New research clinic combines practice and science

Florida State University has transformed its in-house training clinic into a communal clinical research laboratory that documents the clinic's therapeutic success with solid research. All second- and third-year clinical PhD students now participate in the clinic and its research lab.

"When science is in the air, patient care is superior," says Thomas Joiner, PhD, the Bright-Burton Professor of Psychology at Florida State University who in 1998 helped transform the clinic to include a research emphasis.

The clinic has the proof too: Clients receiving care in the clinical research laboratory showed better and faster improvement over the course of therapy than clients who were treated previously when the clinic only did therapy. Treatment outcomes have improved, Joiner claims, because providers have science to help direct their patient care.

Students who work in the lab have been published in peer-reviewed journals and have authored books on practice and clinical topics. The communal lab also fosters collaboration among students who may otherwise have worked in labs led by single researchers, Joiner says.

Preparing students for academic jobs

The University of New Hampshire's Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program goes beyond traditional coursework and research in psychology to provide students with hands-on teaching-related experiences, mentoring and graduate coursework.

"What makes our program so innovative is our approach to fully prepare a new PhD for a faculty position," says Victor Benassi, PhD, a professor of psychology at the university who is involved in the department's PFF program along with professors Kenneth Fuld, PhD, Victoria Banyard, PhD, and Peter Fernald, PhD. "We prepare students so they can hit the ground running when they take a faculty position."

For example, the program teaches students the principles of test and syllabus construction, grading practices, effective classroom teaching methods and course materials and text selection.

"As students go through the program, they take on increased responsibility in the areas of teaching, research and service," Benassi says.

Students initially gain formal teaching experience by teaching an introductory psychology course under faculty supervision during their third year, after completing coursework to help prepare them. In the following year, they teach a course in their specialty area and often in statistics. Throughout the program, most students take courses in the University of New Hampshire Summer Institute on College Teaching.

Students also collaborate with faculty on research projects and work with mentors to pursue projects that fit their psychology interests. Additionally, the program offers students the opportunity to visit other colleges and universities to develop an understanding of faculty culture and objectives at other types of institutions.

PFF, a national initiative launched in 1993 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools, provides institutions with money to develop training programs to prepare graduate students to become faculty. Through a joint effort with PFF, APA has been involved in starting PFF programs in psychology departments. For more information, visit www.apa.org/ed/pff.html.