Our Training Model
The department’s philosophy of education is that students learn best by doing, combined with appropriate preparation and ongoing mentoring, supervision and feedback. Thus, we expect students to be actively involved in ongoing research as they complete their coursework on research methodology. Students also practice applied behavior analysis (under appropriate supervision) as they complete the relevant coursework on behavioral assessment and intervention.
The training program follows the scientist-practitioner model in that we provide students with intensive didactic instruction in combination with hands-on experience in clinical research and the delivery of empirically supported clinical services. We encourage students to discuss their clinical and research experiences in their didactic courses to facilitate cross pollination. In addition, students participate in peer-review meetings multiple times per week in which students and staff present data from clinical and research cases, and students, staff members, and faculty discuss these data. We strongly encourage students to attend the peer-review meetings for the program(s) to which they are assigned and encourage them to attend peer-review meetings for other programs in order to expand their knowledge. Our faculty members teach the didactic courses, chair thesis and dissertation committees, lead grant-funded and patient-oriented behavior-analytic research teams, as well as administer and supervise the clinical and research programs in which the students receive their hands-on clinical and research experiences. Few, if any, other programs integrate academic training, research and clinical service in such an integrated and cohesive manner.
Central to the philosophy of the program is the proposition that behavior analysis should be taught and practiced as a natural science. The principles and procedures of behavior analysis form the basis for effective and ethical clinical services and for expanding our understanding of both aberrant and prosocial behavior through ongoing research. A primary goal of the program is to train students to integrate scientific knowledge with clinical research and practice as an interconnected and organized entity rather than multiple distinct activities. As such, we emphasize empirical, data-based approaches to the study of behavior and the practice of applied behavior analysis. We expect students not only to follow current standards of practice based on the extant research literature but also to strive to continually refine clinical procedures and generate new knowledge through integrated clinical research. Effective clinical services should be informed by prior research and should also kindle future socially relevant research. Thus, the goal of the training program is to produce scientist practitioners who skillfully provide the most advanced, empirically supported behavior-analysis services currently available and who engender the continual refinement of behavioral assessments and interventions for a variety of human problems through systematic clinical research.
When students’ practica begin, they observe clinical cases, attend faculty-led research meetings, read selected articles and/or chapters and receive other forms of instruction to familiarize them with the research activities and services delivered by each program. Next, we typically assign students as “back-ups” on cases. In this capacity, they have the opportunity to observe a well-trained individual performing the duties of a primary therapist. Once they become familiar with the policies and procedures of the clinical service, we assign a caseload to them. Whenever possible, we assign clinical cases to the student that fit with his or her research interests. As the student’s expressed confidence and skills progress, we give them increasingly more independence and responsibility for research activities and assign more clinical cases and/or more complex cases.
Faculty members provide clinical supervision on a daily-to-weekly basis throughout their initial practicum. However, the nature of supervision changes as the student’s skills progress. The supervisors continually assess each student’s ability to assume increased levels of independence and adjust assignments and responsibilities accordingly. Advanced students typically have the opportunity to provide supervision to practicum or master’s level students under the supervision of a faculty member.