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Admissions FAQs

Click on one of the frequently asked questions below to see the response.

What does it mean to base psychology on the Catholic understanding of the person?

The IPS mission statement declares that “IPS is dedicated to the renewal of the Catholic Christian intellectual tradition and the integration of the theoretical and empirical bases of psychology and a Catholic view of the human person.”  But what does this mean? (Forgive the lengthy answer, but this question goes to the root of what we’re doing here!)

IPS is forming mental health professionals to meet the growing demand in today’s culture for therapists who respect the dignity and uniqueness of every client. IPS clinicians go beyond simple symptom relief to facilitate true healing and growth for clients and their families.  Our training emphasizes not only assessment and treatment of psychological disorders, but also how to help clients develop virtues and flourish as human beings.

To assist in articulating this integrated understanding of each client’s complete reality (spiritual, emotional, temporal), the IPS faculty – clinicians and theoreticians, sociologists, philosophers and theologians – meet regularly in a research group call the Faculty Integration Project.  A decade of this multidisciplinary work has resulted in “The IPS Model” of integration.

This IPS Model brings together scientific psychology’s theoretical and empirically based knowledge with philosophical and theological insights about the person from the Catholic faith to provide a foundation for the study and practice of psychology.  Philosophy tells us that the person is one (a body-soul unity); bodily (encompassing the physical, neurological, emotional, etc.), interpersonally relational or social (the person is always in a context, never in isolation); rational (has the capacity to think), and possesses free will (though there are limitations: we cannot control everything).  Theologically we know that each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God, yet fallen, but redeemed in Christ.

Of course, we don’t bring these points up when we sit down with a client, but we work so that they inform how we view the client, as one student explained: “This anthropology is very forgiving in terms of the human person: through our Catholic lens the client is better understood and more easily forgiven for being broken in some way… The person is treated with genuine compassion, because every time we encounter a client, we encounter the mystery of this human person and of God.”

The IPS Model also emphasizes the particular vocations of both the therapist and the client.  It views the mental health professional as having a vocation to heal, and believes that the many elements of each client’s specific state in life – single, married, raising a family, professional, member of the clergy – play an integral role in the therapeutic process.  By understanding the whole person, clinicians can provide more effective treatment.

What can I do with a degree from IPS / What are IPS graduates doing?

IPS alumni are in demand, and our graduates are working all over the country (and the world), in Catholic as well as Christian and secular settings. They have pursued licensure (either at the master’s or doctoral level) in various states, and opened private practices or started working in clinics, mental health centers, dioceses, schools, and seminaries. Some currently work with military families, others are teaching. We regularly get requests from people wanting to hire our graduates. To read a few of their stories, click here.

Is IPS accredited?

IPS is professionally accredited on the State level (State Council on Higher Education of Virginia – SCHEV) and the Regional level (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges – SACS COC). We are also listed on the National Register of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), which in a number of states is considered equivalent to accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA) when it comes to licensure.

In December 2011, after 12 years of operation and five years of doctoral graduates, IPS submitted its application for accreditation with the American Psychological Association (APA).  The APA responded with a series of questions requiring a response in three months.  After discussion with the Board of Directors as well as outside consultants, IPS decided to withdraw its application (which carries no penalty) in order to sufficiently respond to the APA.  We plan to re-submit the application in September 2014.

APA accreditation only applies to the Psy.D. program, not the master’s programs.

In spite of our not yet being APA-accredited, our students have received externships, internships and jobs at APA and APPIC-accredited sites, and have received excellent evaluations from their supervisors. Additionally, all of our Psy.D. graduates have received licensure in the jurisdictions in which they have applied.

How are the M.S. and doctoral programs structured?

The M.S. program in Clinical Psychology consists of 65 credit hours, designed to be completed in two years and two summers of academics as well as an externship. The first year is filled with class work; the first summer is two courses as well as “boot camp” or preparation to begin the practicum.  The second year consists of class work and a clinical externship. Coursework is completed that second summer.  For an overview of the M.S. Clinical curriculum, click here.

The Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology program consists of five academic years and summers:

  • Year 1 & 2: Coursework (comparable to the M.S. program but with differences in classes, and without the clinical externship). Begin work on dissertation.
  • Year 3: Coursework and an externship at the IPS Training Clinic (on campus)
  • Year 4: Coursework combined with an off-campus externship
  • Year 5: Pre-doctoral internship — anywhere in the U.S., depending on where you get “matched”

For a detailed overview of the Psy.D. curriculum, click here.

Can I apply directly to the doctoral program?

This can sound like a complicated issue, so it helps to understand a few things first. The five-year IPS doctoral program actually includes the IPS master’s program in clinical psychology – so starting in the master’s program is the path taken by most aspirants to the doctoral degree.

