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Learning Experiences

Four categories of learning experiences are offered in the postdoctoral residency program, the specifics of which vary to some extent based on position and setting. In combination, these learning experiences require residents to participate in a diverse array of learning experiences that are designed in accord with the overarching aims of the program and that facilitate residents’ attainment of advanced levels of competence and beginning levels of capability in the eleven competencies associated with the specific aims of the program. 

The section below briefly describes the four categories of learning experiences and notes the competency(ies) addressed by each.

Delivering Direct Service - All positions include time for direct service in one or more of these competencies (Assessment, Intervention, Consultation and Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Skills) and Supervision. These direct service activities enable residents the opportunity to work in a professional and scientific community and establish a more integrated professional identity. The amount of time devoted to direct service in general and to the specific competencies associated with direct service more specifically varies based on the position, but there are minimal requirements that must be met by all postdoctoral residents (i.e., 10 hours/week) and thus all residents engage in the requisite number of direct service hours required for licensure in all of the jurisdictions associated with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). Throughout all of these direct service activities, emphasis is placed on Professionalism, Communication and Interpersonal Skills, Individual and Cultural Diversity, Ethical and Legal Standards, and the Integration of Science and Practice.

Participating in Research ­– Research opportunities, either independently or in collaboration with existing projects also constitutes an integral component of all the postdoctoral positions. The amount of time available for research depends on the residency position, with all residents allotted a minimum of four hours per week for scholarly endeavors. Primary areas of research and program evaluation focus include assessment and treatment of individuals with severe psychopathology; child/adolescent and adult psychopathology (e.g., depression, suicide, schizophrenia, substance use and its impact on mothers and children, fetal alcohol syndrome); autism and other developmental disabilities; child and family therapy; family violence (child abuse and neglect; intimate partner violence); epilepsy; traumatic brain injury; neuroendocrine disorders, neurological disorders including stroke and rehabilitation outcome, pediatric and health psychology assessment and intervention. In addition, residents in the Postdoctoral Residency Seminar have collaborated on scholarly projects related to postdoctoral education, training, and supervision. All research opportunities highlight the Integration of Science and Practice and focus on the Research competency and integrate the other competencies as appropriate. 

Providing Supervision – In keeping with our philosophy that supervision is a core competency within health service psychology that deserves in-depth attention at the postdoctoral residency level, each resident is assigned to supervise more junior psychology colleagues (e.g., practicum students) and/or staff (e.g., behavioral technicians, psychometrists) at least one hour per week. This affords them the opportunity to apply and practice what they learn in the Postdoctoral Residency Seminar block focused on competency-based supervision. All residents also receive weekly supervision of their supervision efforts in accord with best practices. The activities associated with this learning experience highlight the Supervision competency, along with the other competencies as appropriate. 

Engaging in Professional Development – There are three types of learning experiences that fall within this rubric: supervision, didactics, and job mentoring.

Receiving Supervision - Intensive supervision, based upon the resident’s responsibilities and developmental needs and in keeping with a scientist-practitioner-educator-advocate model, is a major component of the training program. All residents receive a minimum of two hours per week, with most residents receiving four to six hours per week of supervision. Supervision may occur one-on-one (minimum 1 hour/week) or in a group context. While supervisory discussions are not confidential, supervisors exercise the utmost respect with regard to the sharing of these discussions with other training faculty/supervisors only when needed to support training, quality patient care or research, or to protect the public. In terms of clinical supervision, supervisory orientations differ depending on the service setting within the academic health center, as well as the supervisor. All faculty and supervisors espouse a biopsychosocial-cultural framework. Within this framework, there are a range of theoretical orientations represented in the academic health sciences center that inform the supervisions that residents receive including behavioral, biological, cognitive-behavioral, developmental, existential/humanistic, integrative, interpersonal, neurobiological, psychodynamic, and systemic. 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 residents 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. Advocacy focused supervision may include but is not limited to the following: developing and receiving feedback on policy documents, engaging in community or national advocacy endeavors collaboratively, and interacting with other local or national community leaders either together or in a supervised manner. When taken together, the supervision that residents receive addresses all eleven of the competencies: Professionalism, Communication and Interpersonal Skills, Individual and Cultural Diversity, Ethical and Legal Standards, Integration of Science and Practice, Assessment, Intervention, Consultation & Interprofessional/Interdisciplinary Skills, Research, Supervision, and Advocacy.

