Department of Psychology at Illinois State University

Clinical Competency Project

Students in the Clinical-Counseling Psychology Program have the option of completing either a master's thesis or a clinical competency project in order to fulfill their degree requirements. Details about the thesis option are available on the department's Thesis Procedures website. This website provides information about the clinical competency project option.

Time frame and procedures

In order to complete the project in a timely manner, students should begin researching appropriate topics for the project during their first year. It is recommended that the project supervisor be chosen no later than the end of spring semester of their first year. The project supervisor must be a member of the Clinical-Counseling faculty. In the early stages the student and supervisor typically work together to focus the topic into one that is appropriate for the clinical competency project, so students do not need to have a topic fully developed prior to selecting their project supervisor. One source of ideas about a topic is to review what is being published in current clinical and counseling psychology journals.

By the beginning of the fall semester of the second year, the student should complete the Approval of Clinical Competency Project Chair and Topic form,which identifies both the project supervisor and the topic of the project; it also serves as an override request for PSY 490-Clinical Competency Project. The form is an interactive Word document that should be completed on the computer, printed, and then signed. The student should obtain the signature of the project supervisor and then submit the signed form to the coordinator of the Clinical-Counseling Psychology Program. Students will be notified when their override has been processed and they can register for PSY 490.

The student will work with the project supervisor throughout the second year of the program both to develop the topic ideas further and write the project paper. As the paper is nearing completion, the project reader – who is a member of the Clinical-Counseling faculty chosen by both the project supervisor and the student – will be selected. The project supervisor and the reader will independently evaluate the written project, and the student will need to receive approval from the supervisor (who will consult with the reader) before proceeding to the oral defense. After successful completion of the oral defense the final written project (incorporating any required changes communicated to the student during the defense) must be submitted electronically to the Clinical-Counseling Coordinator. The final written project will be made available to the public on the Clinical-Counseling web site below. (Students wishing to opt-out of having their final project posted on this web site may submit this request in writing to the Clinical-Counseling Coordinator.)

Written Format

The written portion of the clinical competency project involves an intensive (e.g., no less than 30 pages excluding references) theoretical paper, research review, or position paper on an emerging topic or issue of contemporary relevance. The student will choose a topic in consultation with their project supervisor. A requirement of the written portion of the project is that it addresses the relevance of the topic to the following areas:

  • Foundations of behavior (normal and/or abnormal)
  • Assessment and measurement
  • Applications to therapy
  • Relevant ethical and professional issues
  • Cultural considerations and relevance to special populations
  • Research challenges and needs

As an example, a student may be interested in writing a project paper on panic disorder. A successful paper might address (not necessarily in this order) how panic disorder is assessed and diagnosed, what form the behavior takes and its etiology, how panic disorder is treated, any relevant ethical or professional issues in the assessment and treatment of panic disorder, future research directions needed, and cultural differences in the assessment and treatment of panic disorder. Some of these domains would require more depth than others given the topic of the paper, but all must be addressed in a satisfactory manner.

Oral Defense

After receiving approval from the project supervisor, students will publicly defend their project. This defense will be attended by the supervisor and reader as well as any members of the university community who have an interest in attending.

The oral defense must be held when classes are in session (i.e., excluding final exams week and University breaks) at a date and time mutually agreeable to the student, supervisor, and reader. When all of the parties have agreed on a date and time, students must submit a copy of the written project to the Graduate Programs Office at least seven calendar days (excluding University breaks) prior to the desired defense date. The Graduate Programs Office will reserve a room and any needed equipment. The oral defense will be announced to the department by e-mail, and it will be posted on the University Calendar Web site and on the bulletin board across from the department's office. Students must provide a copy of their written project to the supervisor and the reader. (Electronic copies may be provided to the supervisor and/or reader if they approve of this.) Students should also complete the top half of the Outcome of Clinical Competency Project Defense form and bring that to the defense.

During this oral component of the clinical competency project, the supervisor and reader will assess the student’s understanding of the issues raised in the written paper. Students are expected to summarize the content of their written project as well as to answer questions from individuals at the presentation. When the discussion has ended, everyone should leave the room except for the supervisor and reader. The supervisor and reader will discuss the quality of the written and oral components of the project. When the deliberations are complete and a decision has been reached, the student will be asked to return to the room. If the student’s presentation and responses to the questions are deemed satisfactory by the supervisor and reader, then the student will pass the oral component and the project will be complete. If either the presentation or the answers to questions are not satisfactory, then the oral defense will be rescheduled for a later date. If the student does not pass the second oral attempt, then the student will not be able to complete the project. 

Students who have completed all course work and practica but are still working on their projects must remain continuously enrolled until they successfully defend their project. This can be accomplished by registering for 1 credit of PSY 490 each semester until the project has been successfully completed and defended. Students should email the Clinical-Counseling Psychology coordinator to request overrides for additional semesters of PSY 490 registration. Registration for PSY 490 in the summer term is required only when a student expects to defend the project and complete the degree by the end of that term.

Library of Completed projects

The following completed projects represent just some of the diverse topics students in the Clinical-Counseling Psychology Program have selected for their clinical competency project. The ideas expressed in these projects are the responsibility of each author and do not necessarily reflect the training goals or philosophy of the program faculty.

Title Author
Behavioral Interventions in Elderly Populations with Dementia: A Review of Relevant Factors Kristen D. Braun
Binge-eating Disorder: A Literature Review Nicole Vega
Clinical Issues in Psychotherapy with Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Clients Jamie J. Sikorski
A Clinician’s Guide for Treatment of Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse: A Literature Review Sarah Kendall
Examining Alcohol Use and Misuse among College Students: A Comprehensive Review Natalie E. Chase
Gender Roles and Expectations in Clinical Practice and Research Teresa A. Young
Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Implications for Research and Practice Leah M. Reuschel
Losing a Loved One: A Literature Review of Bereavement and Resilience Megan R. Moran
Malingering Psychological Symptoms: An Empirical Review Sara Duffy
Treating Unipolar Depression in College Students: A Comprehensive Literature Review Diana Saccomanno