Frequently Asked Questions
Forensic MA Program vs. PsyD Forensic Concentration
Q: What are the opportunities for training in forensic psychology at MSPP?
A: There are two primary opportunities for training in forensic psychology at MSPP.
One is the Masterís degree program in Forensic and Counseling Psychology. This program ordinarily is a two-year program that provides the student with skills in counseling psychology but with a focus upon counseling work with persons in court, correctional, juvenile justice, forensic hospitxal units, or other forensic settings. Classes, field placements and the capstone project reflect both the emphasis upon providing the students with counseling psychology skills and their application within forensic settings or with forensic populations. The student may apply directly for admission to this Masterís degree program.
The other opportunity is the Forensic Concentration within the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology program (clinical Psy.D.). Students apply for admission to the doctoral program first and then may be eligible to apply for the Forensic Concentration. The Psy.D. degree ordinarily takes 4-6 years to complete depending upon whether the student enters as a first year student or an ďadvanced standingĒ student, how much coursework a student can complete given family or other responsibilities, and how long it takes to complete the final Doctoral Project. The Forensic Concentration is based upon the view that specialized forensic practice must be based in fundamentally sound clinical psychology practice. As a result, students ordinarily complete the first two years of clinical training in the doctoral program and apply at the end of their second year to participate in the Forensic Concentration. Doctoral students in the Forensic Concentration graduate with the Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology but receive a Forensic Concentration certificate at graduation for successful completion of coursework, field placements and a Doctoral Project that have a forensic psychology focus.
Q: What are the differences between the degrees awarded and the license eligibility between the Masterís in Forensic and Counseling Psychology and the Doctoral programís Forensic Concentration?
A: Graduates of the Masterís in Forensic and Counseling Psychology will receive a Master of Artís (M.A.) degree. Providing that the student completes all other requirements for licensure, this M.A. degree allows the graduate to apply for licensure as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts. This license permits a professional to provide professional counseling and assessment services within the scope of practice defined by the regulations for Licensed Mental Health Counselors in Massachusetts. State laws about licensure and scope of practice vary by state, so applicants who do not intend to remain in Massachusetts following graduation should check the licensing requirements in the state where they intend to practice. Typically, licensure as a Masterís level counselor permits a person to provide counseling services, assessment services within the scope of each stateís licensure provisions (some assessment tools require a doctoral degree for independent administration and interpretation), and other professional services.
Potential applicants to other Masterís level programs should inquire as to whether or not completion of that program provides a degree that makes a graduate eligible for licensure in the jurisdiction where they intend to practice.
Graduates of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology will receive a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). Providing that the student completes any other requirements for licensure, this allows the graduate to apply for licensure as a Psychologist in Massachusetts. This license permits a professional to provide psychological services within the scope of practice defined by the license, including using psychological tests and assessment instruments for which a professional must be licensed as a Psychologist in Massachusetts.
State laws about licensure as a Psychologist and scope of practice vary by state, so applicants who do not intend to remain in Massachusetts following graduation should check the licensing requirements in the state where they intend to practice.
Application information, course information and program requirements can be found on the MSPP website for the Masterís program in Forensic and Counseling Psychology and for the Forensic Concentration within the Psy.D. program.
Q: I plan on living and practicing in Massachusetts after earning my degree. What differences in professional forensic practice are there between the Masterís degree and the Doctoral degree?
A: There are many highly trained licensed mental health professionals in Massachusetts. As a result, courts and attorneys tend to appoint or retain doctoral level psychologists or psychiatrists for criminal cases and for high-profile or high-stakes civil cases. That being said, the range of potential practice for Masterís level licensed clinicians is broad and can include providing clinical services in adult correctional or juvenile justice settings, psychoeducational services and some kinds of forensic assessment services in adult and juvenile court clinics, serving within state agencies, accepting appointments as Guardian ad Litem or Court Investigators, or providing clinical services within state hospital, community hospital, residential treatment programs, or community-based outpatient providers.
Some professional services require licensure as a Psychologist or as a physician. For example, only doctoral level psychologists or physicians (e.g., psychiatrists) can provide some kinds of court-ordered evaluations such as Competence to Stand Trial, Criminal Responsibility, involuntary psychiatric civil commitment, involuntary substance abuse commitment, or Aid in Disposition evaluations conducted while a defendant is on a forensic commitment status. Only licensed psychologists can provide some kinds of clinical and forensic assessments when using psychological tests and assessment tools that are restricted to use only by licensed psychologists.
Persons with the Masterís degree may also serve in administrative positions that do not require that they directly provide professional clinical services that would be beyond their scope of licensure. For example, persons with the Masterís Degree may hold administrative positions in provider organizations that employ psychologists, psychiatrists or others who provide services that would not be within the scope of practice of a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Persons with the Masterís degree may also teach, conduct research, author professional papers or provide other professional services that do not involve providing clinical services outside of the scope of their licensure.
Both Masterís level and Doctoral level persons can engage in private practice or other clinical or forensic services as long as those services are within the scope of practice for their specific license.
Q: Do I have to be a student in the Master’s program in Forensic and Counseling Psychology or a Forensic Concentration student in the Doctoral program to take forensic psychology classes at MSPP?
A: No. Students in any Master’s program or the Doctoral program can take classes with forensic psychology content as elective courses. For example, Doctoral students who are not in the Forensic Concentration can take Foundations of Forensic Psychology, Child/Family Forensic Psychology, Advanced Special Topics in Forensic Psychology, or other forensic psychology classes. In fact, students who are not admitted to any of the graduate programs (“non-matriculated” students) at MSPP can apply to take specific courses with forensic content.
Q: I think that I will apply to the Master’s program in Forensic and Counseling Psychology at MSPP, but also think that when I complete that program I will apply to the Psy.D. program. Won’t I just be learning things that I have already learned if I do that?
A: No. Successful graduates of the Master’s program in Forensic and Counseling Psychology at MSPP are eligible to apply to the clinical Psy.D. program as “advanced standing” doctoral students. This means that you will enter as a second year doctoral student instead of a first year doctoral student. Additionally, if you remain interested in pursuing the Forensic Concentration as a doctoral student, the content of the doctoral courses required by the Forensic Concentration is taught at a doctoral level and presumes that you have greater clinical experience and exposure to ethics and law relevant to professional psychological practice than is found at the Master’s level. Most Forensic Concentration doctoral students are also doing their placements in forensic settings (e.g., court clinics, state hospitals with forensic units or forensically committed patients, juvenile justice settings, correctional settings) while they are taking the courses required for Concentration and the course content seeks to draw upon their field placement experiences.