Brandeis University Department of Psychology

Brandeis University Department of Psychology

Fall, 2017 Psychology 161 Prof. Cunningham

Psychology 161a: Clinical Psychology Practicum

Wednesday 9am-11:50am

Location: Brown 115

Instructor: Professor Joseph Cunningham E-mail:

Office: Brown 317 (ext. 63304)

Office Hours: M,2-3; Th,2-330, and by appt.

Course Objectives and Learning Goals

This two-semester experiential learning practicum and pair of 4-credit seminars (Psyc 161 a&b) seminars are designed to integrate your community service experience with that of your seminar peers, and with theory and research in clinical psychology. In our seminar discussions, individual journals, exams, oral presentations, and self-evaluation papers, we will draw upon empirical research, case studies, fiction, poetry, journalism, and memoirs to explore scientific and humanistic perspectives on the helping role. We will exchange accounts of our personal helping role experiences in supporting people with and without clinical diagnoses, emphasizing the perspective of everyday human challenge and adaptation on how we understand the helping role.

Specific learning outcomes include:

1.) Reflect on our personal developmental trajectory, and its relation to our interest in the helping role.

2.) Learn to listen to a person’s story without prejudice, apart from our reactions or the person’s diagnosis, to identify the person’s strengths and challenges, and to evaluate in subsequent interactions and discussions whether what we’ve come to understand is what the person meant to express.

3.) Acquire a deeper understanding of our own interpersonal strengths and challenges, and their implications for assuming a helping role.

4.) Listen to and support the helping role challenges and achievements of your peers in the seminar, share your own with them, and learn about the power of peer supervision.

5.) Integrate the above skills with our understanding of evidence-based theory and research on clinical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, and consider how they jointly impact on the provision of behavioral and psychological support to the people with whom we are working.

6.) Design and implement a learning activity for your peers, such that their participation will enable them to discover some aspect of being an effective helper that you have found to be important in your own helping role this year.

Course Requirements

When you register for Psychology 161a, you are tacitly registering for Psychology 161b in the Spring of 2017. You should therefore plan to commit to an agency placement for two semesters at a minimum of eight hours per week. Some agencies may require more than the basic 8 hr/week, so your scheduled time should be specified with the agency representative from the outset.

The unique nature of the practicum commitment to your fellow students and to the practicum agency includes your waiver of the standard option to drop the course. If you are enrolled in the course beyond the end of the enrollment period (September 13), early withdrawal from the course will earn a failing grade.

In undertaking this training, you are assuming serious and substantial responsibilities. Your practicum placement is a job, for which you are compensated with training and supervision. Your supervisors and co-workers expect of you what they expect of each other —- compassion, honesty, intelligence, effort, dependability and mutual support. These characteristics are also essential to your seminar participation, which itself requires a commitment to open, often uncomfortable examination of your interpersonal strengths and weaknesses.

The above demands are in addition to the rigorous academic course requirements -- a lot of reading, analysis and discussion; more reading; written examinations; seminar presentations; research papers. In short, your workload in each of these courses exceeds that of the conventional course, qualitatively and quantitatively. Your field supervisors will provide you and me with a formal written evaluation of your practicum work sometime during the month of February, and at the end of the academic year in a personal letter I will discuss my impressions of your strengths and weaknesses in the helping role. However, these aspects of evaluation and feedback do not impact on your course grade, which is determined solely through my evaluation of your written and oral contributions in the seminar.

In conjunction with the site-based work and reflection assignments in this course, you also have the opportunity to enroll in the two-credit EL94a course this semester. We will review forms for signing up for that in our first class.

Finally, if travel to your placement site involves expense for public transportation or gas, you can apply for some partial reimbursement from the Experiential Learning Program by e-mailing Daniel Langenthal ().

Text and Reading Assignments

Dorris, M. (1987). A yellow raft in blue water. New York: Warner.

Kaysen, S. (1993). Girl, interrupted. New York: Turtle Bay.

McFarland, D. (1990). The music room. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Sheehan, S. (1982). Is there no place on earth for me? Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Stegner, W. (1988). Crossing to safety. New York: Penguin.

