Training Philosophy

CAPS' philosophy of training incorporates the following tenets:

  • Learning is sequential, cumulative, and developmental
  • Learning is relational and reciprocal
  • Learning best occurs through experience with and exposure to multiple sources of knowledge/information (theory, research, and experiential) which is meaningfully evaluated, integrated, and synthesized via skilled, disciplined reflective thinking
  • Reflective thinking is learned and promoted through open discussion and shaped by expert guidance of more advanced clinicians
  • Socialization into the practice and profession of psychology occurs through mentoring, i.e. exposure to and collaboration with professional role models

The training program maintains a philosophy that trainees learn through observation of and interaction with more advanced clinicians, and thus become socialized into the profession. CAPS upholds a developmental/mentoring method of training, which emphasizes the acquisition and progressive advancement of professional skills and identity through apprenticeship to and supportive collaboration with experienced mental health practitioners. Trainee development along the continuum toward expert practitioner is promoted at CAPS through a process of graduated apprenticeship. The professional tasks expected of trainees increase over time in intensity, frequency, duration, complexity, and difficulty. Trainees progress from a position of dependency on the knowledge and guidance of supervisors and trainers, to interdependency, to independent practice that is collegial and collaborative. Because development is viewed as lifelong and spanning the duration of one's professional career, CAPS also promotes the continuing education of all its staff through in-service programs, case conferences, and other staff development activities.

Apprenticeship is at the core of many training activities, especially in the early stage of the training year. When developing a new skill, trainees learn by observation and then by doing, working collaboratively with individual supervisors and training staff to observe how professional practice is conducted within a university counseling center. In many cases, trainees initially co-conduct an activity (e.g. outreach program) or clinical service (e.g., intake assessment interview, therapy group) with a supervisor or other member of the training staff. This permits the use of trainer modeling and allows for increasing degrees of trainee involvement and responsibility until it is mutually determined that the trainee is ready to provide the service more independently while still utilizing supervision and training meetings for consultation and guidance. Ongoing mentoring occurs through didactic learning, modeling, direct supervision, and collaborative service delivery. All componets of the CAPS Training Program seek to exemplify this model of training, and its policies and procedures are developed within this context.

Diversity among trainees and staff, in terms of academic, theoretical, ethnic/racial, cultural, sexual orientation, physical abilities, and experiential backgrounds, is highly valued in bringing a range of perspectives to bear upon the sensitivity and relevance of CAPS’ mission. In addition to advancing their own professional growth during the training year, it is expected that interns and externs will contribute significantly to the Center’s general mission in meeting the needs of Northwestern students for psychological services and in enriching the ongoing development of other trainees and staff.