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PhD/PsyD What are the best APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs?

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Hello,

I am wondering what the best APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs are. This question is arbitrary because "best" can refer to a number of qualities that make an APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD program great, such as the amount of high-quality publications that students / faculty produce and the number of students who match for internship the first round (RE: the internship crisis).

Currently, there are around 70 APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs (see Div17 website).

What are your thoughts?

Disclaimer: I read a thread from 2011 that asks a similar question. But this was 7 years ago, so I thought I'd ask again, with a specific interest in knowing if there are any indexes or other potential measure that have been created to "rank" APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs. (I can't post the link to that thread because I'm a new member, but the title of that thread is "The Best Clinical/Counseling Psychology PhD Programs in the Country?")
 

psych.meout

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It depends on what metric you use, what your goals and interests are, etc., so any kind of ranking system isn't very helpful. Figure out what your research and clinical interests are and then you might be able to prioritize programs that way, but it till would be flawed.

A better approach would be to screen out programs that you wouldn't want to attend, e.g., funding and internship match issues, lack of practicum training for your area of interest, lack of faculty doing research in whihc you are interested, etc.
 
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It depends on what metric you use, what your goals and interests are, etc., so any kind of ranking system isn't very helpful. Figure out what your research and clinical interests are and then you might be able to prioritize programs that way, but it till would be flawed.

A better approach would be to screen out programs that you wouldn't want to attend, e.g., funding and internship match issues, lack of practicum training for your area of interest, lack of faculty doing research in whihc you are interested, etc.
That's a helpful way to conceptualize this. What are others' opinions and thoughts?
 

Justanothergrad

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I saw an interesting poster a while back that showed that success (defined by research production) was predicted best by advisor productivity beyond grad program, degree type, etc. That's worth remembering.. assuming you want to be a researcher.

Measuring success (and thus, what makes the best program) as a professional clinician is much harder to do. The obvious and easy part of that is minimal amount of sunk cost (time/lost income, debt, etc.). The rest is tricky and doesn't have a real easy answer because of how complex job markets are.

@psych.meout offered good advice because ultimately, it's your future and there are multitudes of 'good enough ' answers about counseling programs and I don't think there is a perfectly right choice.
 

wtfook

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Hello,

I am wondering what the best APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs are. This question is arbitrary because "best" can refer to a number of qualities that make an APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD program great, such as the amount of high-quality publications that students / faculty produce and the number of students who match for internship the first round (RE: the internship crisis).

Currently, there are around 70 APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs (see Div17 website).

What are your thoughts?

Disclaimer: I read a thread from 2011 that asks a similar question. But this was 7 years ago, so I thought I'd ask again, with a specific interest in knowing if there are any indexes or other potential measure that have been created to "rank" APA-accredited Counseling Psychology PhD programs. (I can't post the link to that thread because I'm a new member, but the title of that thread is "The Best Clinical/Counseling Psychology PhD Programs in the Country?")

Assuming you are looking to apply at some point, I guess the most helpful thoughts I can offer are how I selected the programs I applied for. This isn't going to help you find the "best" program by ranking necessarily, but as you pointed out yourself, it's all a little arbitrary. Instead, as others have said, the most helpful is to see whether the program is going to get you where you want to go without leaving you in debt. Counseling psych programs are great (I'm in one myself), but you can also find that in clinical psych programs too. So here are some considerations I took into account when selecting and in this approx order:

1. Geographic area: I chose to only apply to east coast schools for personal reasons with the awareness that it would most definitely hamper the number of interviews and offers I receive (and it did). This is a highly competitive region (NYC, Philly, Boston). Applying to schools in big cities will mean hundreds more applicants for the same 3-10 spots. If you are not geographically limited due to family, spouse, etc... I would highly recommend looking at programs all over the country and in less desirable areas. You'll find that well-known psychologists can be working in seemingly random places and there might be someone doing the EXACT work you love in a place you otherwise wouldn't have considered moving to. This is a huge factor in my opinion. You'll be there for at least 3-4 years so you want to be able to see yourself living there.

2. Advisor fit: From there I basically looked at ALL programs in these regions. Yes. It will take a while. I looked at faculty at all these schools and decided to apply to schools (clinical and counseling) with advisors who were doing research I wanted to do. This is probably top 3 most important when it comes to getting an interview. No matter how stellar the student, if you aren't a good fit for the advisor they really can't do much for you as an advisee. This means having a CLEAR idea of what you want to study. So for example, being able to narrow down an interest to "sexual trauma in early childhood" vs a broader "trauma" interest. Take some time to think about it. It's your future too.

3. Funding: Is this program fully, partially, or un-funded? There's a lot of debate and people get sensitive about this as typically PsyD programs are not funded or only partially funded while a greater percentage of PhD programs are fully funded. Both PsyD and PhD programs can be a little dodgy about their funding situation. Sometimes that's because it's determined on a year to year basis. Other times it's because it doesn't exist. I actually applied to some programs because I loved them but the funding was unclear and found out the situation later at the interview. Both turned out to be fully funded but they did not list it due to yearly fluctuations in the amount of money available. Determine your economic situation and how much debt or financial stress you are able to take on. Student loans suck and the starting salary of a freshly minted psychologist is around 90k. You can find exact numbers through the APA website. Their recent report is quite comprehensive. Personally, I only applied to fully or partially funded programs and only really picked partial as a backup. But that is also why I geographically limited myself (in case I needed to commute). Luckily, I was accepted into a fully funded program. Remember that doctoral programs (PsyD and PhD) are rigorous and hard. You will not have that much time to make money on the side and even if you do, your training will suffer which will affect the quality of employment you'll be able to get after. Perhaps equally as important, it will affect your mental and physical health. Everyone is different so think hard about your own situation and means. If you can pay and the other aspects are solid, go for it man. If you can't, think very hard about whether it's worth it to wait another year and apply when your qualifications are stronger.

4. Internship match rate and other outcome data: This is another top 3 important determination. Honestly, your program should be at least 80% and even that felt a little iffy to me when I was looking. PhD programs you can give some leeway because if 1/5 people don't match, that drops it down to 80% immediately. However, for PsyD programs the numbers are much larger so the numbers can be a bit more telling. Whatever program you decide on, make sure the APA match rate is 80% or higher (ideally 90% or more). Why is this important? I see a lot of job postings for psychologists in outpatient, inpatient, hospital, research institution, and various other settings and nearly all of them require that you have attended both an APA accredited program AND completed an APA accredited internship before applying. You will limit the jobs you can be eligible for by attending a program with low match rates. It doesn't mean you can't be 1 of the 60% or 50% but it means something is going on with that program that prevents half of qualified doctoral students form matching. Why take that gamble when it's already a 5-6 year investment?

5. Program orientation: This is generally the difference between clinical and counseling programs. For me, I ended up at a counseling program because I enjoy the social justice and strength based orientation. HOWEVER, this does not mean clinical psych programs don't have these same values or that counseling psych programs are all the same. Go read their mission statements, training objectives, and other random information pages you would otherwise skip. It wont be as good as actually going there on interview day and getting a feel for the place, but it'll suffice to at least make a broader decision to apply or not.

TL;DR: The program "ranking" or objective "bestness" is difficulty to measure. I would argue it's better to assess based on the criteria I listed above as that will give YOU the best match for YOU.
 
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MCParent

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@wtfook is correct. You can rank programs by things like how much you want to live in an area or funding level, but for each person the “best program” is whatever program has the one person who is most active in that area; the productivity or lack thereof of other faculty doesn’t really influence that.
 
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