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April 25. 2013 10:07PM

Rivier University to offer doctoral school psychologist program

NASHUA - Rivier University announced Thursday it is launching the first doctoral school psychologist program in the state, something school officials say will help solve the critical shortage of school psychologists in the state.

The doctoral program, which will be the second offered at Rivier and only the second doctoral psychology program in the state, will offer a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in Counseling and School Psychology with classes starting in the fall.

"The program fills a void in doctoral level training of psychologists in the state of New Hampshire," said Dr. Robert Walrath, Rivier Associate Professor of Education and director of the PsyD program. "There are no other programs like it in the state. The program is designed to provide broad and general knowledge and skills for psychologists to work across a number of settings such as schools, mental health agencies, private practice, and universities and colleges."

While school psychologists are not required to have a PsyD, they are still required to have an advanced degree. Currently, Walrath said that Rivier and Plymouth State University offer the only programs in the state training school psychologists. He said considering the need for school psychologists in the state, Rivier officials determined a more concerted effort was needed to address the shortage.

"The state Department of Education classifies school psychologists as a critical shortage area, in other words there are more positions than people qualified to fill them," Walrath said.

The program is already accepting students, and Walrath said the goal for the first year is to admit 18 qualified students into the program. The program is being designed so that students are trained in both school psychology and counseling, and will be able to choose their own focus.

Walrath, who also sits on the Board of the New Hampshire Psychological Association, said that New Hampshire has a shortage of mental health professionals in general.

"We are all very happy to see another program in the state because frankly we are all getting older, and a new generation is needed," Walrath said.

Walrath added that with the shortage of mental health care providers in the state and school systems, many of the students who enroll at Rivier will find plenty of employment opportunities in the state, making them more likely to remain in New Hampshire.

"Doctoral students in this program will be challenged not only by a group of distinguished faculty who are leaders in various aspects of psychology, but also by fellow students who share a passion for psychology and improving the lives of others," said Sister Paula Marie Buley, Rivier's president.

The doctoral program curriculum is designed so that it meets New Hampshire requirements under state law and is consistent with accreditation guidelines and principles of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Walrath said that APA accreditation would be pursued for the doctoral program following the enrollment of a sufficient number of students, which is expected to take two to three years.



bklein@newstote.com


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