Comparing Canadian Clinical and Counseling Psychology Programs

Students are getting ready to head back to college and among the many decisions they will have is their course selection. Psychology students pursuing master’s degrees or doctorates must choose between becoming a clinical or counseling psychologist. In the United States, the differences between these two specialties are quite clear. But for Canadian students, there is a significant overlap that makes it more difficult to distinguish between the two degrees. Therefore, Robinder P. Bedi of the Department of Psychology at Western Washington University recently reviewed the criteria that define these two areas of study in order to help Canadian students make a more informed career decision.

Bedi used a detailed coding tool to compare more than 300 independent factors of both the clinical (ClPhD) and counseling PhD (CoPhD) programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA).  The results revealed that although the two fields do mirror each other in some areas, there are specific differences as well. Specifically, both the CoPhD and ClPhD programs provide extensive assessment training and allow graduates to practice as registered psychologists. Additionally, each of the degree programs includes both scientific and practical experience.

In contrast, the CoPhD programs offer more multicultural training and have more hours of practical experience than the ClPhD programs. Additionally, more women tend to enroll in the counseling degree programs, and these students usually receive their degrees sooner than those enrolled in clinical programs. The ClPhD programs appear to have more male enrollees and focus more heavily on assessment and pathology. The ClPhD programs also offer a continuous educational process by which students remain at one university and enter the masters or PhD program immediately upon receiving their bachelor’s degree. The CoPhD programs are more flexible and students are accepted into the program regardless of where they obtained their bachelor’s degree. In sum, Bedi believes that Canadian CoPhD programs provide more supervision than ClPhD programs and allow students to attend to a more diverse client base, whereas the ClPhD programs provide students with more assessment and diagnostic education. Bedi added, “Students seeking guidance on which of the two specializations better fits their academic/professional goals can use this information to assist with career decision-making.”

Bedi, R. P., Klubben, L. M., Barker, G. T. (2012). Counselling vs. clinical: A comparison of psychology doctoral programs in Canada. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028558

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  • Natalie

    July 19th, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    If I had to choose I think that the counseling route would be the right path for me. As I guess that is predictable that I would choose this as a female. Pretty much adhering to the other trends in the field that you are already seeing.

  • Benetta

    July 19th, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Which just goes to show you that patients when seeking a therapist really need to loom into the backgrounds of those they are considering to find the one who will offer more the type of care that you are seeking. If you are striucly looking for a diagnosis and what causes it then maybe you should look for someone with more clinical hours; but if you are seeking someone with a greater world view and who can perhaps help you integrate that into your own life, then perhaps someone with a counseling background could be the better choice for you. This does not have to be a strict guideline but at least it gives you somewhere to start.

  • trevor james

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    often becomes difficult as a student when two degrees have so much in common. a short and concise guide like this explaining the differences between the two can be a gift. thank you to the contributor for lending a helping hand to thousands of individuals who will need this.

  • Cole

    July 20th, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    Why wouldn’t the amount of practical hours be the same for both career paths?

  • Junie

    July 21st, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    To add to Cole’s question, I would like to hear whether the Canadian programs are considered more attractive for employers over those like the ones found in the US? And if they aren’t then why shouldn’t the programs be structured in the same way as one another? Surely there is a reason why they are different? I have heard of different schools doing programs that are slightly different, but the national differential is a new one on me.

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