According to Villarreal, the need for mental health professionals — especially those trained to work with children — has been growing in the Bexar County community for several years and has increased exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to addressing these critical community needs, the new program is UTSA’s 26th doctoral program, supporting the university’s recent designation as an R1 Carnegie Institution.
“When it comes to research, one of the things that is taken into account is the number of doctorates. graduates we have, so we are contributing to that vision by creating another program to help move the university in that direction,” Villarreal said.
In addition, the doctoral program will also expand the department’s ability to provide services to UTSA students and attract additional researchers and educators to bolster the work carried out by the department’s faculty.
Students, too, will reap the benefits of the program design. Enrolled students will be able to choose between several different concentration tracks, each representing a high-need area within the field. These areas include behavior analysis, working with non-native English speakers, and a research track for students pursuing academic careers.
Students in the program will benefit from the department’s well-established partnerships with many area school districts, which will prove invaluable to students in the program, all of whom must complete a minimum of 600 hours of internship as a school psychologist. Thereafter, they must complete a one-year full-time internship in a setting that reflects their interests and aspirations, whether in a school, clinic or children’s hospital.
Throughout their studies, students will focus on identifying and addressing learning and mental health issues, navigating the mental and school health systems, and research. Supplemented by a thesis requirement, Villarreal says this program is more intensive than the typical doctoral program, but it will ultimately help students professionally.
“Our curriculum is rigorous, but the applied experiences are essential parts of the training and will help students kick-start their professional careers and ensure they meet licensing standards,” he explained. .
The program is expected to begin accepting applications this fall for admission in fall 2023. The program is designed to accommodate only students with a bachelor’s degree; a master’s degree is not a prerequisite.