Considering the Clinical Psychology PhD program?
The Clinical Psychology PhD program at USM offers scientist-practitioner model, evidence-based, generalist research and clinical training with concentrations in clinical child and adult psychology.
Graduate assistantships support full-time students to include a monthly stipend and tuition waiver and involve teaching, research, and/or clinical work.
Graduates are prepared to pursue careers in academia, research, mental health care delivery, or practice in public and private settings. Applicants interested in a research-focused career are especially encouraged to apply.
Why a Clinical Psychology PhD at Southern Miss?
Clinical psychology is an applied health service and research profession dedicated to understanding, assessing, and treating mental illness and behavioral healthcare needs. Students develop a range of profession-wide competencies relevant to entry level practice of health service psychology, as well as development of knowledge and advancement of psychological science through research activities. Our program trains evidence-based approaches to assessment and therapy of clinical problems across the lifespan, emphasizing cognitive and behavioral orientations. Graduates are well prepared to conduct research, assessment, therapy, training, and supervision.
Small cohorts allow for individualized, quality training opportunities. Students entering with a bachelor’s degree earn the Master of Arts en route to the doctorate. We do not offer a terminal master’s degree in clinical psychology. Clinical Psychology faculty provide integrated, discipline-specific training in evidence-based assessment and interventions. Students take classes with other graduate students in the School of Psychology, including Counseling and School Psychology and generalists enrolled in the Experimental Psychology program, and are trained by experts in their respective fields. As a scientist-practitioner training program, research and clinical opportunities are hierarchically sequenced and integrated throughout the curriculum.
Faculty members are highly invested and actively engaged in training students in psychological science, adding to the knowledge base, and using empirical findings to inform their clinical work. High-quality mentorship provided by our faculty includes leading active research labs, assisting students with dissemination of their research through publications and presentations, providing intensive clinical supervision, and guiding individualized professional development. All faculty are licensed psychologists, and provide weekly face-to-face supervision of practicum and externship.
Students are admitted directly to research labs of a faculty member. Research labs meet regularly to coordinate ongoing projects in the lab, to provide supervision of thesis and dissertation projects, and afford individualized mentoring. Graduate students engage in all aspects of the research process and are expected to contribute to ongoing studies in the lab, complete their thesis and dissertation program requirements, and disseminate their work through peer-reviewed publications in top-tier journals and presentations at national conferences. Many labs provide mentorship in grant writing and involvement in funded research such as clinical trials. Find a full listing of all Clinical Psychology Research Labs here.
- Practicum experiences are hierarchically sequenced training opportunities working with children, adolescents, and adults in our in-house training clinic as well as through externship training opportunities in a wide range of community sites.
- The state of Mississippi has significant unmet mental health needs. According to recent statistics, approximately 71.7% of children and 59.3% of adults with mental illnesses in Mississippi do not receive treatment for their conditions, ranking 44th and 50th in the United States for children and adults, respectively. Within this context, the Center for Behavioral Health (CBH) at USM plays a key role in providing low-cost mental health services in southern Mississippi. The CBH is a training clinic within the School of Psychology that provides evidence-based assessment and psychotherapy on a sliding scale. The CBH also offers telehealth services to children and adults residing across Mississippi, allowing our students to work with clients in more rural areas where mental health resources are largely unavailable. Practicum in the USM CBH is closely supervised by licensed faculty members and provides a high-quality training environment.
- Doctoral students also work with an array of clinical professionals and client populations at their external practicum placements. The settings for these placements include community outpatient clinics, hospitals, private practices, Veteran’s Administration settings, and the criminal justice system. Externships are located in the greater Hattiesburg area, as well as in Jackson, Biloxi, and New Orleans.
- Students complete a one-year full-time APA-accredited predoctoral internship. In recent years, 100% of our students were placed at top ranked APA-accredited internship sites.
Graduate Assistantships are generally available for all students throughout their four-year training program (students completing predoctoral internship in the 5th year are paid through the internship site). Graduate assistantships support students by providing both a full tuition scholarship and a 9-12 month stipend. Graduate assistantships include teaching and research assistantships, and paid clinical externship positions in training sites throughout the area. Opportunities exist for undergraduate teaching.
The Program Handbook is developed to assist current students with understanding Clinical Psychology program policies and procedures. Please be aware that this document is updated each year, however it may be a helpful resource for potential applicants.
