Technical Standards

Earning a degree from our Clinical Science area of the doctoral degree program requires mastery of a coherent body of entry-level knowledge and skills related to theory, research, and practice. Doctoral students must acquire substantial professional competence in the discipline of clinical psychology as specified in the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) standards of accreditation, and must be able to relate appropriately to fellow students, faculty and staff members, clients, and other health care professionals. Combinations of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, intellectual, and communication abilities are required to perform these functions satisfactorily. These skills and functions are not only essential to the successful completion of the doctoral program, but they are also necessary to ensure the health and safety of clients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers.

In addition to required academic achievement goals, objectives, and competencies in research and practice, the standards of professional conduct described below further set forth non-academic qualifications the Clinical Science doctoral area considers essential for successful completion of its curriculum. Therefore, to successfully progress through, to be approved for internship, and subsequent graduation from the doctoral program, current students in the program must also satisfy these standards.


Attitudinal, Behavioral, Interpersonal, and Emotional

Students must be able to relate to clients, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers with honesty, integrity, and dedication, and in a non-discriminatory manner. They must be able to understand and use the power, special privileges, and trust inherent in the psychologist-client relationship for the client’s benefit and to know and avoid the behaviors that constitute misuse of this power. Students must demonstrate the capacity to examine and deliberate effectively about social and ethical questions that define psychologists’ roles and to reason critically about these questions. They must be able to identify personal reactions and responses, recognize multiple points of view, and integrate these appropriately into clinical decision making. In research teams, students must demonstrate the ability to interact appropriately with research participants, other students, and faculty and staff members. Students must be able to collaborate well with others on joint projects (e. g., effectively accept and provide input).

A clinical psychology student must be of sufficient emotional health to utilize fully their intellectual ability, to exercise good judgment, to complete client care responsibilities promptly, and to relate to clients, families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, and other health care providers with courtesy, compassion, maturity, safety, and respect for dignity. The ability to participate collaboratively and flexibly as a member of an inter-professional team is essential. Student must display this emotional health in spite of multiple or varied academic, teaching, and research responsibilities, in addition to clinical practice training expectations. Students must be able to modify behavior in response to the constructive criticism. They must be open to examining personal attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes (especially those that may negatively impact client care and professional relationships). Students must be able to take responsibility for their behavior, which includes being open to feedback from their supervisors, academic instructors, and research advisors. Students must be open and empathic with others and show respect for different viewpoints, perspectives, and opinions. They must strive to work collaboratively with others in the classroom, laboratory, clinic, and in all other academic or professional settings. They must convey genuine interest in other people and demonstrate affect tolerance (i.e., appropriately manage and contain emotions in academic and professional settings). As an essential part of conducting research or clinical practice, students effectively tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. They must be emotionally mature (e.g., intellectually and emotionally open to and appropriate when receiving feedback). Student must be able to advocate for their own needs in the work place without being inappropriately aggressive. They must also seek the resources and build the relationships needed to advance in their academic or professional career.

The student and ongoing practice of clinical psychology often involves taxing workloads and appropriate management of stressful situations. A student must have the physical and emotional stamina to maintain a high level of functioning in the face of multiple demands on their time and energy.



Students must possess a range of intellectual skills that allows them to master the broad and complex body of knowledge that comprises clinical psychology education.

Students must be able to critically evaluate their own and others’ research, including the ability to identify limitations in the research literature or design of a specific study, to critique a manuscript as an ad hoc reviewer, and to “make psychological sense” of their own data. They must be able to use theory to inform the conceptualization, design, and interpretation of research. Additionally, students must be able to effectively understand the theoretical literature in their identified substantive research area, to appropriately discuss their literature in individual and group lab meetings, and to integrate their understanding into scientific writing and presentations. They must further demonstrate the ability to generate novel hypotheses and to design a study that follows from those hypotheses.

Students must be able to analyze and synthesize information form a wide variety of sources and must demonstrate sophisticated critical thinking skills. They must be able to learn effectively through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to: classroom instruction, clinical supervision, small group discussions, individual study of materials, independent literature review, preparation and presentation of written and oral reports, and use of computer-based technology.

Because the practice of psychology is governed by the ethical practices set forth in the current APA Ethics Code and by current state and federal laws, a clinical science student must have the capacity to learn and understand these ethical standards and legal requirements and to perform consistent with those principles and mandates as a student the Clinical Science doctoral program.



Students must be able to ask effective questions, to receive answers perceptively, to record information about clients, and to provide effective psychoeducation to clients. They must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with clients, their families, fellow students, faculty and staff members, clinical supervisors in varied practicum settings, and with other members of the health care team. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., interpretation of facial expressions, affects, and body language). Mastery of both written and spoken English is required, although applications from students with hearing and speech disabilities will be given full consideration. In such cases, use of a trained intermediary or other communications aide may be appropriate if this intermediary functions only as an informant conduit and does not serve integrative or interpretive functions.



Virginia Tech is committed to equality of educational opportunity. A student with a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or other physical, mental, or emotional disability may participate in the Clinical Science doctoral program so long as the condition is managed sufficiently with or without reasonable accommodation to permit the student to satisfy the requirements of the Clinical Science doctoral program, including these standards of conduct. Students who seek reasonable accommodations for disabilities must contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office. The SSD Office will determine a student’s eligibility for and recommend appropriate accommodations and services.

In the event of deteriorating function, it is essential that a student be willing and able to acknowledge the need for and to accept professional help before the condition poses a danger to the student, clients, other students, faculty and staff members, or research participants.