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The Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Iowa has been accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1980 (APA Committee on Accreditation, 750 1st Street N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002-4242. Phone 202/336-5000). Our primary aim is to train students in both the science and practice of counseling psychology. Because we are a doctoral program, no masters degree is offered.

The program has a long history of faculty and student achievement. Our faculty members are committed to excellence in teaching, research, and service, and they are among the national leaders in the field of counseling psychology. Our students have gone on to a variety of positions nationwide. They are contributing to many areas of the field.

The College of Education is also rich in history with a wealth of achievements. This section will provide beneficial information concerning (a) the College of Education, (b) the Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, and (c) the Counseling Psychology Program. We hope that this information will be useful to you and that you will contact us for additional information

Definition of Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology, as an applied psychological specialty, has historical roots in vocational guidance, the mental hygiene movement, and early efforts to facilitate emotional adjustment. A definition of counseling psychology, adopted by the Executive Committee of Division 17 (the Division of Counseling Psychology of the American Psychological Association) in 1983, is as follows:


Counseling Psychology is a general practice and health service provider specialty in professional psychology. It focuses on personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span and on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, development, and organizational concerns. Counseling psychology centers on typical or normal developmental issues as well as atypical or normal development as it applies to human experience from individual, family, group, systems and organizational perspectives. Counseling psychologists help people with physical, emotional, and mental disorders improve well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, and resolve crises. In addition, practitioners in this professional specialty provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychopathology.

It has been our experience, that many entering students are unclear about the differences between counseling psychology and other subfields of psychology, namely clinical psychology. It is important to point out that there are certainly more similarities than differences between the two subfields. However, some aspects that are unique to Counseling Psychology include the importance placed on the client's environment and experiences throughout their lifespan, a strong commitment to multiculturalism in teaching, research, and practice, a focus on vocation in teaching, research and in practice, and an emphasis on identifying and developing personal and social resources and helping clients make more effective use of them (aka a strengths-based approach).

With regard to careers that can be obtained by those graduating with a degree in counseling psychology, there are, again, few differences between clinical and counseling psychology. Counseling psychology graduates currently occupy positions in teaching, research, practice, administration, etc. Many occupy positions in university counseling centers and independent practice. For a listing of those positions held by graduates of our Counseling Psychology program please consult the Initial Job Placements section.

Program Overview

The Counseling Psychology Program at The University of Iowa was granted full accreditation by the American Psychological Association in the spring of 1983 (APA Committee on Accreditation, 750 1st Street, N.D., Washington, D.C. 20002-4242. (202) 336-5000). It is a doctoral program; no master's degree is offered. The program's primary goal is to train students to achieve competency in providing a wide range of psychological services and in conducting research on a variety of psychological issues. To achieve this goal, the curriculum has been developed to integrate psychological theory, professional development, and research training. The program strives to produce counseling psychologists who promote psychology as both a profession and a science and who apply acquired skills to the advancement of the human condition. Given our belief that the profession of psychology is constantly changing to meet human needs, our faculty and students represent the provision of traditional counseling approaches as well as a variety of innovative services.

Commitment to Multiculturalism

The Counseling Psychology Program is highly committed to a multicultural education environment. Many faculty and students conduct research on current muliticultural issues. Further, our program offers a required multicultural counseling course, an advanced multicultural counseling seminar, multiple electives concerning issues of multiculturalism, and finally multicultural issues are integrated throughout most of our courses. It is our hope that such an emphasis will better prepare our students to meet the needs of our culturally diverse society.

For explicit information on culturally diverse programming, support and additional services in the Iowa City area, please consult the "University of Iowa and Surrounding Community" portion of the Diversity Highlights page within the Univiersity Counseling Services website.

Counseling Psychology Portfolio


Goal 1:  Students will be knowledgeable in the foundations of psychology as a science and as a profession.


