School of Medicine

Doctoral training program expands mental health services

This fall, Washington University in St. Louis will launch a new mental health doctoral training program that will expand clinical mental health services on campus while cultivating a new generation of expert psychologists. 

Designed to attract the nation’s top psychology doctoral students, the program will train a cohort of four residents annually and will be accredited through the American Psychological Association and Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. Kirk Dougher, associate vice chancellor for health and well-being, compared the program to a medical residency and said the residents will complete rotations in areas such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, group interventions and sports psychology. 

“The doctoral training program will bring an incredible infusion of energy and insight year after year to Counseling and Psychological Services,” Dougher said. “These residents have excelled in their academic programs. In addition to their professional skills, they share the same lived experiences as many of our students.” 

The Department of Athletics will have a dedicated resident throughout the academic year to support varsity athletes. While many top Division I programs employ psychologists, the practice is less common among Division III institutions such as WashU. 

“Athletes have a whole array of different challenges than their peers, ranging from the pressures of the season to a potentially career-ending injury,” Dougher said. “We want to make sure that we’re meeting their needs in a way that is functional.”

Beyond the immediate benefit to students, the program will develop a pool of talented candidates for future job openings. Currently, Counseling and Psychological Services, formerly Mental Health Services, employs the equivalent of 16 full-time mental health providers. 

“It is a constant challenge to find staff. We want to train psychologists in our system and show them all that WashU has to offer in hopes that some of them will stick around,” Dougher said. 

San Francisco Bay Area residents John and Carol Hamilton recently pledged $3 million to establish an endowment to support the residency program. They are parents of three children who have attended WashU. Their gift supports the university’s efforts to provide a best-in-class student experience as part of Make Way: Our Student Initiative.

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