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Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Professional Psychology

The Emory University School of Medicine Postdoctoral Fellowship Training Program in Professional Psychology is based in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Pediatrics, and the Division of Neurosciences & Rehabilitation Medicine (Division of Neuropsychology and Behavioral Health). The program has been in existence since 1979. The program is a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). The fellowship prepares trainees for professional psychology practice at an advanced level of competence in a substantive traditional area of practice (clinical psychology) or in a specialty practice area (clinical neuropsychology).

The fellowship program includes positions at a university affiliated public health system in downtown Atlanta (Grady Health System); the Division of Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Programs in the Emory Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences;  Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA); the Marcus Autism Center; and the Emory Center for Rehabilitation Medicine. All psychologists are faculty members in the medical school and are noted in the attached compendium. In addition, various physicians contribute to the fellowship as conference leaders, presenters, and supervisors, and are listed in the attached compendium. The experiences of the postdoctoral fellowship training are determined largely by the particular setting(s) in which the fellow is involved.  The strength of this academic health sciences center postdoctoral fellowship lies in the diversity of opportunities available, the priority placed on teaching and training, and the rich clinical-research environment. 

The fellowship program strives to provide exemplary postdoctoral training consistent with a scientist-practitioner model. The training is designed to be developmental and contextual in nature, and is centered on the individual needs and goals of each postdoctoral fellow. While our expertise is in developing professional psychologists for leadership roles that combine clinical service, research, and education, our ultimate commitment is to helping our fellows define, articulate, and progress towards their own chosen career path. Consistent with our individual focus, our program offers training in specific areas of emphasis. The faculty associated with the training program, as well as the administration of the relevant departments and programs, highly value postdoctoral education and training, as it is consistent with the Emory University School of Medicine’s emphasis on training leaders who demonstrate outstanding ability in service, scholarship, and education/training.

All positions include time for direct service (assessment, intervention, consultation), research/evaluation, the conduct of supervision, and professional development activities. Some positions also afford fellows the opportunity to engage in teaching, management-administration, and advocacy. The training program offers the opportunity to work in a professional and scientific community and to establish a more integrated professional identity.  Throughout all aspects of the program, an emphasis is placed on professionalism, reflective practice/self-assessment/self-care, scientific knowledge and methods, relationships, individual and cultural diversity, ethical and legal standards and policies, and interdisciplinary systems. See Our Commitment to Diversity on our website, which underscores our community’s values with regard to individual and cultural diversity. Considerable attention is paid to the individual professional development of the fellow as a psychotherapist (individual, group, couples, family), diagnostician (achievement, cognitive, functional analysis of behavior, neuropsychological, personality, projective), consultant, clinical-researcher, supervisor, teacher, program innovator and evaluator, interdisciplinary team member, and advocate. An emphasis is placed in all positions on developing competence in working with diverse and underserved populations.

There are a range of theoretical orientations represented in the academic health sciences center, including behavioral, biological, cognitive-behavioral, developmental, existential/humanistic, family systems, interpersonal, neurobiological, and psychodynamic.  While the supervisory orientations differ depending on the service setting, the majority of the psychologists identify themselves as integrationists.  Intensive supervision, based upon service and research responsibilities and the fellow's developmental needs, is a major component of the training program. Clinical supervision may include, but is not limited to the following: intensive review of case material; co-therapy; live supervision; readings; discussions of the integration of theory, research, and practice; and explorations of the self of the therapist. Postdoctoral fellows are invited to share personal reactions and to engage in a process of self-examination. Research supervision may include, but is not limited to the following: research team meetings, discussions of research findings, manuscript preparation, and grant preparation. All fellows receive a minimum of two hours per week, with most fellows receiving four to six hours per week of supervision.

Research/evaluation opportunities, either independently or in collaboration with existing projects, also constitutes an integral component of many of the postdoctoral experiences.  The amount of time available for research depends on the particular fellowship position.  Primary areas of research focus include assessment and treatment of individuals with severe psychopathology; child/adolescent and adult psychopathology (e.g., depression, suicide, schizophrenia); child and family therapy; family violence (child abuse and neglect; intimate partner violence); epilepsy; traumatic brain injury; neurological disorders including stroke and rehabilitation outcome. 

