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PhD in Clinical Psychology Emphasis Areas, San Diego

Explore new ideas and expand your practice with experience and emphasis areas.


PhD Emphasis Areas

Child/Family Emphasis

The program provides a solid generalist education and training in clinical psychology in accordance with the accreditation guidelines of the American Psychological Association. In this program you may wish to focus your electives in a specific area in preparation of the pursuit of further specialization, which typically occurs at the postdoctoral level. 

“Clinical child and adolescent psychology is a specialty of professional psychology, which brings together the basic tenets of clinical psychology with a thorough background in child, adolescent and family development and developmental psychopathology. Clinical child and adolescent psychologists conduct scientific research and provide psychological services to infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents. The research and practices of clinical child and adolescent psychology are focused on understanding, preventing, diagnosing, and treating psychological, cognitive, emotional, developmental, behavioral, and family problems of children. Of particular importance to clinical child and adolescent psychologists is a scientific understanding of the basic psychological needs of children and adolescents and how the family and other social contexts influence socio-emotional adjustment, cognitive development, behavioral adaptation, and health status of children and adolescents. There is an essential emphasis on a strong empirical research base recognizing the need for the documentation and further development of evidence-based assessments and treatments in clinical child and adolescent psychology.” (Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology,, downloaded January 14, 2020).

The aim of the child/family emphasis area is to prepare you to specialize in child/family psychology by augmenting your generalist training with this foundational knowledge.

Health Psychology Emphasis

Health psychology is concerned with biopsychosocial factors related to health and illness, the individuals affected, and the health care providers and institutions that serve them. Students who elect the health psychology emphasis area develop knowledge and skills that integrate the medical/biological domains and the psychological/social domains in order to provide a theoretical and practical foundation for the roles that clinical psychologists play in a variety of health care settings.

Military and Veteran Psychology Experience Area

The military and veteran psychology experience area is designed to:

  1. Provide you with an understanding of military and veteran culture for therapeutic practice with veterans and military personnel and their families.
  2. Familiarize you with evidence-based interventions and resources available to clinicians treating these populations.

Multicultural/Diversity Emphasis

Alliant places great value on issues of individual and cultural diversity, and provides many opportunities to deepen your appreciation for and study of the role of diversity in people’s lives and their well-being. Our approach to multiculturalism incorporates diversity in many domains, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and international status, age, social class, religion, and ability levels.

Central to traditional clinical psychology is the examination of factors known to be relevant to mental health/mental illness as western society has largely defined them. The goal of this emphasis area is to go beyond the traditional western, majority cultural viewpoint of individualism to consider cultural and societal level influences on the individual, as well as their influence on our conceptualization of normal and abnormal human behavior as a field.

The aim of the multicultural/diversity emphasis area is to prepare you to specialize in this area of study and clinical application by augmenting your generalist training with this foundational knowledge.

Psychodynamic Emphasis

The psychodynamic emphasis provides you with a coherent practical and theoretical framework to practice general psychology in a variety of settings with children and adults. At the San Diego campus, the psychodynamic emphasis curriculum exposes you to coursework and supervision integrating object relations, self-psychology, analytic psychology, existential psychology, and cognitive, science-based approaches to unconscious processes. Coursework and supervision prepare you for further professional development and specialization beyond the doctorate.

Trauma-Focused Forensic Experience

Competence in performing forensic work requires specialized training and practice at the postdoctoral level and is dependent on underlying foundational competency in the science and professional practice of psychology. The trauma-focused forensic experience prepares you to specialize in forensic psychology by augmenting your generalist training with foundational knowledge of the core principles of the application of psychology to the legal system, including:

  1. Foundations of the legal system (e.g., types of courts, expert witness requirements, responses to subpoenas)

  2. Basic legal principles that are relevant to forensic practice (e.g., constitutional rights, statutory provisions, case law)

  3. Differences in methodologies between general clinical assessment and forensic assessment

  4. Assessment of insanity and competency (relevant laws, sample evaluation materials)

  5. Assessment issues in trauma populations

  6. Ethical issues that arise particularly in forensic contexts

  7. Sociocultural considerations relevant to forensic practice