Our counseling psychology doctoral (PhD) program is APA-accredited. Our program follows the Boulder model for preparing scientist-practitioners, with an emphasis on social justice issues.

The program requires full-time study (9-12 credits per semester) and residence in Lexington.  Like all counseling psychology doctoral programs, our program includes a one-year, full-time internship at an APA accredited site, which usually requires relocation to another city or state.

A majority of our program graduates (click here to Meet our Alumni) gain employment in mental health agencies (e.g., medical centers, community agencies, group practices), university counseling centers, or federal facilities (e.g., VA’s, prisons). Some graduates engage in private practice. Other graduates pursue research or teaching positions in institutions of higher education. The first employment setting is typically closely related to the specialized type of experience gained from the student’s internship year. Many graduates have been able to move to the director/manager levels of those health delivery systems within three to seven years of graduation.  Please review our PhD Program’s Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data summary for information about time to completion, internship placement, retention, and licensure.

Check out our videos, in which we answer students’ questions about Counseling Psychology and our doctoral students talk about their experience with the UK Counseling Psychology PhD program.  Watch videos of our first and second Counseling Psychology Q&A Panels, where students, faculty, and working professionals talk about the specialty of counseling psychology, how counseling psychology differs from clinical psychology, what master’s and doctoral training in counseling psychology looks like, and what our Ms and PhD programs are like.  Learn more about the awards and accomplishments and professional background and interests of our current students.  If you have questions about the program that you would like to ask a current student, email Zach Dschaak (zachdschaak@nulluky.edu).

Top 12 Reasons to Join Our Program

  • 100% of our students who applied for pre-doctoral internship in the last four years received an APA-accredited and fully funded internship
  • 100% of our alumni achieved gainful employment after graduation
  • 100% of our students obtain practicum placements in a variety of desirable settings such as VA Medical Centers, Hospitals, Prisons, University Counseling Centers, and Community Mental Health Agencies
  • 100% of last year’s graduates said they were satisfied with the quality of the training they received in the PhD program
  • 99% of students who wanted full-time (20/hrs/wk) funding in the last 3 years received it in the form of assistantships or fellowships
  • Our students received 73 awards in 2018-2020
  • Our students were first authors on 22 publications and 92 presentations at professional conferences in 2018-2020
  • We have a 6:1 student to faculty ratio that facilitates close mentoring in research and personal attention in the classroom
  • We have a diverse student body and faculty in the program
  • The opportunity to conduct multidisciplinary research: our faculty and students publish with scholars from Behavioral Science, Public Health, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, Gender and Women’s Studies, Education, and many other departments on the UK campus.
  • Social justice research, training, and advocacy opportunities (e.g., EDP Social Justice Scholarship Series, EDP Ally Development Workshop, Center for Equality and Social Justice)
  • Lexington is ranked as one of the Top 30 places to live in the USA by U.S. News & World Report, which described our city as a good place for young professionals to live given the constant influx of young, highly educated people and the affordability of housing.  Check out Lexington’s rankings, including recent Top 10 rankings on safety, place to raise a family, first-time home buying, place for new college grads, eating out affordably, work-life balance, and other quality of life indicators.

Program Philosophy and Social Justice Statement

The philosophy of the program is rooted in the values and goals of a socially just society. A socially just society is contingent on the optimal health and well-being of all persons in that society. The health and well-being of persons is contingent on access to healthy environments that support healthy development and functioning. Our goal is to train counseling psychologists who are competent health service psychologists (HSPs) that facilitate optimal well-being and the transformation of unhealthy and oppressive societal structures through engagement with science and practice.

Program Mission and Aims

Our mission is to train skilled and ethical scientist-practitioners who use their counseling psychology professional identity to competently address the evolving needs of a diverse society.  Learn more about the ten competencies and ten knowledge areas that underlie our program’s dual aims.

Program Training Model

We use a competency-based approach to training based on the benchmark competencies developed by the Council of Chairs of Training Councils. We endorse the pedagogical principles for Preparing Professional Psychologists to Serve a Diverse Public and the Counseling Psychology Model Training Values Statement Addressing Diversity. We also embrace the following APA aspirational practice guidelines, among others: Multicultural Guidelines: An Ecological Approach to Context, Identity, and Intersectionality; Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women; Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Older Adults; and Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients; Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People; and Guidelines for Assessment of and Intervention with Persons with Disabilities.  For in-depth information about all facets of the program, download the Doctoral Program Handbook and Program of Study from the Handbooks and Forms page.

Students who are looking for a program that will prepare them to be competitive for a career in academia will be delighted to learn that our program faculty (click here to Meet the Faculty) are some of the most productive, cited, and awarded in counseling psychology.  Click on the Productivity radar map (Academic Analytics, 2016) to enlarge it and see for yourself:

Counseling Psychology 2014 Radar

Academic Preparation for the Doctoral Program

Generally, students who enter the doctoral program have completed the master’s degree in a psychology-related area. We may accept strong applicants who have completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, but do not have a master’s degree. These students are expected to complete our master’s level coursework and practica prior to beginning the doctoral coursework and practica. Students negotiate a specific program of study with their advisory committee during their first semester in the program.

How Students are Selected for Admission

The annual PhD program application deadline (click here to Apply) is December 1.

Drs. Hargons, Hammer, Rostosky, and Stevens-Watkins will be taking doctoral students for Fall 2021 start.

Applications for admission are evaluated by the program faculty who carefully and comprehensively review the applicant’s (a) GRE scores and GPA; (b) letters of recommendation addressing academic, research, and counseling experiences and interpersonal skills; (c) match with faculty research interests; (d) Statement of Purpose outlining professional goals (i.e., is it commensurate with our training model and social justice values, and does it demonstrate excellence in written communication); (e) contribution to diversity, broadly defined to include individual social identities and background experiences.  Note for students applying for Fall 2021 admission: we are NOT requiring GRE scores from applicants for this cycle.  The program faculty carefully considers the entire application of a prospective student and makes decisions based not only on numerical criteria but also on perceived fit with program goals, needs, and values. Therefore, a low score in one area can be off-set by high scores in another area.  There is no minimum GPA or GRE score requirement.  It is important that students articulate in their Statement of Purpose how their specific research interests match the research program of one or two of the counseling psychology faculty members.

To further maximize the “fit” between applicants and the Program, we conduct a doctoral interview day where we host top applicants who meet individually and in small groups with program faculty and current students.  PhD interview day is held each year on a Friday in late January or early February (the 2021 interview date is: TBA date, held via Zoom teleconference).  This interview process helps the program faculty and the prospective student to further assess fit. After the interview day, the program faculty meet to review, discuss, and make final decisions about admission offers. Final decisions are made based on student qualifications, match with a core faculty’s research, current faculty advisory loads, and student contribution to cultural and individual diversity.


The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in Counseling Psychology has been APA-accredited since November 9, 1983.

Questions related to the program’s accredited status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:

Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 1st Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979
Email: apaaccred@nullapa.org
Web: www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/

For specific questions about the Program, please contact:

Joseph H. Hammer, PhD
Assistant Professor and Director of Training
243 Dickey Hall
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0017
Email: joe.hammer@nulluky.edu
Phone: (859) 257-4158

We encourage prospective students to read the webpages mentioned above as well as the Handbook and Program of Study before emailing the Director of Training, as most questions are answered by these resources.  Dr. Hammer’s website also provides in-depth advice on applying to counseling psychology PhD programs.