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UAF, UAA collaborate on new psychology Ph.D. program

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: (907) 474-7902

11/16/05

The University of Alaska Fairbanks, in collaboration with the University of Alaska Anchorage, has created a new doctoral program that aims to address the high demand for mental health professionals across the state.

The UAF/UAA joint Ph.D. program in clinical-community psychology is accepting applications for its first students through Feb. 1, 2006. They will begin taking classes in the fall. The intensive program will take students from a baccalaureate degree to a doctorate in five years. It includes four years of coursework and research and a one-year full-time internship.

The program is a partnership between UAF and UAA. Students will receive their degrees from UAF but will attend classes, either in person or through videoconferencing, at both campuses. They will graduate with a Ph.D. and will be qualified to provide individual, family and group therapy, as well as lead community-wide prevention and wellness programs, according to Professor Catherine Koverola, UAF's director of clinical training for the program. Christiane Brems, a psychology professor at UAA, heads up the program at that campus.

"Our graduates will be working in government, health settings, mental health programs, and nonprofits, and will be equipped to deal with policy issues," Koverola said. "They are trained not only as providers but as researchers."

Like many circumpolar regions, Alaska has a high incidence of behavioral health issues such as suicide, substance abuse and interpersonal violence, she said. "Psychology has a tremendous amount to contribute to being able to address these factors that are compromising the quality of life and affecting mortality."

About five years ago, the university examined the need for mental health professionals in the state, Koverola said. "It was very clear that Alaska needs a doctoral program."

It's vital that the state train its own psychologists, she said, because Alaska has some unique cultural needs, especially in rural areas. Psychologists who come to Alaska from the Lower 48 may not be familiar with those needs, she said, but graduates of the new program will be. From a rural/indigenous culture immersion program at the beginning of studies to a full-time internship in the final year, the program is infused with culturally relevant instruction and techniques.

"It's a unique program in that it is clinical psychology, community psychology and it has a rural/indigenous emphasis," she said.

Graduate school Dean Susan Henrichs touted the program's dual focus on both clinical practice and community psychology.

"That is going to be very important given that there is a limited number of practitioners in Alaska," she said. "The graduate school is very excited about the potential of this program to serve a need within our state."

CONTACT: UAF Public Information Officer Marmian Grimes at (907) 474-7902 or via e-mail at marmian.grimes@uaf.edu. Catherine Koverola, UAF director of clinical training, at (907) 474-2614 or via e-mail at ffack@uaf.edu

ON THE WEB: http://psyphd.alaska.edu