PhD in Clinical Psychology with Curricular Emphasis in Trauma Psychology

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Program Description

PhD in Clinical Psychology with Curricular Emphasis in Trauma Psychology

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Program Mission

The program trains students according to the scientist-practitioner model in mental health diagnosis, assessment, and intervention for adults who have experienced traumas, and in basic and applied research on the psychological functioning of adults with a trauma history. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to work in a range of settings, including mental health clinics and clinical practices, hospitals, VA's, colleges and universities, state offices, research institutes, and as consultants to a wide variety of other professional and community providers of services to adults who are trauma survivors.


Millions of Americans are affected by trauma every year. The combination of being at war for over a decade, increased incidence of natural disasters, continuing challenges of interpersonal violence, and a high lifetime probability of traumatic accidents the need for mental health professionals trained in trauma psychology has never been greater. Approximately 70% of adults will report having major traumatic exposure and close to 3 out of 4 children will experience a significant trauma each year (Finkelhor, 2005). The extensive trauma exposure has real emotional, physical, and financial costs. Every year, 2.34 million women will experience domestic violence; 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men will suffer intimate partner rapes in the U.S. (Kazdin, 2011). The financial costs associated with interpersonal trauma is astounding with sexual assault economic costs estimated at $127 billion, domestic violence $5.8 billion, general assaults $93 billion. Non-mental health care utilization for trauma survivors is also significant. A recent study found veterans with mental health challenges utilized from 46% to 146% greater physical medical care (Cohn, 2007). Even more startling, those with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder sought physical health care 71% to 170% more often than those without mental health challenges.

Veteran and active duty military health and wellness is particularly important for UCCS due to our location and commitment to our service men and women. An estimated 85,000 to 100, 000 military members live in the Pikes Peak region with their families. Approximately 78,000 veterans live in El Paso County, comprising close to 20% of the County's population. The recent Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have required multiple deployments and unique blast injury warfare that has increased the behavioral health needs of these warriors. Many return with psychological and/or physical challenges that exceed previous conflicts. The level of suicides in the military has reached record levels. The Peak Military Care Network Assessment Report (2011) for the local area stated that behavioral health and social service needs were critical, immediate, and long term. They suggested that these needs were taxing the current service delivery systems: "There is a shortage of qualified providers and/or practitioners in the community. Professional providers are burning out."(page 13). With upcoming military downsizing, the veteran population in El Paso County will escalate and compound the already high need for specially trained mental health professionals in Trauma Psychology. Our curricular track in Trauma Psychology is dedicated to the scientist/practitioner model of training doctoral level psychologists.

The curricular track in trauma psychology in our Clinical Psychology PhD program directly addresses a local community need as well as a national challenge regarding a paucity of trained mental health professionals in the area of trauma. UCCS has made a commitment to the training needs of our trauma students by opening the Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic at the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. With a 2 million dollar grant investment the clinic is a state of the art trauma care provider utilizing evidence-based interventions and cutting edge technology assisted approaches. This clinic provides students with a unique opportunity to focus their training on the specific challenges faced by traumatized veterans and their families. In addition to seeing veterans and their families, students in the trauma psychology track will work with survivors of other traumas. Possible clinical training opportunities at the Veterans Administration in Colorado Springs, the UCCS Counseling Center, and TESSA (domestic violence center) will provide unique, focused clinical experiences and direct clinical services to our community.

Program Requirements

Knowledge and skills in clinical psychology and basic scientific psychology are the foundations on which the trauma psychology focus is built. Students in this program are preparing to be clinical psychologists first and foremost, with a focus on trauma psychology as their curricular emphasis. Students entering this program are essentially agreeing to focus their work on trauma psychology rather than sampling the variety of populations and problems that might form the elective offerings in another program.

This program adheres to the scientist-practitioner model of training in clinical psychology, commonly referred to as the Boulder model. Under this model, professional psychologists are trained to be both scientists and practitioners with the goal of enhancing the interplay between science and practice. In an emerging field, such as trauma psychology, it is of utmost importance that practitioners add to the existing knowledge base regarding application strategies that are effective, and that scientists be informed of applied issues in shaping their pursuit of knowledge.

The curriculum will require at least five years of post-baccalaureate work to accomplish requirements of the doctoral degree. Students complete 126 hours of required and elective courses, a comprehensive exam, a dissertation of original scholarship, clinical practica, and a clinical internship (off site). The clinical curriculum requires specific coursework, required for licensure and accreditation, and an off site internship year. Students who enter the program with a BA or BS degree will earn an MA en route to the doctoral degree through the mechanism of the existing MA program.

Timeline for program completion: Completion of the Clinical Psychology PhD program from the BA or BS starting point will typically take 5 years of residence on campus with the 6th year allocated for internship (Students should expect this time frame as the general rule pending unusual exceptions).

Doctoral students are also advised that this is a 12 month program with clinical Practicum obligations during the summers and some limited Winterim course requirements. Clinical and research work are continuous without regard to the semester structures and students are funded to participate year round.

This program values and promotes self-awareness as a significant component of training in clinical psychology. Students in this program engage in self-awareness exercises within their courses and practicum training. They are also strongly encouraged to engage in their own psychotherapy during their training.

Admission Requirements

Applicants should have the following credentials:

  1. A BS or BA degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.

  2. An overall average of 3.0 ("A" is equivalent to 4.0) or above in all undergraduate courses, and 3.5 or better on graduate coursework.

  3. Graduate Record Exam scores of at least 1200 cumulative on the Verbal and Quantitative sections, or above the 50th percentile on the Verbal and Quantitative sections using the new GRE scoring. The advanced psychology test is strongly recommended

  4. An adequate undergraduate program in psychology including college-level mathematics, statistics, experimental psychology, and some background in the biological, physical, and social sciences.

  5. Applicants should have career goals consistent with the program emphasis in trauma psychology.

Promising students who do not meet all of the requirements may be considered as applicants.

Graduate level courses completed prior to admission may be transferable into the program. Applicants with previous graduate coursework or degree may request a review of their transcript and related materials to determine whether specific courses or thesis requirements may be waived.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated January 26, 2016
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2016
5 - 6 years
Part time
Full time
Start date Sept. 2016
USA Colorado Springs, Colorado
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 5 - 6 years
Price Request Info