PhD Program in Counseling Psychology


The doctoral program in counseling psychology is APA accredited. Our program follows the Boulder model for preparing scientist-practitioners, with an emphasis on social justice issues. The University of Kentucky Counseling Psychology program closely follows the American Psychological Association guidelines for professional practice.

The doctoral program requires full-time study (9-12 credits per semester) and residence.  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 gain employment either in Mental Health Agencies, University Counseling Centers, or in federal facilities (e.g., VA or prison). 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.

Program Philosophy and Social Justice Statement

The philosophy of the Counseling Psychology 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 in providing professional psychological services that facilitate human well-being and the transformation of unhealthy and oppressive societal structures.

Training Model

We use a competency-based approach to training based on the benchmark competencies developed for Professional Psychology and endorsed by the Council of Chairs of Training Councils (see our summary of Goals, Objectives, and Competencies). To further guide our training, we have endorsed 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: Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists; 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.

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 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

Mission and Goals

Our mission is to prepare and equip counseling psychologists to use their core values, scientist-practitioner skills, and leadership skills to competently address the ever-changing needs of a diverse society. Our program focuses on providing competency-based training in counseling interventions, in the scientific skills needed to create and evaluate new knowledge, and in the ethical and professional attitudes that promote excellence and leadership in the field of professional psychology.

The three goals that we have for each and every graduate from our program are:

  1. Professional identity as a counseling psychologist that is grounded in a holistic, systemic, strengths-based, culturally informed perspective on research and practice.
  2. Skilled and ethical scientist-practitioners who reflexively use skills in both domains to generate new knowledge and to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention and intervention efforts to optimize human functioning and health environments that support human functioning.
  3. Effective and engaged leadership across professional roles and activities.

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 do occasionally 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.

Check out our videos, in which our *doctoral students answer four questions* about their experience with the UK Counseling Psychology M.S. program.

How Students are Selected for Admission

The annual PhD application deadline is December 1.  PhD interview day is held each year on a Friday in late January or early February.  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) personal statement 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. 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). To further maximize the “fit” between applicants and the Program, we conduct an on-campus doctoral interview day where we host top applicants who meet individually and in small groups with Program Faculty and current students. 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 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 AssociationAPA
750 1st Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979 / E-mail:

For specific questions about the Program, please contact:

Sharon Rostosky, PhD
Professor and Director of Counseling Psychology Training
231 Dickey Hall
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0017
Phone: (859) 257-7880