Virginia Tech's Department of Psychology has received accreditation from the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System for its Clinical Science doctoral program.

Virginia Tech received the accreditation in May after demonstrating a strong and consistent record of producing graduates with successful clinical science careers. The Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) aims to recognize and promote clinical science programs that embody the highest training standards and that result in graduates who advance the understanding and management of behavioral and mental health problems through their research and application.

“PCSAS accreditation confirms and helps brand us as a leading graduate program committed to the education and training of future clinical scientists,” said Lee Cooper, director of the Clinical Science doctoral program.

The nonprofit organization is a relatively new accrediting body, incorporated in December 2007 to provide rigorous, objective, and empirically based accreditation of doctorate programs in psychological clinical science. It began accepting applications on June 1, 2009, from eligible universities and granted only one accreditation in its first year. 

Since 2009, only 27 universities have received PCSAS accreditation, including the 2015 recipients Virginia Tech, Indiana University, and The Ohio State University, according to the organization.

The accreditation recognizes the central role science plays in clinical psychology and helps position Virginia Tech as a leader in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, Cooper said.

“There are hundreds of clinical psychology graduate programs, but currently only about 30 are accredited as clinical science programs by PCSAS, putting Virginia Tech in a group of relatively ‘elite’ universities,” said Robert Stephens, professor and chair of the psychology department.

Criteria to be eligible for PCSAS accreditation including the following: the program must offer a Ph.D., be a nonprofit research-intensive university, and demonstrate that its primary mission is to prepare its graduates for careers as clinical scientists. A graduate program must demonstrate a strong commitment to high-quality, science-centered education and training in clinical psychology with an emphasis on integrative research and application. 

The clinical science program at Virginia Tech seeks to develop individuals who are committed to being productive leaders in careers in basic, applied, and translational research and in evidence-based approaches to administration, service delivery, dissemination, and evaluation.

“Our expectation is that our graduates will be involved in research science in some way when they graduate,” Cooper said. “When functioning as a therapist, the core of our model is the integration of science in practice, using practices, approaches, techniques, and models of both assessment and intervention that have been empirically verified. If there is not support for it scientifically, in theory, we should not be using it.”

Virginia Tech’s clinical science program has been accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1980 in recognition of its consistent quality and excellence in education and training in health service psychology. Virginia Tech also has been a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science since 2001 and is routinely ranked in U.S. News & World Report. The Department of Psychology received Exemplary Department status in 2014 because of its teaching and learning environments for students and faculty.



Written by Katherine Wells.
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