Trull, T.J. & Prinstein, M.J. (2013) (8th Ed.). Clinical psychology, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage.

The above are required and are available at the Brandeis University Bookstore. A tentative outline of reading assignments is presented below. Changes in the timetable are probable, as is the assignment of supplemental readings. Both will be announced in class.

Class Participation:

Everything we do in this course is designed to improve our ability to listen to, understand and support children and families. That requireslistening to, understanding and supporting each other, which requiresignoringelectronic social networks during class. I hate to turn my phone off, and I hate to disconnect my browser. But I do so for clients, and I do so for class. And so will you.

Your active involvement in discussion is essential to the success of the course. Your participation grade will incorporate all of the following —attendance, listening, understanding and integration of other’s comments, understanding and integration of readings, spoken and written contributions. Written contributions will include occasional assignments specified in class.

Seminar attendance will be recorded and my combined evaluation of your participation in discussion and the thoughtfulness of your journal entries (see below) will account for 20% of the final grade.



9/6 Introduction to Course, APA T&P: 1,2,&3: APA Ethical Principles

Confidentiality & Professional Ethics ( )

9/13, 9/20 Diagnosis Deferred Dorris, book

9/27 Diagnosis Determined Sheehan, book Submit Journal

10/4 NO CLASS; Deis Thur.

10/11 Diagnosis Determined Sheehan, book

10/18 Diagnosis Determined Kaysen, book

10/25 Normality and Abnormality T&P: 4, 5

11/1 MIDTERM EXAMSubmit Journal

11/8 Normality and Abnormality McFarland, book

11/ 15 Assessment & Diagnosis Stegner, book

11/22 NO CLASS --- Thanksgiving

11/29 Assessment & Diagnosis Stegner/McFarland; T&P, Ch.6,7,8

12/6 “Parting is such sweet sorrow…”

~ Juliet

12/13 Submit Take-Home Final & Journal


There will be midterm and final essay examinations in which you will be required to discuss and evaluate material from the readings, class meetings, and your practicum experience. The midterm exam will last approximately 1½ hours. The final exam will be a take-home, due Noon,Wednesday, 12/13. That is a firm deadline. Given the Registrar’s grade submission deadline, no extensions can be provided. Late submissions will result in a reduction of one grade-level per day. Originality in the analysis and synthesis of the material will be as important in your discussions as the citation of specific facts. Each exam will account for 40% of the final grade.


All students are required to keep a daily journal of their seminar, reading and placementexperiences which will include the following information. Please record a journal entry every time you attend the seminar, read relevant material, work at the placement site, or think about any aspect of your course experience. Entries include:

(a) Detailed description of what happened in the events (e.g., class, workday, content of reading).

(b) Detailed, reflective comments on how you felt and your reaction to the events.

(c) Inferences and conclusions drawn from these reflections, including exploration of competing or contradicting inferences.

(d) Comparison of present observations, reactions, and inferences to those of previous days, noting changes, contradictions and consistencies.

This journal need not be typed, but should be sufficiently neat and legible so that I will have no difficulty reading it. References to individual clients, students and/or staff members should be masked by using names or sets of initials which do not match the names of any students in class or individuals in your setting.

If you are a student with a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me immediately.

You are expected to be honest in all of your academic work. The University policy on academic honesty is distributed annually as section 5 of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook. Instances of alleged dishonesty will be forwarded to the Office of Campus Life for possible referral to the Student Judicial System. Potential sanctions include failure in the course and suspension from the University. If you have any questions about my expectations, please ask.

Success in this 4/6 credit hour graduate-level course is based on the expectation that students will spend a minimum of 12/18 hours of study time per week in preparation for class (service at the placement site, readings, papers, discussion sections, preparation for exams, etc.).


If you enroll in an internship or experiential learning (EL) practicum course, and are required to pursue an activity off-campus as part of the course, you may be required to obtain authorization from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services based on your student visa status BEFORE beginning the off-campus activity. Please email to schedule an appointment with your ISSO advisor to determine if such authorization is required.