  • Students will achieve a broad knowledge base in the biological aspects of behavior, the cognitive/affective aspects of behavior, the social aspects of behavior, individual differences, and the history and systems of psychology.
  • Students will achieve a broad and thorough knowledge of current scientific issues in psychology.


a.  Transcript of grades/curriculum documentation form (current at time of portfolio submission)*

  • 2 term papers, one from a core psychology course and one from a counseling psychology course, that document broad knowledge in psychology*

Goal 2:  Students will demonstrate competence in the areas of research design, implementation, and evaluation.


  • Students will achieve a knowledge base in the following areas: research design, research methods, data analysis, and interpretation of data.
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to critique research and evaluate its quality and contribution to the field.
  • Students will be able to conduct independent research.


  • 1 paper, student first or second author, submitted to a refereed journal#
  • 1 paper, student first or second author, presented at a peer-reviewed convention#

(of the above, one must be empirical, with an existing data base or where the student assisted in gathering data; of the above, the content must be different although both could be in the same general area such as health psychology; of the above, the student must have played a primary role in conceptualizing the research consistent with authorship)

  • grades in statistics and measurement courses*
  • a scholarly paper prepared according to attached guidelines+

Goal 3:  Students will develop a professional identity as a counseling psychologist.


  • Students will be knowledgeable about current professional issues and can formulate informed opinions about these issues.
  • Students will actively involve themselves in current professional activities related to counseling psychology, and to psychology more broadly.
  • Students will have a working knowledge of the history of counseling psychology.


  • Attend 1 conference (e.g., IPA, APA) including 1 invited talk, 5 presentations, and 1 poster session. Write a reflective paper or conference journal/diary at the time of attendance which documents the sessions attended and reflects on the conference experience. (This experience should occur before the third year.)#
  • Volunteer for 1 professional activity within counseling psychology (examples are hosting suite, serving as local representative for national group)#
  • Document affiliation with 2 national/local organizations relevant to the professional identity of counseling psychology and with the student’s own interests (examples are Division 17 SAG, Division 45 SAG; these memberships must be at least one year in duration at the time of the portfolio review)#

Goal 4:  Students will self-identify and function as scientist-practitioners in their assessment and practice, and in their preparation, work, and employment.


  • Students will have an ability to integrate science and practice, with science informing practice and vice versa.
  • Students will conceptualize current societal issues of a psychological nature from the perspective of both science and practice.
  • Students will administer and interpret a variety of psychological tests.
  • Students will conduct psychological diagnosis and will relate diagnosis to treatment.
  • Students will demonstrate a working knowledge of the DSM-IV.
  • Students will conduct individual psychotherapy in various modalities.
  • Students will be able to conduct psychoeducational workshops.
  • Students will demonstrate a working knowledge of a number of current empirically validated treatments.
  • Students will develop an ability to conduct therapy with a diversity of clients from a multicultural perspective.


  • A formal case presentation.  This case presentation is an oral presentation during the defense and a paper included in the portfolio.  The case may be focused on assessment, therapy or both.  This case presentation must include assessment and DSM-IV information, evidence of science-practice integration, formal written treatment summary, attention to diversity, and explicit discussion of evidence based/supported treatments with the client*+
  • All practicum evaluations”*+
  • Grades in 3 psychotherapy courses*
  • Materials from 1 psychoeducational workshop and evaluations of same*

Goal 5:  Students will demonstrate sensitivity to and awareness of all aspects of diversity, including issues related to racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, as well as diversity related to age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.  This awareness will be incorporated across science and practice.


  • Students will be able to identify issues relevant to diversity.
  • Students will understand their own identity and assumptions and the impact of these on both research and clinical work.
  • Students will become multiculturally competent.


  • Grade in multicultural course*
  • Documentation of clinical work with diverse clients*
  • Evidence of commitment to increasing knowledge, skills and attitudes in multicultural competence to include at least one targeted long-term activity (e.g., advanced multicultural course, research team, targeted practicum)* This targeted long-term activity should focus on some aspect of diversity/multiculturalism such as race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, or ability issues to name a few.  Diversity/multicultural communities are those who have faced some historical and/or contemporary oppression and marginalization due to their cultural identity.

Goal 6:  Students will demonstrate a thorough knowledge of ethical principles and will effectively apply them to clinical and research situations.


