Master's in Clinical Counseling Psychology > Capstone

Students admitted to the Clinical-Counseling Psychology Program have the option of completing either a clinical-counseling capstone project or a master's thesis in order to fulfill their degree requirements. Details about the thesis option are available on the Thesis website . The Clinical-Counseling Capstone Project procedures are explained below.

In order to complete the capstone project in a timely manner, students should begin researching appropriate topics during their first year of graduate study. Students should solicit a Clinical-Counseling Psychology faculty member as their project chair no later than the end of spring semester of the first year. In the early stages of the project, the student and faculty member typically work together to develop an appropriate topic. It is recommended that students review what is being published in current clinical and counseling psychology journals for potential capstone project topics.

By the start of the fall semester of the second year, students should complete the CLINICAL-COUNSELING CAPSTONE PROJECT CHAIR and TOPIC form, which identifies both the project chair and topic. The form also includes an override request for PSY 490 Clinical-Counseling Capstone Project. The Project Chair form is an interactive Word document that should be completed on a computer and printed. Students and faculty members should sign and date the Project Chair form, which should then be submitted to the Clinical-Counseling Psychology Program coordinator. When the Project Chair form is approved by the coordinator, the Graduate Programs Office will notify students when they can register for PSY 490.

Students will work with their project chair to further develop the topic. Students must write a capstone project paper. When the paper is nearly complete, students and their project chair should solicit another Clinical-Counseling Psychology faculty member as the project reader. The project chair and reader should independently evaluate the capstone project paper. The project chair, in consultation with the reader, must approve the project paper before the student can schedule an oral defense of the capstone project. If the project chair identifies any changes to the capstone project paper, the student must complete these changes and submit a revised capstone project paper to the project chair and reader for a second evaluation.

The capstone project requires student to write an intensive theoretical paper, research review, or position paper on an emerging topic or issue of contemporary relevance. The project must be at least 30 pages long, excluding references. The project must address the relevance of the topic in 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

For example, a student may be interested in panic disorder. The project might address 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 project's topic, but all of the domains must be addressed in a satisfactory manner in the capstone project before it is defended.

After receiving approval from the project chair, students must defend their capstone project in a public forum. The project chair and reader will be in attendance along with any members of the University academic community who are interested in the project's topic. The department encourages graduate students to attend a capstone project defense in order to observe the process.

The capstone project should be defended at a time that is mutually agreeable to the student, project chair, and reader. The capstone project must be defended between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, while classes are in session (i.e., excluding University holidays, final exams week, or semester breaks). When an acceptable time has been determined, students should contact the Graduate Programs Office to reserve a room. The Graduate Programs Office will notify the students when a room has been reserved. Students also need to inform the Graduate Programs Office which faculty member is the project reader.

At least one week before the defense date, students must submit to the Graduate Programs Office by 12:00 p.m. (Noon) a printed copy of the capstone project. Students must also provide a copy of the project to the project chair and reader; the copy may be printed or sent electronically, depending on the preferences of the project chair and reader. The Graduate Programs Office will announce the scheduled defense to the department's graduate students and faculty members. The capstone project defense will also be posted on the University Events website and on the bulletin board across from the department's office. Students must also complete the OUTCOME OF CLINICAL-COUNSELING CAPSTONE PROJECT DEFENSE form. Students should take this Defense form to their project defense.

During the defense, the project chair and reader will assess the student’s understanding of the issues raised in the capstone project. Students are expected to summarize their project and answer questions from individuals at the defense. When the discussion has ended, everyone should leave the room except for the project chair and reader. The project chair and reader will discuss the quality of the written and oral components of the capstone project. When the deliberations are complete and a decision has been reached, the student will be asked to return to the room. If the defense is approved by the project chair and reader, the student has passed the defense and the project is complete. The project chair and reader should sign the Outcome of the Clinical-Counseling Capstone Project Defense form. The project chair should submit the signed Defense form to the Clinical-Counseling Psychology coordinator. After the student passes the defense, the final project (incorporating any required changes communicated to the student during the defense) must be submitted electronically to the Clinical-Counseling Psychology coordinator.

If either the defense or responses to the questions during the defense are not satisfactory, the student must schedule a second defense for a later date. If the student does not pass the second oral defense, then the student will not be able to complete the project, which is a master's degree requirement.

Students who have completed all course work and practica, but are still working on a capstone project, must maintain continuous enrollment until they successfully defend their project. Students must register for one credit of PSY 490 each fall and spring semester until the capstone project is successfully defended. Registration for PSY 490 in the summer is required only when a student expects to defend the capstone project and complete the degree by the end of the summer semester. Students should contact the Graduate Programs Office at to request an override for PSY 490.