Fellows who participate in the pediatric psychology positions will have the option of participating in one or more of the following pediatric research programs for four hours per week: family interactions and depression among children with asthma; developmental disabilities; pediatric end of life care guidelines; pain measurement, adherence interventions, and computerized health education interventions in pediatric and adolescent sickle cell disease; families and pediatric cancer; pediatric burns; promoting literacy in pediatric settings; prenatal tobacco exposure and language development in infants; fetal alcohol syndrome; single-case evaluation of treatments for self-injury, feeding disorders, and language delay; phenotypic profiles for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and prenatal exposure to alcohol. They will have the opportunity to choose their project once they arrive at the fellowship.

Fellows are required to attend a weekly seminar that focuses on issues of professional development, pathways and skills for career development, balancing personal and professional considerations, networking, preparing for licensure, ethical and legal guidelines and dilemmas, the future of psychology, and topics of general interest decided upon by the group. In past years, this seminar has addressed such topics as supervision, advocacy, family therapy, sex therapy, object relations theory and therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, empirically supported treatments, assessment and intervention with diverse populations (gender, ethnicity, disability status, sexual orientation), and brief therapy. In addition, fellows in this seminar have collaborated on research projects related to postdoctoral training. Fellows also must attend at least one additional seminar, and may elect to attend more seminars. The following additional seminars are available: live supervision family therapy seminar, brief psychodynamically informed psychotherapy seminar, child clinical/pediatric psychology seminar, neuropsychology case seminar, forensics seminar, epilepsy case conference, neuropathology rounds, and case conference related to adults with serious mental illness. Postdoctoral fellows are expected to attend 10 grand rounds per year of their choosing, and may do so in any department in the academic health sciences center or university. In addition, fellows are encouraged to participate in the review of manuscripts that have been submitted to journals for publication consideration.

Postdoctoral fellows also participate in a job mentorship program, which has been extremely successful since its inception six years ago. The goal of this program is to assign each fellow to two job mentors, psychologists engaged in the career path of interest to the fellow. Fellows meet with these mentors monthly, and receive guidance throughout their job searches and help with networking. Concurrent with this, considerable emphasis is placed during the weekly postdoctoral fellowship seminar on job seeking activities. To further aid fellows in their professional networking endeavors, all fellows are expected to be a member of at least one local, regional, or national professional psychology organization. In prior years, fellows have obtained jobs in diverse settings and have assumed myriad responsibilities. Common employment settings have included, but are not limited to, academic health sciences centers, academic psychology departments (undergraduate and graduate), medical facilities and practices, community mental health centers, forensic facilities, consulting practices, and private practice. Upon completion of the fellowship, fellows have assumed positions that involve administration, teaching, supervision, and direct service.

Postdoctoral Fellows complete a postdoctoral fellowship contract in collaboration with their supervisors at the beginning of the training year. This contract outlines the direct service (assessment, intervention, consultation), research/evaluation, the conduct of supervision, and professional development activities in which they will engage during the year. If applicable, the contract outlines teaching, management-administration, and advocacy activities. In addition, the contract outlines the supervision they will receive, and the seminars and Grand Rounds they will attend. This contract serves as the basis for the two formal evaluations that are conducted at mid-year (6 months after the start of the fellowship) and year-end. Also at these two evaluation periods, the fellows have the opportunity to evaluate their supervisors. At the end of the year, they also provide formal feedback on the postdoctoral fellowship seminar and their overall experience as postdoctoral fellows. In addition to these two formal evaluation periods, informal and verbal feedback is ongoing. At the beginning of the training year, all postdoctoral fellows are provided with Due Process Guidelines, which describe the process that will be followed if either the program has concerns about the trainee’s performance or if the trainee has concerns about any aspect of the training program. These guidelines include all steps of the grievance procedure leading to termination if the grievance is against the trainee, including written notification, remediation plan, probation, termination, and appeal. Similarly, steps are outlined for trainee’s filing of complaints.

The postdoctoral fellowship program is typically a one-year full-time experience, with exceptions made for personal reasons (e.g., birth of a child, family leave). However, both the fellowship position in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Neuropsychology position at CHOA are two-year full-time experiences, consistent with the guidelines set forth by the Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology (APPCN). By the completion of the fellowship, all fellows have the requisite 1500 hours, supervision, and direct service experiences needed for licensure in the State of Georgia, as well as all other jurisdictions that fall within the rubric of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. All fellows are expected to sit for the written part of the national licensure examination (EPPP) during the first six months of the fellowship year, unless they have already done so. The neuropsychology fellow typically takes the EPPP during the second year of the fellowship.

The Emory University School of Medicine Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). The two-year, neuropsychology positions in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the CHOA Pediatric Neuropsychology Division of Neurosciences have been reviewed and approved for affiliation with APPCN.