  • Students will develop a working knowledge of the Ethical Principles for Psychologists as well as other relevant documents and will know when and how to seek consultation.
  • Students will be able to apply ethical principles to a variety of situations utilizing appropriate models (e.g., Kitchener) and cultural sensitivity.


  • As part of the portfolio defense, you will need to orally present a resolution to an ethical dilemma or current ethical issue. Your advisor will develop the question(s) and present them to you in the meeting.  You will need to cite and support your answers+
  • A reflective summary of an ethical dilemma and its resolution*
  • Grade in ethics and issues course*

Goal 7:  Students will be treated as individuals and will be encouraged to develop their own interests, areas of expertise, and professional goals.


  • Students will be exposed to a variety of theoretical orientations and will be encouraged to develop their own approach to counseling and psychotherapy


  • A reflective paper, minimum of 20 pages, that summarizes the following:  the student’s theoretical orientation to therapy, including the development of pathology, with relevant citations of theoretical and research support of various components of the orientation; how this orientation influences the student’s in-session work with clients, including assessment and intervention, with examples of how this orientation has worked (or not worked) with several specific clients; and how multiculturalism fits with this theoretical approach and its practical implications, including the strengths and limitations of this approach with racial/ethnic groups and other cultural groups+ (The advisor will provide feedback on a first draft only.)

Goal 8:  Students will demonstrate competence in developing effective professional relationships with other health care providers.


  • Students will understand their role as counseling psychologists within the larger system of health care service.
  • Students will effectively seek consultation from other providers when it is in the client’s best interest.
  • Students will be aware of professional boundaries and respectful of appropriate practice domains.


  • One documented experience (research, clinical, service) within an interdisciplinary team, with a written reflective summary of what the student learned about counseling psychology’s relation to other disciplines*

Additional Portfolio contents

  • Student’s curriculum vitae+
  • Documented 1 semester volunteer (nonpaid) experience within larger community to serve a social action role (participation within an established organization which focuses on social justice, equality, and the betterment of the community), with a reflective summary of what the student learned#.  A one-semester volunteer experience is 15 contiguous weeks, and at least 2 hours per week.

d.   Description of any awards or honors#


*to be completed during a course or practicum

# to be completed outside usual courses/practicum

+ to be completed for the portfolio review  

Scholarly Paper Guidelines

The purposes of the scholarly paper are to (a) aid the student’s development of a specialty clinical and research interest area, (b) potentially serve as the literature review of a student’s dissertation, and (c) allow the faculty to assess the student’s ability to conceptualize, review, critique, and write an independent scholarly research paper.

The scholarly paper should adhere to the following guidelines to be acceptable.

    • Written in APA style and format
    • The length should be approximately 50-60 double spaced pages.  This does not include title page, abstract, or references.
    • Will consist of two to three chapters and reflects the counseling psychology faculty’s expectations for a dissertation proposal.  The first chapter (or introduction and literature review in a combined format) may be an introduction (not to exceed 7-9 pages). The second chapter, typically the literature review, will be a review of the theoretical and empirical literature of a particular research area that may be the focus of the student’s dissertation).  The third chapter, typically the methods section, will be the methodology which will allow the student to empirically examine the topic of interest.
    • In general, the format should also include a title page, an abstract, references, and any tables or figures necessary for illustration.

During the portfolio assessment, the student will receive feedback on the scholarly paper from his/her committee.  Students may be asked to rewrite the paper and resubmit it to the committee until it is approved and considered passing.  The approval may involve another meeting with the committee.  The student may consult with his/her advisor on subsequent revisions to the scholarly paper.

Although the scholarly paper should be the dissertation proposal for the student, students may opt to write on a separate dissertation topic.  The portfolio committee’s review of the scholarly paper is NOT the dissertation proposal.  Students must convene a separate dissertation proposal meeting and follow the Graduate College and Counseling Psychology Program requirements for committee members and process. 

Portfolio Review

Student Qualifications

The student’s advisor will determine student readiness for the portfolio review based on the following criteria:  The student has completed all required coursework; the student has completed all portfolio requirements.  (See the [Counseling Psychology Portfolio] for an outline of those requirements.)

