
- Individual and cultural diversity
- Professional values, attitudes, and behaviors
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Consultation and interprofessional/interdisciplinary skills
Social Justice Emphasis and Competencies - While designed to meet requirements for accreditation and licensing, the curriculum also has a strong emphasis in social justice. Social justice from the Counseling Psychology perspective could be defined as introducing and emphasizing societal concerns, including issues of equity, self-determination, interdependence and social responsibility into the counseling arena. The program seeks to facilitate a social justice emphasis by:
- Encouraging ongoing self-examination to understand our own perspectives and biases better;
- Encouraging the sharing of power, giving voice to others who may not have the wherewithal to advocate for themselves;
- Facilitating consciousness raising of all;
- Learning to build on strengths rather than having a deficit mind-set;
- Understanding the ramifications of western colonialism on the field of psychology and the people we work with;
- Leaving clients (and students) with the tools for social change.
Social Justice Outcomes are tied to APU’s values:
- Wisdom – Graduates of APU’s counseling psychology graduate program understand knowledge is most useful when it’s tempered by individual and shared experiences, understanding of varied historical and socio-cultural contexts and perspectives, used to assist in mutual development and in making informed, well-considered judgments.
- Respect – Graduates of APU’s counseling psychology graduate program evidence a deep admiration for all peoples and can recognize and honor individuals’ and organizations’ abilities, qualities, perspectives, culture, and strengths rather than focusing only on deficits.
- Reciprocity – Graduates of APU’s counseling psychology graduate program understand the inherent interdependency between people and with the environment; they recognize the need for mutual power-sharing and a common sense of efficacy so that all have opportunity.
- Relevance – Graduates of APU’s counseling psychology graduate program understand how their knowledge, skills and orientation to social justice can have a direct significant impact on improving the lives of the people, organizations, and social systems served.
- Responsibility – Graduates of APU’s counseling psychology graduate program embrace a duty to actively empower all individuals but have a special responsibility to advocate for those who have been traditionally and systematically disenfranchised, while at the same time identifying the barrier systems and advocating for change.
Prospective applicants with a strong interest in social justice are especially encouraged to apply.
Admissions - Students may enter the program with either a Bachelor’s (BA or BS) or Master’s (MA or MS) degree in Counseling Psychology or closely related area. Students accepted into the program with a Master’s degree may be eligible to transfer in a maximum of 31 credits of graduate-level course work. Admission is for the Fall semester only.
The general requirements for admissions to graduate studies at APU are listed under the Admissions section of the catalog. In addition, there are supplemental requirements as follows:
- Current professional CV or résumé;
- Three letters of professional recommendation dated within the past year;
- Graduate Record Exam (Alaska Pacific University’s reporting code is 4201):
- if entering with a BA/BS take the general version, or
- if entering with a MA/MS take the Psychology Subject test.
- A 1-2-page autobiography (personal as opposed to professional) that highlights your strengths;
- An essay addressing the following areas relating to your professional interests in the program:
- What are your reasons for wanting to obtain an advanced degree in Counseling Psychology?
- What are your short-term and long-term goals, or how do you see yourself as contributing toward the improvement of a social or community problem in your area?
- What are your interests in multicultural counseling and social justice issues and how have these interests had an impact on your life?
- The curriculum is designed to be an academically intense and experientially demanding. Therefore, please describe how you plan to balance graduate school, work, and personal life (relationships, family, etc.).
- Completion of admission interview with the Program Director and APU faculty members.
After a student has been fully admitted to the program, authorization for a background check will be required. Results will be shared only with the Program Director, and will be used for advising purposes, as they may impact internship placement and potential for state licensure.
Additional admissions requirements for Students with a Master’s Degree:
- Complete Previous Clinical Experience form;
- If licensed as a counselor, mental health provider, or social worker, provide proof of license(s) and a statement that no license actions have been taken against you, if that is the case. If there have been license actions against you, please explain the circumstances and the resolution.
The Program Director will advise students who have questions about prerequisites and whether prior course work is applicable. Students may complete prerequisites at Alaska Pacific University as non-degree seeking students.
Prerequisites for Entry into the Program
One of the following courses must have been completed:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Personality Theories
- History and Systems of Psychology
- Social Psychology
All of the following courses must have been completed:
- Research Methods or Experimental Psychology
- Human Development (e.g., Child Development, Adolescent Psychology, Life-span Development)
Curriculum Delivery - Course work is delivered in a hybrid format with synchronous eLearning sessions and on-campus intensives. Intensives allow for face-to-face knowledge and skill building, provide opportunities for students to practice skills in person, and prepare students for practicum and internship placements. Synchronous eLearning sessions allow for material delivery and seminar discussion. Students should expect to meet on campus for three 3-day intensives per semester; for each course, students should expect to meet in weekly eLearning sessions between intensives.
Coronavirus Response - Following APA, APPIC, and ASPBB guidelines, as well as APU’s request for programmatic social distancing contingency planning, the Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs may be running a modified program delivery during the 2020-2021 Academic Year to disrupt the spread of coronavirus. This change affects only the 2020-2021 Academic Year at time of publishing, but is subject to change dependent on the global pandemic. Information about APA’s general guidance of such changes can be found at https://accreditation.apa.org/covid-19. For information on the specific changes applied to the 2020-2021 Academic Year, or for links to other regulatory guidelines, please reach out to the Institute of Health and Wellness at email@example.com.
