Psy.D. Program Case Conference/Professional Development Seminar Series

Case Conference/Advanced Clinical Seminar Series

  • First-Year Case Conference
  • Second-Year Case Conference
  • Advanced Clinical Seminar

The Case Conference sequence is at the heart of the Wright Institute's Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. In weekly small-group meetings, students integrate theory and practice, considering what it means to think critically and function effectively as professional psychologists. Spanning all nine trimesters of academic residency, the sequence follows a developmental progression that responds to the students' evolving learning needs.

During the first-year Case Conference, students reflect on their internal experience as they function in clinical roles. They explore how their own experiences relate to the body of knowledge they have been studying including concepts of ethical responsibility, as well as legal reporting mandates expected of practitioners. Students are exposed to a wide range of clinical theories to advance their growing capacity to make use of their experiences as a source of information about the world of their clients. They learn to gather clinical data, organize case formulations, structure appropriate interventions, and present their work for supervision.

In the second-year Case Conference, the focus on students' individual case material helps them to articulate points of view about clinical work. Emphasis is on analyzing problems in creating and maintaining the structure of psychotherapy, and the nature of the relationship between the participants.

Students begin to make increasingly sophisticated case formulations, consider how to best use supervision, and further integrate learning from other course series - especially the Assessment and Intervention series. Students complete the second-year Case Conference with a more mature, complex understanding of clinical material and their role as clinicians.

The third-year Advanced Clinical Seminar provides students the opportunity to reflect on their academic and clinical work, and consolidate their identities as professionals working in multiple roles.

The Seminar focuses on dissertation writing and preparing internship application essays - both critical for students' future professional success.

The two-year Case Conference Series provides an opportunity for students to develop a key mentoring relationship with the Case Conference Leader and collegial relationships with peers. In line with the overall program philosophy, the Case Conferences emphasize the importance of human relationships to professional practice. It is an understood philosophical and practical position that the work of the conference is going on through the relationships between the students and their teacher, and among the students themselves. These relationships are considered central to the successful development of the students' professional identity as clinical psychologists as well as to the development of their clinical skills.

Case Conferences are organized so that students in each Conference work in a wide range of placements. This provides the opportunity for students to be exposed to the details of working in different settings. Reflecting this diversity of placements, case presentations may focus on intakes, on work with groups, with families and children, on emergency cases or individual psychotherapy. Each student develops a familiarity with the various settings and is exposed to the types of cases encountered there.

This variety creates a challenging learning experience, as students also discuss the broader issues as they apply in each setting. For example, students address currently vital questions such as: What are the implications of multicultural diversity for assessment and diagnosis? How do they diagnose patients without over-pathologizing them? How should they handle issues related to safety: suicidality, homicidality, child abuse? How can they address the most common biological or organically-based problems seen in the mental health setting: organic depression, drug and alcohol problems, medications? How do they work with other mental health professionals: psychiatrists, social workers, child care workers, case workers? How is confidentiality maintained while keeping records at agencies? What are the pros and cons of self-disclosure, when is it useful and when is it potentially counter-therapeutic?

Most students stay with the same case conference group for the first two years of the program, facilitating the development of these learning relationships that create the environment of safety required for the in-depth learning of clinical work. The Case Conference Leaders, by maintaining a formal structure and a problem-focused series of discussions, enable students to talk freely about their work experiences, and in some cases, about their more personal experiences and histories that affect their work. In addition, the Case Conference provides an important experience of team building and working collaboratively with other professionals for the good of the client. Finally, the Case Conference setting and the close relationships between the Case Conference leaders and their students make it possible to monitor carefully each student's performance in handling critical clinical issues on a day-to-day basis. It also ensures that the students are acquiring the skills they need to practice in accord with the current standards of care.

Case Conference Leaders meet with each other on a weekly basis to discuss students' progress, the evolution of the conferences, problems or concerns, and curriculum development. This forum provides an opportunity for the Case Conference Leaders to reflect on their own work with students and to gain valuable consultation and insight in the context of a collegial work group. In this way, there is another layer of mentoring and modeling, as Case Conference Leaders engage in the same self-reflective and collegial learning approaches that they are seeking to impart to students.


"I was ready to work locally, one-on-one with people in need. I knew I was a 'people person,' but I also knew I needed the breadth and depth of clinical and didactic training and theory offered at the Wright Institute. I have received excellent supervision and support in my case conference and professional development seminar to complement my clinical work in a behavioral health hospital, adult outpatient clinic, and elementary school with at-risk children. I couldn't have asked for a better experience rounded out by learning from insightful, experienced professors and supervisors, as well as collaborative, enthusiastic, intellectual classmates from a wide range of backgrounds."

Dr. Shannon Dubach, Class of '10