(If a student is concurrently enrolled in one required course, and that course is the only remaining requirement, the advisor may approve this exception to the qualifications and forward that approval to the faculty as an information item at the next convened faculty meeting. However, all students must complete 7P:465 before beginning their portfolio defense.)

Portfolio Review Committee

The student’s advisor is responsible for approving the composition of the portfolio review committee, which must be constituted as follows:  Chair or co-chair, Counseling Psychology faculty advisor; two other counseling psychology faculty members; two other faculty members.  All five voting faculty members must be tenure-track or clinical-track faculty members of the University of Iowa.  Additional nonvoting faculty may be added according to Graduate College regulations.

Portfolio Review Process

Normally the student will submit the portfolio to his or her advisor. The advisor will then request that the committee review the portfolio.  This review process will normally be completed in three weeks.

Portfolio Defense

The function of the Portfolio Defense is to allow the student’s portfolio review committee to determine his or her competence across a variety of areas and to ascertain his or her satisfactory completion of the elements of the portfolio.  At the beginning of the portfolio defense, the student will make the formal case presentation (required by the portfolio). There will then be specific questions posed related to ethics and professional issues.

Evaluation of Portfolio

This evaluation will be conducted according to the rules and regulations of the Graduate College as follows:

The portfolio review will be evaluated at a convened meeting of the committee and reported as satisfactory, satisfactory with reservations, or unsatisfactory to the Graduate College within 14 days after the completion of the defense. Two “unsatisfactory” votes will make the committee report unsatisfactory.

In the event of a report with two or more votes of “satisfactory with reservations,” the exact stipulations of the committee will be recorded with the report form.  If the stipulations involve additional work on the portfolio, the statement will be specific in defining the tasks and time involved in satisfying the reservations.

In the event of a report of unsatisfactory, the committee may grant the candidate permission to present him or herself for another defense not sooner than 4 months after the first.  The defense may be repeated only once, at the option of the department.

Maintenance of Records

The Counseling Psychology program will retain the student’s complete portfolio.  The student should also retain a copy of the portfolio.

Initial Job Placements

Upon graduation, our students obtain positions as faculty members, health service providers, private practitioners, counseling center staff members, and consultants. The following list represents the initial job placement locations of our graduates over the past years:

  • Postdoctoral fellowship
  • University/college faculty member
  • University/college counseling centers
  • Medical school faculty member
  • VA Medical Centers
  • Hospitals
  • Community mental health centers
  • Private practice
  • Consultation business (e.g., IBM)
  • Other (Armed Forces, nonprofit organizations)

Background Checks

Prospective students need to be aware that doctoral students in the counseling psychology program are regularly placed into various practicum settings.  In some of these settings, such as the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics or when working with children, criminal background checks are required, and a fee is assessed to the student for the background check. If a positive result is determined on a criminal background check, the program must refer the case to a College of Education committee for a final determination of suitability for practicum placement.


In accordance to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2002) ethics code 7.04 (Student Disclosure of Personal Information) and 7.05 (Mandatory Individual or Group Therapy), our counseling psychology program is making prospective students aware of the following:

Prospective students need to be aware that doctoral students in the counseling psychology program are enrolled in some courses that may necessitate the disclosure of some personal information as part of the process of the class.  For instance, in supervision or a psychotherapy course, students may be asked to discuss personal issues relevant to the student’s learning of a particular concept or process of therapy.

We certainly support and encourage all students to have personal experiences in therapy as a client.  Although we do not mandate therapy for all students in our program, in certain instances, some students may be encouraged to pursue personal therapy and counseling.  Typically, students are encouraged to seek out therapy and counseling if (a) they are experiencing personal concerns significant enough to impact their academic performance; (b) they are experiencing personal concerns significant enough to impair their clinical responsibilities; (c) they are interested in the personal growth and the experience of therapy.

However, in some other instances, if the faculty deems it necessary, students may be mandated to seek counseling and therapy if the personal issue or concern is significantly impairing their academic and counseling responsibilities.  In these instances, the student will work closely with their advisor and the faculty to find appropriate accommodations.