In most cases, clients seeking psychotherapy from a clinical psychologist would not know or care about the differences between academic programs offering either a Psy.D. or Ph.D.
Clients seek effective therapeutic care, care that helps them correct or mediate dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, and clinicians trained in both degree-models provide effective, professional, and proven psychological services.
The difference between the two degrees is on the focus of the training in graduate school. Psy.D. programs foremost emphasis is on training clinical practitioners. These graduates learn the science behind clinical practice and theory; however, becoming a “scientist” takes a secondary role. These programs use the practitioner-scholar model.
Ph.D. programs, on the other hand, focus on scientific training first, emphasizing the teaching of conducting empirical research studies, and applying the results of these studies to clinical practice. These programs use the scientist-practitioner model.
Students graduating with a Psy.D. in clinical psychology earn a Doctorate of Psychology, and those graduating with a Ph.D. earn a Doctorate of Philosophy.
For students considering either degree, some things to keep in mind are the kinds of financial support each degree program offers. Ph.D. graduate students typically conduct research, and many universities pay students for this type of work. Some Psy.D. programs have research positions available, but financial support often has to come from other sources.
And if a student’s overall goal is to secure a teaching and research position at a university or college after graduation, or work for a research-focused organization, a Ph.D. might offer more opportunities, depending on the school, program, and organization.
However, both degrees require supervised internships during graduate school, and all states require certification to practice clinical psychology with either degree. Most medical, community, and counseling centers value each degree, and the models on which they are taught.