School PhD Coursework Sequence
Doctoral students in the School Psychology Program complete practicum and field work experiences in a local K-12 setting. These experiences immerse students in the culture and operation of school, and familiarize students with the roles and functions of school staff (e.g., principal, speech therapists, teachers, social workers). Students observe in the classrooms, conduct intervention team meetings, and participate in interdisciplinary team meetings. Students also participate more directly in their school placements through activities such as conducting academic, cognitive and behavioral assessments, providing consultation to teacher and staff regarding children's mental health and learning, and implementing evidence-based academic interventions.
Practicum sites are located in Missoula and surrounding areas. The program has an emphasis in working with children and families from rural and tribal communities. Doctoral students have an opportunity to learn about the provision of assessment, intervention, and consultation services to children and families from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
Examples of practicum sites:
Clinical Practicum/Clinical Psychology Center
Doctoral students also participate in practicum at the UM Department of Psychology's Clinical Psychology Center. Students gain experience in behavioral assessment, including functional behavior assessment across settings, consultation with medical and educational professionals, and application of behavioral parent training, manualized and modular treatment packages, and function-based interventions. Students develop their skills to include behavioral interviewing, case conceptualization, treatment planning, conducting therapy, progress monitoring, consultation and writing clinical notes and reports. All activities in the CPC occur under the clinic director, Dr. Raurie Birch.
Additional Practicum Opportunities
In addition to the formalized methods of obtaining practicum experience, there are numerous other activities throughout the academic year and summer for students. Due to the lack of services in the community and state for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), the program has established a strong relationship with the University’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders RiteCare Clinic. Graduate students in school psychology and speech-language pathology collaborate in conducting assessments and using evidence-based interventions for children referred to the RiteCare Clinic for ASD.
There are also opportunities for graduate students to conduct comprehensive psychological evaluations through the Clinical Psychology Center under the supervision of faculty for adults referred from Disability Student Services. Students also facilitate therapy groups, parent management training, etc., based on community need and student interest. Faculty, who are credentialed school psychologists, supervises all of these activities.
In their fifth year of the doctoral program, students are required to complete a 2000-hour doctoral internship. Students are required to participate in the APPIC Match Process and secure an APA-accredited internship. Exceptions to attending an APA-accredited internship site may be granted on an individual basis, though this is quite rare.
Examples of internship placements that our PhD students have attended include:
Fingerprinting and Background Check
Although fingerprinting and a criminal background check are not required by either the University of Montana or the School Psychology Program, individuals working in the public school systems are often required to present their criminal background check status prior to working in the schools. Since our graduate students are placed in public school classrooms during their training, we ask that newly admitted students arrange to be fingerprinted and submit to a background check through the State of Montana, Department of Criminal Justice. Newly admitted students receive a letter to this effect and directions on how to initiate the background check shortly after an admission offer is accepted. It is expected that this procedure can be completed prior to the fall semester so that placement in the schools can take place. A student cannot be placed in the schools without the background clearance.
In cases in which a background check shows past charges and convictions of concern, the case will be reviewed by a committee composed of the core school psychology faculty, and possibly the legal counsel for the University and other faculty, such as the Psychology Department Chair, if needed. Convictions that jeopardize the student’s ability to be positioned in programmatic placements or obtain future employment in the field can lead to dismissal from the program.