Also, due to the uniqueness of the IPS program, it is recommended that students interested in a doctoral degree begin with their master’s at IPS.  Those students possessing a master’s degree in clinical psychology or related field from another institution are able to apply directly to the Psy.D. program, but are only permitted to transfer a maximum of 18 credit hours.

The programs are set up so that students begin with the master’s program and in November of their first year apply to the doctoral program. If accepted, they begin taking doctoral-level electives that summer and continue on the doctoral path. All of their first-year classes apply toward their doctoral degree and they actually receive the M.S. degree on their way to completing the Psy.D.

It may help to look at the curricula side-by-side (click here).

What's the workload like at IPS?

IPS is preparing its graduates to be excellent therapists and leaders in the field — so the workload is pretty intense.  Like most graduate programs, a lot of reading is expected, including graduate-level theology and philosophy.  Once the clinical practica begin – in the second year for master’s students or third year for doctoral – they add their own intensity to the mix.  Doctoral students also must keep up with their dissertations, which they initiate in the spring semester of their second year.

Though this may sound intense, there’s a great spirit of community, cooperation and collaboration among the students, faculty and staff to make it happen.  Every year, students spontaneously form study groups and are committed to helping each other succeed.  Faculty are very available with their office hours and as mentors for the students, especially when supervising those in their externships.  Many initiatives have taken shape to assist students in their development: the Writing Resources Service and the Living the Call series among others.  Students often share that they feel very much supported (and prayed for!) by their classmates and attest to the fact that the effort is worth it.

Do I have to have a psychology background to apply to IPS?

Since you are pursuing graduate studies in psychology, it is recommended to have some background in order to be more knowledgeable about the field.  At the same time, it is not a requirement, and students come to IPS with a variety of backgrounds.

Students entering IPS without a minimum of 18 credit hours of coursework in basic psychology content areas (e.g. developmental, experimental, biological, social psychology, personality theory, statistics, tests and measurements) will be required to take a 1-credit psychology seminar given throughout the first year.

How do IPS students pay for their education?

IPS students are very creative and industrious when it comes to making their education here possible.  Most of our students work part-time while they are in school, and many have been able to find jobs that will build their resumes.  There is definitely the view that their education is an investment in the future career, so the sacrifices they are making are deemed as worth it.

IPS students are eligible for Federal Student Loans, and we also offer Assistantships and Federal Work-Study programs to help you bridge the gap between your own resources and the amount of money you need to pay for your education. Our Financial Aid office has also compiled a list of organizations and foundations offering funding to graduate students. For more information, please see the Financing Your Education section of our website.

Where do IPS students live?

Most students rent apartments or houses in the Arlington/Alexandria (Virginia) area; most end up living with classmates.  IPS’ location, 1 block from a Metro stop and on multiple bus stops, makes it easy to commute.  Other students drive or carpool and park in our underground lot.

Incoming students are able to connect with other students to find housing through the IPS Facebook Community, or through the Student Services Office. Other websites connect people as well (e.g. Catholics looking to live in the D.C. area, etc.).  Further, there are a few religious communities in Washington, DC, that offer housing for female students.  Click here for more information.

What's the process for international students?

We love having international students!  There have been some in almost every class so far. International students apply just like U.S. students would, but need to complete a TOEFL test if English is not their first language, and their transcripts need to be evaluated trough an independent service (www.ECE.org, www.wes.org). Depending on the decision of the Admissions Committee, they have the option of doing their admissions interviews via Skype. Further, they will need to get a visa. For more information, click here.

Do most of your students come right out of undergrad?

Our student body is actually quite diverse!  While about half of each year’s entering class does come right out of undergrad, even those students hail from a variety of places and experiences. Others come to IPS after spending a few years doing volunteer work, starting a career path, and/or discerning their vocations.  We’ve had priests and religious come to IPS at various ages, as well as men and women who’ve raised their families and are looking for a second career.  One thing they all have in common is a passion to make a difference by helping and serving others, which builds a beautiful spirit of community.

Are your students trained to work only in Catholic or Christian settings?

No. Our students are trained to work with any client, anywhere. The difference the Catholic approach makes has to do with how our students view and understand their clients: with utmost respect for their human dignity.  A number of IPS students and graduates do end up in those settings, because Catholic therapists are in demand.

Do I have to be Catholic to come to IPS?

No, you do not have to be Catholic – but it’s important to be aware that IPS is a Catholic institution!  As our Mission Statement says, “IPS is dedicated to the renewal of the Catholic Christian intellectual tradition and the integration of the theoretical and empirical bases of psychology and a Catholic view of the human person,” so we do ask our students to at least be respectful of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

What's the difference between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D.?

Both degrees are doctoral degrees in psychology.  The former (Psychology Degree) is designed to be more clinical, preparing students to work in therapeutic settings.   The latter (Philosophy Doctorate) is traditionally more research-oriented and geared to prepare students to conduct research and work in academia.   It is important to know what kind of career path you’d like to pursue in order to choose the program that’s right for you.