APSU has moved closer to establishing its second-ever doctoral program.
After more than a decade of intense planning and research, Dr. Nicole Knickmeyer, Chairperson of the APSU Psychological Science and Counseling, has received two of the final three approvals required to launch a doctor in psychology in counseling program on the main campus.
On May 17, following staff recommendation, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission placed their seal of approval on the initiative to establish the second doctoral program to be offered at APSU.
This followed the momentum of the APSU Board of Trustees’ March 15 meeting, where the university placed their final touches on a doctoral program for counseling psychologists that will confer a doctor of psychology on successful graduates.
This course, the only one in our state university system, will train psychological counselors in advanced diagnostic disciplines and produce treatment-based research on best practices and interventions in counseling. In addition, there will be a focus on the support and counseling services available to our veteran community.
A doctorate in psychology (PsyD) follows a master’s degree in psychology and, if pursued without significant interruption, takes a student approximately four years, including an internship that resembles the internship of a medical doctor.
“Graduates of this program will possess diagnostic and treatment skills that currently are in great demand in our region and across the state,” Knickmeyer said.
Knickmeyer began designing the program back in 2008 when she was supervising APSU’s psychological counseling program. This proposal, through many versions, has taken more than ten years to get to these final stages.
“It has become my life’s work,” Knickmeyer said.
This program is designed to emphasize supervised learning while regularly practicing diagnostics and counseling with clients and groups. Knickmeyer stressed that it “will provide a student a complete and deep experience in all aspects of counseling.”
Due to the high percentage of APSU’s military-related student body, faculty and staff, the doctoral candidates will also engage in diagnostic and treatment research related to the impacts of military deployment.
This includes aspects of Traumatic Brain Injury, pain management and depression that, while occurring throughout the broader population, are more prevalent among people who have been deployed to combat zones.
Perhaps even more tangible to our broader community, building out the doctoral program will allow for APSU to manage a community mental health clinic to reanimate the old Wesley Foundation Building on College Street.
The new clinic will offer regional community members diagnostic and counseling services on a sliding scale (low-cost) while master’s and PsyD candidates accumulate the field experiences they need to become certified practitioners.
Knickmeyer echoed recent consensus of our campus leadership, claiming that the time is right for APSU to bring more graduate students on campus.
If all the last formalities of establishing a potentially accredited Doctoral program go as planned, Knickmeyer said, “We could have six to eight in our first class in the Fall of 2020.”
“This is important for APSU. It brings a group of graduate students on to campus that undergraduates can work with and begin to see the possibilities in their own future,” Dr. Eric Norman, Vice President of Student Affairs said.
The opportunity to advance the science of psychology and develop more effective diagnosis and counseling approaches is also significant, according to Knickmeyer.
“Working with our veteran families here in this community, we have the opportunity to understand resiliency in a real and practical way,” Knickmeyer said.
After the first couple of years, accounting for how many students stay in the program and other factors, the program could have as many as ten students per enrollment, according to Knickmeyer.
A successful graduate will have completed a minimum of five years of additional course and fieldwork in addition to their undergraduate studies.