Participating in Didactics – All residents are required to attend a weekly Postdoctoral Residency Seminar. The first half of the seminar focuses on a competency-based approach to supervision. Informed by recent scholarship on supervision, this seminar covers myriad topics, including but not limited to, the following topics: (1) supervision - types, methods, focus, models, theories, ethical and legal considerations; (2) supervisor competence – qualities, multiculturalism, and training; (3) supervisee competence – qualities, responsibilities, and problems of professional competence; (4) supervisory relationship – feedback processes, problematic relationships; and (5) culture of supervision excellence – transformational leadership and communitarianism. This seminar primarily focuses on further developing residents’ competence and capability in the following competency domains: Professionalism, Communication and Interpersonal Skills, Individual and Cultural Diversity, Ethical and Legal Standards, Integration of Science and Practice, and Supervision.

The second half of the required weekly Postdoctoral Residency Seminar is targeted toward professional and career development and advocacy. This includes discussion of revising one’s Curriculum Vitae for the job market, hearing from psychologists who have selected a broad array of career paths, learning about negotiation for new jobs, exploring work-life balance challenges, understanding the importance of board certification, exploring complex ethical and legal challenges, and developing beginning competence to engage in advocacy locally and nationally. The competencies primarily focused on in this seminar are Professionalism, Communication and Interpersonal Skills, Individual and Cultural Diversity, Ethical and Legal Standards, and Advocacy.

Residents also must attend at least one additional program-level seminar that is tied to the direct service learning experience related to assessment, intervention, and consultation. Based on their areas of interest, they may select one of four seminars: live supervision family therapy seminar, forensics seminar, neuropsychology – adult seminar, or the advanced pediatric neuropsychology seminar. They also may be required or may elect to attend site specific seminars, case conferences, or symposium (e.g., Atlanta Behavioral Health Advocates, Marcus Annual Summer Symposium, Brief Dynamic Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, AFLAC Advances in Cancer Research and Clinical Practice, AFLAC Research Conference, Rehabilitation Roundtable, Pediatric Neuroradiology Conference, Epilepsy Surgical Conference). Postdoctoral residents 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. The additional program-level and site-specific seminars along with attendance at Grand Rounds focus on furthering development of residents’ competence and capability in one or more of the following competency domains: Individual and Cultural Diversity, Ethical and Legal Standards, Integration of Science and Practice, Assessment, Intervention, Consultation & Interprofessional/ Interdisciplinary Skills, and Research.

Preparing for the Marketplace – There are two major aspects of this learning experience. First, all residents are expected to sit for the written part of the national licensure examination (EPPP) during the first six months of the residency year, unless they have already done so. The neuropsychology residents are not required to take the EPPP until the second year of the residency, but many opt to take it during the first year. Second, postdoctoral residents participate in a job mentorship program, which has been extremely successful since its inception over a decade ago. The goal of this program is to assign each resident to two job mentors, psychologists engaged in the career path of interest to the resident in whatever community the resident hopes to settle. Residents meet with these mentors monthly and receive guidance throughout their job searches and help with networking. To further aid residents in their professional networking endeavors, all residents are expected to be a member of at least one local, regional, or national professional psychology organization. In prior years, residents 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 residency, residents have assumed positions that involve administration, teaching, supervision, advocacy, and direct service. The primary focus of the EPPP requirement and the job mentorship program is Professionalism, although other competencies typically are bolstered.