Psy.D. Program Focus Areas and Certificates

The Wright Institute provides a broad and general clinical psychology education while also offering training in specific focus areas rooted in science and discipline-specific knowledge (DSK) of the profession. Each focus area requires the completion of relevant electives, practicum, and dissertation research. Completion of a focus area increases expertise in specific areas of practice and DSK, and will be noted on students' transcripts.

The Wright Institute currently offers the following focus areas:

  • Psychodynamic: Psychotherapy Theories & Techniques
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Psychotherapy Theories & Techniques
  • First Responders Mental Health
  • Child Assessment Focus Area
  • Neuropsychological Assessment Focus Area
  • Multicultural and Community
  • Health Psychology

To complete a focus area, a student must complete:

  • 5 focus area electives chosen from a menu that is specific to the focus area
  • 1 practicum (second year or above) relevant to the knowledge and practice of the focus area
  • Dissertation topic relevant to focus area

Psychodynamic Focus Area

The Psychodynamic focus area provides rigorous training in psychoanalytic theory and practice, which has a long and distinguished history among psychotherapeutic approaches and remains to this day one of the major models of intervention. It's the treatment of choice for many different disorders and presentations, a claim that has in recent years been supported by a significant body of empirical research. Since first opening its doors, the Wright Institute has offered exemplary psychodynamic training and continues this legacy by advancing this focus area. Examples of theories covered include object relations, self psychology, contemporary relational, intersubjectivity, and control mastery.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Focus Area

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focus area provides comprehensive training in contemporary, evidence based, cognitive behavioral approaches for working with diverse clients with a wide range of presenting problems. Research supporting the efficacy and effectiveness of CBT is robust. Clinicians who develop a proficiency in this area are well equipped to help their patients decrease their symptoms and improve their quality of life, and there is a strong job market for clinicians who have trained and specialized in CBT. Examples of CBT modalities covered include acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, schema based CBT, and mindfulness based CBT.

First Responder Psychology Focus Area

The focus area in First Responder Psychology addresses a pressing need for trained professionals who can serve a deserving first responder community. This is a unique and burgeoning area of practice. Students with training in First Responder psychology are needed to bridge the gap between the community and public servants in areas such as community trauma, race relations and social justice.

First Responder psychologists work in a variety of settings such as large local, state and federal law enforcement and fire departments, private corporations or small group practices; and, this growing field needs bright, imaginative psychologists ready to tackle questions that will contribute to its body of literature. Teaching faculty are licensed psychologists who actively work with firefighters, EMTs, police officers, correctional officers, dispatchers and their families.

The curriculum for this focus area involves completion of 4 core-courses that incorporate 10 foundational and 55 functional competencies within four domains essential to practicing clinicians who work with emergency responders and public safety organizations. These four domains are anchored through a four course curriculum: 1) Introduction 2) Assessment 3) Intervention 4) Operations & Consultation. Each course is one trimester long and presents relevant knowledge, skill sets, and attitudes needed to practice in this area and covers the relevant legal, ethical and cultural issues.

Child Assessment Focus Area

The Child Assessment focus area provides in-depth training in administering, scoring, and interpreting cognitive and behavioral assessments for children and adolescents. Proficiency is obtained in writing cohesive reports that integrate behavioral observations, interviews, and assessments. Providing accurate assessment for children is a fundamental and needed skill when providing appropriate care for complex health needs and children's overall well-being. Developmental and sociocultural understanding of children and their families is emphasized. Examples of courses in this area include Child Assessment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Child Intervention, and Psychodynamic Child Intervention.

Neuropsychological Assessment Focus Area

The Neuropsychological Assessment focus area offers advanced training in neuropsychological screening and evaluation for patients. Proficiency in this area will equip you with the skills to assess and interpret the relationship between the function of the nervous system, cognition, emotion and behavior and to apply this knowledge to individualized patient interventions. Examples of courses covered in this area include Neuropsychological Assessment and Neuropsychology for Clinicians.

Community and Multicultural Focus Area

The Community and Multicultural Focus area develops doctoral students' advanced proficiency in serving culturally diverse communities, especially marginalized communities, through the teaching of multicultural psychology and social justice frameworks, by completing training programs specifically designed to advance clinical skills in multiculturalism, and by conducting research that contributes to the field of multiculturalism. Being a culturally aware, culturally humble, and a culturally informed practitioner of psychology is a standard of good care that all Wright Institute students are trained in throughout the core curriculum. Therefore, the Community and Multicultural focus area builds off of this core foundation and is designed for further training in the intersecting areas of race, ethnicity, sexuality, spirituality, disability, gender, immigration, and other important sociocultural variables. Examples of electives in this area include Clinicians to Society, Advocacy, Human Sexuality, and Spirituality.

Health Psychology Focus Area

The Health Psychology focus area provides students with the opportunity to cultivate competencies essential for working in healthcare settings, such as primary care, medical centers, hospitals, and rehabilitation programs. Embracing a biopsychosocial approach, this focus area provides students with foundational knowledge and clinical training in evidence-based practice in the areas of health psychology and behavioral medicine. Students will attain an understanding of the intricate interplay among physical, psychological, behavioral, social, environmental, community, and cultural factors, and they will gain insights into the pivotal roles that these factors play in shaping well-being, influencing disease onset and exacerbation, and guiding effective health management. Students will also be introduced to the core professional values and attitudes integral to clinical health psychology, with an emphasis on multidisciplinary teamwork and collaboration that are essential in this field of practice.


"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

"The Wright is a warm community in which diversity of thought, expression, and aptitude are embraced. Students and faculty share a commitment to relieve human suffering and an awe for human experience. It is rare to find a community at once so welcoming and challenging. The Wright Institute helped me develop a strong foundation in clinical psychology and the confidence to apply this knowledge in innovative ways."

Dr. Kelly McCoy, Class of '08