The sequencing of the curriculum is designed to prepare students new to the field for practical applied experiences beginning in the third semester. Additionally, the sequencing allows for having completed the academic requirements for licensing as a Psychological Associate or Professional Counselor in Alaska after 60 credits are completed if the MSCP option is pursued.
Residency - While the curriculum is designed to allow for the education and training of students across Alaska, it is not designed to be a distance learning program. The residency policy is strictly adhered to; students are expected to attend on campus meetings and associated synchronous learning sessions. Students will also seek out and participate in professional activities as part of the residency policy. The Standards of Accreditation notes there are two primary reasons for requiring residency: student development and socialization, and student assessment. With regard to student development, residency allows students
- to concentrate on course work, professional training and scholarship;
- to work closely with professors, supervisors and other students; and
- to acquire the attitudes, values, habits, skills, and insights necessary for attaining a doctoral degree in psychology.
Professional Development - As noted in the residency section, program faculty are charged with helping the student evolve into a fully functional and satisfying professional career. To this end, students receive regular feedback on their behavior as it relates to professional development as part of the program’s ongoing formative and summative student assessment process. The program values and honors diverse perspectives and ways of being, but there are core themes and beliefs in the profession of Counseling Psychology that provide guidance for understanding what the profession expects of its practitioners. It is these core themes and beliefs that guide behavioral assessment to parallel purely academic assessment.
Practicum Experiences - The Director of Counseling Training (DCT) oversees practicum and internship placements. There are a number of agencies in Anchorage that work with APU Counseling Psychology students to create practical learning experiences where students get to employ the skills and knowledge gained from the academic courses. The DCT assists students from outside of Anchorage in designing practical experiences that meet the intent of providing an opportunity to practices skills and employ knowledge in ethical and professional ways. The DCT will also work with students admitted to advanced studies in creating pre-doctoral internships that serve personal, professional, and Alaskan licensing goals. Practicum training should be sequential, cumulative and graded in complexity, and designed to prepare students for further organized training. Given the shortage of licensed psychologists within Alaska, licensed psychologists may not be available at all practicum sites. APU cannot guarantee students will have access to acceptable practicum training sites in all remote locations. APU cannot guarantee student practicum placement availability.
A minimum of three semesters of practica are required for the MSCP while the PsyD requires six semesters of practica. Students are encouraged to explore practicum opportunities on their own as well; students can rely on the DCT for guidance in developing a new practicum site. The purpose of practica are to provide an opportunity to practice and demonstrate proficiency of the profession wide competencies. Students who are admitted to advanced studies may consider expanding their knowledge and practice base by pursuing a practicum or two in areas beyond the specific counseling arena.
Comprehensive Examinations and Candidacy for Advanced Studies - All students will sit for comprehensive examinations at the end of Spring of year two. The comprehensive exams will cover material from the Discipline Specific Knowledge area of classes. Designed to ensure students have requisite knowledge before proceeding to Advanced Studies, comprehensive evaluations also provide students an opportunity to take exams that are similar to licensing examinations required for practice in the field. Students who have completed the required courses, obtain the specified benchmark on the comprehensive evaluation, and who have successful annual evaluations will receive notice that they have been declared a candidate for advanced studies.
Students who pass the comprehensive evaluation, but do not score the benchmark score for Candidacy for Advanced Studies, will be allowed to continue with the final semester and graduate with the MSCP, assuming successful annual evaluations and all other requirements have been met. Students who do not pass the comprehensive examinations will meet with their advisor and other program faculty to determine if there are appropriate remediation efforts that can be made.
Dissertation - Students admitted to advanced studies for the PsyD will be required to produce a completed dissertation. The curriculum provides three different courses to assist student in completing this degree requirement: a proposal class, a research class, and a completion class. Over the course of the dissertation process, students will select and research a topic, develop an appropriate research method and carry out original research, compile results and associated discussion into a completed dissertation document, and successfully present the project to the a public. Students select faculty to “Chair” a dissertation committee that includes another faculty member as a second reader and an outside content expert that may or may not be a member of the faculty. The content expert should possess unique skills and knowledge that will be an asset for the student over the course of the project. The dissertation is conceived of as a capstone activity whereby students demonstrate the ability to develop a topic and research that topic in a way that contributes to the accumulated academic knowledge in the field.
Pre-Doctoral Internship - Students admitted to advanced studies for the PsyD will be required to complete a full year of pre-doctoral internship (or two years at a half-time pre-doctoral internship). Students should be prepared for this activity to consume their educational attention while it is in progress. It his highly recommended that students complete their dissertation prior to beginning their pre-doctoral internship.
Where possible, students are encouraged to explore internships offered through the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). If policies in place remove that option, students may, with the DCT’s assistance, construct an appropriate internship experience. Internship training should be sequential, cumulative and graded in complexity, and designed to prepare students for further organized training at the post-doctoral level.
Given the shortage of licensed psychologists within Alaska, licensed psychologists may not be available in all communities. APU cannot guarantee students will have access to acceptable internship training sites in all remote locations. APU cannot guarantee student internship placement availability.