The deadline for receipt of all required admissions materials is December 1 for admission beginning the following Fall semester. Please note that this differs from the Graduate School. Late applications are not accepted.
The School of Psychology does not require GRE.
In addition to the standard graduate application, please submit the following:
- 3 letters of recommendation: We prefer letters from faculty members familiar with your academic performance
- Personal Statement: Your personal statement should address the following (2-3 pages in length):
Describe personal and professional goals during and after graduate school and how
this program will help you accomplish these.
Explicitly state your preference for the child or adult concentration area.
Describe your research interests and indicate why you represent a research match for one or more specific faculty members in the clinical program.
- Encouraged (Not Required): Writing Sample representing evidence of scholarship demonstrated through participation in research leading to presentations, scholarly publications, or some other demonstration of original scholarship.
- Frequently Asked Questions
Please contact Dr.%20Kelsey%20Bonfils%20(Chair of Clinical Admissions) with questions about applying to the Clinical Doctoral Program at USM.
The University of Southern Mississippi's doctoral program in clinical psychology seeks to attract a geographically and culturally diverse student body interested in Boulder Model training, who are committed to spending a minimum of five full-time years in the program (including internship) and who have a high likelihood of making a contribution to the discipline.
The selection process includes a review of all aspects of the application. We do not employ any automatic cut-off scores. Rather, we look for an overall record that suggests a good fit with the training program and a likelihood of success.
Qualified students whose undergraduate major is in a discipline other than psychology are invited to apply and are encouraged to elaborate on their preparation and motivation for pursuing graduate training in psychology. Such applicants should have at least some coursework in Psychology (e.g., Introductory Psychology, Statistics, Research Methods, Abnormal Psychology).
The clinical admissions committee is particularly interested in receiving applications from students with a strong undergraduate background in the liberal arts and sciences. The program values diversity and encourages applications from individuals from historically marginalized backgrounds. We seek to have an inclusive program environment for people of all racial/ethnic, gender, age, national origin, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic, and other backgrounds and identities. The program has no bias regarding applicant’s age of admission, and we have admitted an increasing number of "non-traditional" students. We also admit very promising students who already hold a master's degree from another institution, with the percentage of each class holding master's degrees earned elsewhere averaging about 15-20%.
From the total pool of applicants, approximately 25 are invited for interviews during which time they meet with the clinical faculty members and clinical graduate students.
The process is designed to provide applicants with an opportunity to learn about our program from the perspectives of the clinical faculty and our current clinical students, as well as to obtain information that may be useful in the selection process.
If invited, attendance at official interview days is highly encouraged; however, qualified applicants who are unable to make program interview days are given the opportunity to interview at alternate times.
We currently admit 5 to 6 new graduate students per academic year (Fall admissions only). There are approximately 25-30 clinical psychology graduate students enrolled in the clinical program at any given time, including those on clinical internships.
The Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Organization (CPGSO) is a student-led organization of doctoral students at The University of Southern Mississippi dedicated to increasing access to mental healthcare in the greater Hattiesburg community. CPGSO created the Client Assistance, Retention, and Enrichment (CARE) fund to help provide services for those experiencing extreme financial hardship and other extenuating circumstances. CARE recipients can receive help for a wide range of psychological disorders, including autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiant disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia at the USM CBH on campus.
We in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program at USM recognize the historical role of psychology in the creation and perpetuation of ideas and structures that have supported racism and systemic oppression of people from many groups (see https://www.apa.org/about/apa/addressing-racism/historical-chronology). We further acknowledge the historical context of our region, an area of the country with a long history of sociopolitical structures intended to oppress and harm people of color with continuing impacts today. The University of Southern Mississippi acknowledges the history of segregation in Mississippi higher education and recognizes historical challenges and milestones which have contributed to the diverse study body served at the institution today (see https://www.usm.edu/diversity-inclusion/history.php). Against this backdrop, our program strives to support social justice causes and move towards a more inclusive environment for all students and faculty, particularly those identifying as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), in our collective mission to support diversity, equity, and inclusion among our members and in the field at large.
