THE BENCH SCIENTIST:THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Home to several premier centers of psychological research, the University of Minnesota trains graduate students in both of the psychology training models with science in their label: scientist-practitioner and bench science, which typically refers to the study of basic scientific concepts and theories and their implications, using human participants and animal subjects.
Doctoral student Suzette Glasner represents a classic bench scientist, with one exception: She also directly studies how animal models of addiction may apply to human clinical problems. Glasner spent lots of time in the lab during her four pre-internship years. She developed, refined and implemented a way to study alcohol addiction in rats-a feat in an area that lacked ways to observe and measure the phenomenon.
Moreover, because of the wealth of available data sets at bench-science programs-particularly in the University of Minnesota program, which runs the Minnesota Twin Family Study-faculty who train students often focus on teaching methods of data analysis and presentation that make use of such existing collections rather than focusing on original data collection, she says.
Now Glasner has an opportunity to apply her animal model to a human population of veterans with alcoholism served by the Veterans Administration in San Diego. She says she couldn't have reached that goal without another critical bench-science component: mentoring. In her case, the provider was J. Bruce Overmier, PhD, an experimental psychologist in Minnesota's department of cognitive and biological psychology. While in most cases mentors choose students from a wide pool of applicants before they get to the program, Glasner sought out Overmier after she had arrived and initially worked with another faculty member unfamiliar with developing animal models.
When she met with Overmier to explain her interests, he presented a challenge: "Give me a mini-defense of your ideas until I am convinced," he told her, "and if I'm convinced, then you can test your ideas out in my laboratory." Every week for almost two months, Glasner appeared in his office to argue her case. Several iterations later, he was finally convinced, she says.
Evidently the National Institutes of Health was too: Once she was established with Overmier, Glasner got the federal agency to fund her entire research project.
THE SCIENTIST-PRACTITIONER:BOSTON UNIVERSITY
The clinical psychology program at Boston University (BU) strives to develop psychologists who are equally well-rounded as clinical scientists and practitioners.
"The individuals we want to turn out of our program can't be top clinical scientists unless they are intimately familiar with clinical work and patient care," says program head David Barlow, PhD.
In this sense, the model incorporates elements of both the scholar-practitioner and the traditional bench-science models, but differs from them too, Barlow says. For instance, instead of doing basic research using animal subjects, students in the program conduct purely clinical, applied research, typically focusing on psychopathology and its manifestations and treatment.
On the other hand, it uses a mentor model similar to that used in bench-science programs. Students are therefore chosen not only for their GPAs, but for demonstrated knowledge in one of the areas for which the BU program is known, including biopsychology, addictions, family research and Barlow's own specialty of anxiety disorders.
For example, fifth-year student Molly Choate takes extensive coursework in clinical and research issues and has done a variety of practica where she treated people and developed research ideas. At Barlow's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, for example, she treats children and teens with anxiety disorders and is using observations and data from intake interviews to develop her dissertation on how youngsters' perceptions of control influence the development of anxiety.
In addition, Choate is helping Barlow develop a unified treatment protocol that is distilling several major treatment protocols for specific disorders into three principles of change that apply to all psychiatric disorders. The aim of the protocol, she says, is to allow greater dissemination of the best in treatment knowledge to larger numbers of providers.
Program statistics show that the department's philosophy is working as intended, according to Barlow.
"About half of our students go on to clinical research careers," he says, "but we're also very proud of our students who go into full-time clinical work." Those who enter practice do so with an enhanced ability to be accountable, evaluate and improve programs and be empirical in clinical work, Barlow notes.
THE SCHOLAR-PRACTITIONER:ANTIOCH NEW ENGLAND GRADUATE SCHOOL
When the psychology program began at Antioch New England Graduate School in 1982, the core faculty imagined that it would represent an alternative view of psychology, says Roger L. Peterson, PhD, chairman of the graduate psychology department and one of the scholar-practitioner model's primary advocates. The founders were influenced by Donald R. Peterson, PhD, and others who helped develop the "Vail model" of training, named after the 1973 Vail, Colo., conference that hammered out the model's principles.
"The idea was to create a fundamentally clinically oriented culture," he explains. That culture is humanistic, treating students as whole people who take their personalities with them into their practices. It's grounded, serving the needs of the local community. It's progressive, arguing that people are shaped by social forces, including patriarchy and oppression. And it's scholarly, holding that research should be taught and valued particularly, though not exclusively, in the service of practice.
"In this model's view, research is something you do that you think is important because it's consistent with the issues you see in your professional work," Peterson explains. Students at Antioch are therefore as likely to conduct qualitative studies of a few clients as they are quantitative studies of large clinical populations, he says.
Mayday Levine, a fourth-year student in the program, says she was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere: "Since I've been at Antioch I've never been asked to compromise myself as a person in order to be a psychologist, to give up my interests or my points of view," she says.
The program's structure fosters this personal and professional integration through a variety of case seminars that encourage students to talk about personal material as it may affect their clients, Levine says. And the clinical focus is apparent in the program design: Students spend the first year on basic clinical coursework, and plunge into 600 hours of practica in each of the second and third years. They start developing their dissertation themes-usually on applied issues-in their second year, and that work extends into the fourth year. They spend the fifth year doing an internship in a clinical setting.
Although it has a strong clinical bent, Antioch New England encourages student research, adds George Tremblay, PhD, research director for the program. But "dissertations are more likely to be driven by student interest than to evolve out of a faculty member's research program," Tremblay says.