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Ph.D. Program - Counseling Psychology

Scientist-Practitioner-Advocate Training Model


The field of Counseling Psychology has had a longstanding commitment to social justice, as seen in its attention to the impacts of the social context on the lived experiences of those with whom we work, as well as its focus on diversity and multiculturalism (e.g., Toporek & McNally, 2006). Similarly, the members of our faculty each share a strong commitment to social justice in our research, teaching, and clinical work, but we are not content with these roles alone. Instead, like many other counseling psychologists, we have combined knowledge gained from research with our applied skills, to work where we can as advocates for social change. Our commitment stems from working directly with clients on campus and in our communities. Thus, in 2007, the core faculty decided to adopt a new training model that emphasizes the role of social justice advocate along with the traditional roles of scientist and practitioner.  

Since its initial accreditation in 1980, the UT Counseling Psychology program had consistently followed a scientist-practitioner model. The program now follows a scientist-practitioner-advocate training model (Fassinger & O'Brien, 2000). In July 2009, the APA Commission on Accreditation reviewed the new model and reaccredited our program for the next seven years. To the site visitors' knowledge, ours is the first – and so far the only – APA accredited program to adopt this model. Our program was recently reaccredited by the APA Commission on Accreditation in summer 2016 for another seven years.

Integrating Elements of the Model

Our vision was to integrate the social justice advocate role without diminishing our ongoing commitment to the scientist and practitioner roles. The figure below depicts how we conceptualize the model.

We continue to place a very high value on the integration of science and practice. Graduates of the program are competent in each of these domains, and they are able to use their highly developed research skills to enhance the effectiveness of their practice and to use their advanced intervention skills to inform the research questions they pursue. Just as the roles of scientist and practitioner are mutually enhancing, we believe the role of advocate strengthens our work in both science and practice, and is strengthened by the two traditional elements. The intersection of practice and advocacy involves moving outside the treatment setting to advocate for clients' needs with policy makers and those who control resources. This involves facilitating change at an organizational or systemic level. In the treatment setting, the model calls for working with clients to find their own voice and, if they choose, to help clients develop the tools to advocate for themselves.

The intersection of research and advocacy emphasizes that rigorous research is one of the most effective ways to serve as an advocate. The empirical tools of needs assessment, program development, and program evaluation serve as powerful means to help large numbers of clients. Advocacy goals can become the foundation for a systematic program of research. Rigorous epidemiological studies can be a persuasive means of documenting social problems and suggesting possible solutions. In this way, science becomes an act of advocacy in the best traditions of social action research.

In designing this new model, we were influenced by the American Counseling Association's Advocacy Competencies (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2003; Toporek, Lewis, & Crethar, 2009), along with Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model. The model also strives to incorporate the feminist and multicultural principles for social justice outlined by Goodman et al. (2004), which include: "(a) ongoing self-examination, (b) sharing power, (c) giving voice, (d) facilitating consciousness raising, (e) building on strengths, and (f) leaving clients the tools to work toward social change" (p. 793). At the core of the training model is the Social Justice Practicum.

Social Justice Practicum

We believe students increasingly need and desire the skills to intervene directly to address social problems. We value a training emphasis on engagement with the wider society, and an appreciation for the social context of our work as Counseling Psychologists. The two-course Social Justice Practicum (SJP) sequence is taken during students' fourth year on campus, after they have completed practicum and one year of traditional field placement. The summer before enrolling in the SJP, students work with faculty to identify and agency, community group, or individuals engaged in advocacy around a particular social issue that is of interest to the student.

A core value of Social Justice Practicum is that it must not replicate traditional field placements. Consequently, work with individual clients or unstructured therapy/support groups must remain a relatively minor component of SJP. Instead, the emphasis is on developing systemic interventions. Students begin in the Fall semester by thoroughly studying their social issue; developing their skills in needs assessment, epidemiological research, and program development; and developing an orientation to social justice advocacy work in counseling psychology and other fields. Students also acquire skills for lobbying decision-makers, and making research-based presentations intended to influence policy and raise awareness in community audiences. In weekly class meetings, students learn about a range of social problems and proposed solutions. They study case examples of efforts to promote social change and the techniques that have proven successful, and they learn to take a global perspective in understanding how society-wide problems impact the lives of individuals.

With these skills in place by the end of the first semester of SJP, during the second semester students deliver the intervention they have developed, and assess its effectiveness with rigorous research. The intervention may consist of an ongoing series of educational or skills-based workshops or small groups for agency clients. Students also make at least one presentation to raise awareness for a community or campus audience. Finally, students develop a program manual, related training materials, or other resources so that others can carry on their work.

For an in-depth description of the UT Counseling Psychology program's scientist-practitioner-advocate training model, please see:

  • Mallinckrodt, B., Miles, J. R., & Levy, J. J. (in press). The Scientist-Practitioner- Advocate Model: Addressing contemporary training needs for social justice advocacy. Training and Education in Professional Psychology


Bronfembrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Fassinger, R. E., & O'Brien, K. M. (2000). Career counseling with college women: A scientist-practitioner-advocate model of intervention. In D. A. Luzzo (Ed.), Career counseling of college students: An empirical guide to strategies that work (pp. 253-266). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Goodman, L. A., Liang, B., Helms, J. E., Latta, R. E., Sparks, E., & Weintraub, S. R. (2004). Training counseling psychologists as social justice agents: Feminist and multicultural principles in action. The Counseling Psychologist, 32, 793–837.
Lewis, J. A., Arnold,  M. S., House, R., & Toporek, R. L. (2003). ACA advocacy competencies.  Retrieved from
Toporek, R. L., Lewis, J. A., Crethar, H. C. (2009). Promoting systematic change through the ACA advocacy competencies. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87, 260-268.
Toporek, R. L., & McNally, C. J. (2006). Social justice training in counseling psychology: Needs and innovations. In R. L. Toporek, L. H. Gerstein, N. A. Fouad, G. Roysircar, & T. Israel (Eds.), Handbook for social justice in counseling psychology: Leadership, vision, and action (pp. 37-43). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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