The USM Clinical Psychology PhD Program values diversity and is committed to continuing to work to cultivate an environment where we are consistently learning how to be more inclusive and creating a safe space for individuals of diverse backgrounds to train and thrive. Diversity here broadly refers to individuals from groups who have been historically minoritized, underrepresented, disadvantaged, underprivileged, underserved, excluded, oppressed, discriminated against, and/or marginalized. This may include individuals who identify with a minoritized race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, indigeneity, language, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, LGBTQIA+, disability, neurodivergence, health status, age, socioeconomic background, generational status, or religion, among others. Members of our program identify admission and retention of students from diverse backgrounds as a top priority, along with training to support excellence in clinical care for clients from minoritized backgrounds. We aspire to make continued progress in this area and in our mission to create an environment defined by equity and inclusion.
Below we list several current resources or initiatives relevant to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This list is not exhaustive, and below we link to other DEI-relevant resources or organizations on campus. We note that many initiatives are a work in progress, and our DEI-relevant efforts may change over time as we strive to incorporate student and faculty feedback and learn from our experiences.
- Annual climate survey: Student and faculty feedback is sought annually to inform a variety of indices relevant to climate, including DEI and safety data
- DEI faculty workshop: Annual faculty workshop during the summer to analyze climate survey data, evaluate progress on DEI initiatives, and develop initiatives for the coming year
- Diversity Committee (DivCom): The program has a Diversity Committee comprised of faculty and students that aims to promote an atmosphere of open dialogue around diversity and contribute to an inclusive and welcoming environment, provide opportunities for actionable steps on topics of diversity, create resources for the USM clinic and greater Hattiesburg community, and foster connections with other programs, students, and/or faculty with an interest in diversity-related issues.
- DEI-relevant didactics: As part of our weekly didactic series, at least one didactic per semester will focus on a DEI-relevant topic. Recent examples include didactics by Dr. Tammy Greer titled, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion: From words to action” (organized in partnership with the Diversity Committee) and Dr. Lauren Khazem titled, “Integrating disability cultural competency into evidence-based care.” -
- Admissions: To promote greater equity in graduate admissions to our program, we no longer require the GRE. We also continue to provide a remote option for applicants who are unable to attend admissions interviews in-person. These choices were made in part to reduce financial burdens disproportionately experienced by disadvantaged and/or minoritized applicants.
- Go Gold Diversity Fellowship: The Go Gold Diversity Fellowship is offered by the School of Psychology and aims to support two newly admitted graduate students. These awards may go to students in any program. Eligible students identify from a diverse background and have interest in pursuing research and/or clinical practice that will positively impact diverse groups.
- Several faculty and students are pursuing research seeking answers to DEI-related questions (see below) and, when available, are seeking funding to support this research and/or DEI-related clinical training initiatives.
- DEI Workgroup: The program assembled a DEI workgroup, comprised of both students and faculty, in Spring 2023. The workgroup had multiple goals, including a revision of our website statement about DEI..
Doctoral students in the clinical psychology program gain clinical experience with clients from diverse cultural, ethnic, religious, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds throughout their training. The state of Mississippi (MS) has significant unmet mental health needs. According to recent statistics, approximately 71.7% of children and 59.3% of adults with mental illnesses in Mississippi do not receive treatment for their conditions, ranking 44th and 50th in the United States for children and adults, respectively. The low availability of mental health care in the state has many contributing factors, including systemic disadvantages faced by the high proportion of our population who belong to minoritized groups, high poverty rates coupled with high rates of under- or uninsured families, a lack of mental health providers, and the rural nature of much of the state.
Within this context, the Center for Behavioral Health (CBH) at USM plays a key role in providing low-cost mental health services in southern Mississippi. The CBH is a training clinic within the School of Psychology that provides evidence-based assessment and psychotherapy on a sliding scale. The USM CBH serves the greater Hattiesburg community and beyond, including many clients who are uninsured or underinsured. The CBH also offers telehealth services to children and adults residing within Mississippi, which allows our students to work with clients from across the state, including more rural areas where mental health resources are largely unavailable.
Doctoral students also work with an array of clinical professionals and client populations
from diverse backgrounds at their external practicum placements. The settings for
these placements include
community outpatient clinics, hospitals, private practices, juvenile justice centers among others and are located in the greater Hattiesburg area, as well as in Jackson, Biloxi, and New Orleans.
Relevant research in the program
Several of our faculty members conduct research with underrepresented and/or marginalized groups. Many of the graduate students are also highly motivated to expand diversity-related research within the School of Psychology at USM.
