Liberty University Psychology professors pitch new Psy.D. to prospective students

For some psychologists’ patients, therapy can only help so much. Some patients’ bodies need antidepressants, antipsychotics or other medications to be able function well mentally, but not all psychologists have the authority to write medical prescriptions. If a psychologist wants to be able to help their patients in this way, they may need to step up their degree to become a clinical psychologist.

Students gathered Thursday night to hear a pitch on Liberty’s new Doctorate of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program, set to welcome its first set of students this fall. 

Dr. Gary Sibcy and Dr. Timothy Barclay, both psychologists and professors at Liberty, spoke to students on what to expect from a program of this caliber. 

A Psy.D. program is intended to be completed in four years. The years are rigorous, however and include both classroom hours and practicum-style learning. During the fourth year of the program, students’ learning will culminate in a full-time internship and dissertation work, followed by a post-doctoral year required for licensure. 

Sibcy and Barclay explained the difference between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D. in psychology, clarifying that a Psy.D. emphasizes the clinical side of psychology and how to be a keen consumer of research, while a Ph.D. focuses on the research itself. 

Graduates of a Psy.D. program will be exposed to an “extremely broad range of practice and training,” which focuses on evidence-based therapy. 

“(A Psy.D. offers the) highest level of reimbursement and broadest range of clinical activities for mental health workers,” Sibcy said. “Clinical psychology is the only doctoral license (in psychology), which gives one the opportunity to practice at the top of the field.” 

Barclay warned prospective students that the program will be no walk in the park, but a serious investment that requires preparation, financial sacrifice and years of diligent study. 

“It is an investment in you. You are the investment. You have to determine if you are worth the investment,” Barclay said, comparing the rigor of the new program to that of a medical school. “That is the commitment that it takes to practice at that level.”

Sibcy spoke on the return of that investment, emphasizing the financial return and the difference that a clinical psychologist is able to make in a patient’s life. 

“You don’t do this because you make money. You have to really want to make a difference in people’s lives. I think as a psychologist you can do that in one of the most meaningful ways, you can share your faith in a lot of ways as a psychologist, it’s really a wonderful thing,” Sibcy said. 

The program has been in the works “unofficially” for a few years, becoming an official venture this past summer, and gaining approval from the provost in December. Sibcy will be the director and Barclay the assistant director of the Center for Professional and Clinical Psychology. Prospective students can visit the new doctorate’s webpage for more information.

Hamer is a news reporter. Follow her on Twitter.

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