This intensive course provides a professional training in counselling psychology for a yearly in-take of up to approximately 12 to 14 students. The three main objectives of the course are (1) to allow students to obtain a level of postgraduate academic and research performance appropriate for the award of a doctoral qualification, (2) to progress this academic and research performance with the practice of counselling psychology, and (3) to acquire professional knowledge and skills. The course emphasizes the scientist-practitioner model and research-informed practice. The scientist-practitioner model is fostered through research classes and work on the research dissertation. Students are informed on a variety of research strategies (including e.g. experimental, quasi-experimental as well as descriptive and qualitative, phenomenological, hermeneutic, discourse analytic and grounded theory approaches) and learn to critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different methodologies.
Course Content and Structure
Taught classes as well as counselling skills training, supervision and reflective practice modules emphasises the application of current psychological knowledge informed by empirical research in the work of the counselling psychologist. The students are facilitated to be aware of current research findings and to incorporate them into their clinical practice. In the first year the course offers academic and practical skills training in counselling psychology and related research. After the first few weeks of concentrated, full time coursework and personal development work, 2 full days per week are spent on placement and 2-3 days in classes. The D.Couns.Psych. offers a wide range of course approved placement options in community, health, mental health, education and private practice settings, as well as welcoming new student recommended sites, particularly for those students residing outside the greater Dublin area. At least 3 different placements are required during the 3 years of the course. The second year involves further training in counselling theories and practice, and students conduct a research dissertation related to counselling psychology, initiated during the summer before entering second year.
Personal development work, including individual therapy, is required throughout the 3 years. The third year includes small group supervision, reflective practice, and advanced counselling and psychotherapy theory and its application. However, the main focus will be on research. A research project resulting in the doctoral dissertation is carried throughout the three years. Courses are taught and supervision provided by both core staff and other practitioners from varied theoretical orientations. Humanistic theory underlies the course. Psychodynamic and systemic perspectives are also emphasised, and training in cognitive behavioural approaches is provided. Practical placements continue through the summer and always follow the placement site's calendar, not that of College. Guidelines for all aspects of the course are provided. All components of the course must be passed i.e., practical, academic; research, and personal development, as well as members of the Court of Examiners recommending the student as suitable to receiving the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology degree.
Graduates of this course are skilled to conduct mental health assessments and therapy with individuals, couples and groups across the lifespan. Typically, they start to specialise during their studies and further develop their skills after the course. They are employed by Health Service Executive, e.g. the National Counselling Service, Refugee and Asylum Seekers Service, Autism Services; Voluntary agencies; e.g. St. John of God's Services, Brothers of Charity Services, National Association for the Deaf; third level student counselling services; private practice; research settings; and multiple other locations.