- Dr. Kelsey Bonfils studies social outcomes among people with serious mental illnesses. Through this work, she engages with vulnerable and underrepresented participants, many of whom are minoritized and/or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Learn more about Dr. Bonfils’ research.
- Dr. Nora Charles studies externalizing behaviors such as delinquency and substance misuse among adolescents and is also interested in access to care and the logistical and cultural appropriateness of interventions delivered in community settings. Her work primarily involves families from underserved and/or minoritized backgrounds (e.g., rural, lower-income, families of color, justice- and child welfare-involved families). Learn more about Dr. Charles’ research.
- Dr. Sara Jordan studies social and contextual factors related to child adjustment, with an emphasis on understanding the role of child routines in relation to child externalizing behavior problems, parenting, sleep, and chronic illness management. She is interested in how these factors may differentially impact children from impoverished and/or minoritized backgrounds in an effort to better inform practical and accessible intervention strategies for children. Learn more about Dr. Jordan’s research.
- Dr. Freddie Pastrana Rivera studies relational and contextual risk and protective factors for children and families exposed to adversity. As a bilingual Latino scholar, he directs the CAFÉ PR Lab, which aims to enhance inclusive and equitable research and practice for racially/ethnically diverse and historically underrepresented communities. Topics he researches include bias- and stigma-based victimization, early screening and prevention, and culturally-responsive practices in community-based settings. [Website under construction]
- Dr. Megan Renna studies how health and health promoting and dampening behaviors influence psychological health and vice versa, with a specific focus on conditions that disproportionately affect Mississippians including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Learn more about Dr. Renna’s research.
- Dr. Stephanie Smith is interested in developing and evaluating new treatment delivery methods that will make access to educational and behavioral health programs possible for children and their families with limited resources. She is also committed to understanding how interventions may differentially influence children of varying identities and backgrounds and to make data-driven adjustments to meet the needs of all children. Learn more about Dr. Smith’s research.
Below, we provide links to USM resources as well as information about the history of USM, Hattiesburg, and Mississippi.
USM Offices & Resources:
- USM Diversity Statement
- DEI Resources
- Chief Diversity Officer
- Student Organizations & Involvement
- Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement
- Multicultural Student Initiatives
- Community Outreach Initiatives
- PRISM LGBTQIA+ Resource Center
- International Student & Scholar Services
- Center for American Indian Research and Studies
USM, Hattiesburg, & Mississippi History:
Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data
Please review the Student Admissions, Outcomes and Other Data for program admission and graduation rates and other important program outcome statistics.
The Program Aims and Outcomes can be found here.
The Clinical Psychology doctoral program has been continually accredited by the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation since 1979.
For information about our accreditation status, you can contact the Commission on
Accreditation of the American Psychological Association at:
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
Professional Licensure Disclosure
Our program is modeled after the psychology licensure requirements in the State of Mississippi. We cannot determine if our program meets the licensure requirements in other states. We recommend that students verify their program of study meets the desired state’s licensure requirements. For more information on licensure in other states, please visit www.asppb.net/page/psybook or contact Dr.%20Stephanie%20Smith, Director of Training, with questions.
Curriculum and Outcomes
The program demonstrates its commitment to public disclosure by providing clearly presented written materials and other communications that appropriately represent it to all relevant publics. At a minimum, this includes general program information pertaining to its aims, required curriculum sequence, and the expected outcomes in terms of its graduates’ careers, as well as data on achievement of those expected and actual outcomes.
|Psychology (Clinical) PhD||Hattiesburg|
- Assistant Professor, University or Medical Center
- Licensed Psychologist, Mental Health or Psychiatric Facility, Veteran's Administration
- Director, Behavioral Health Unit
- Dr. Jessica J. Fulton, 2012,
Staff Psychologist & Assistant Director of Psychology Internship Training, Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center
- Dr. Keyne Law, 2018
Assistant Professor, Seattle Pacific University
- Dr. Joe Finn, 2017
Psychologist, State Operated Forensic Services, St. Peter, Minnesota
- Dr. Ted Tomeny, 2014,
Assistant Professor & Licensed Psychologist, University of Alabama, Department of Psychology
- Dr. Laura Cook, 2015,
Pediatric Psychologist & Internship Faculty, Geisinger Health Systems
- Dr. Tiffany Hopkins, 2016,
Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Hospitals, Department of Psychiatry