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For Prospective Graduate Students

Research Opportunities for Graduate Students

I will be accepting a student beginning doctoral training in the Fall of 2015. The deadline for applications for the Penn State graduate program in Clinical Psychology is December 1, 2014. Admission to Clinical Psychology program requires two applications, one to the department and the other to Graduate School. The department application can be obtained from the following website: The link to complete an online Graduate School application also can be obtained from this webpage (the application link is toward the bottom of the 'how to apply' page under the heading of Graduate School Requirements.

The admissions process in clinical psychology at Penn State is designed to select a group of potential students that will be most likely to succeed and benefit from the strengths of the program. These strengths include, but are not limited to, a strong focus both on clinical science and clinical practice and their integration, as well as an integration of adult and child clinical psychology. The department also appreciates and values the diverse multicultural influences on both clinical research and psychotherapy.

In short, the program is focused on training psychologists for research and clinical careers that involve the integration of both scientific and professional activities. Clinically, students are encouraged to gain experience in a variety of theoretical orientations but also to develop expertise in a particular modality.

Additionally, students will become capable of working with both adult and child patients across of wide range of psychopathology and will be aware of the confluence of intrapsychic and cultural/ethnic issues that arise in clinical work. (The Penn State clinical program may not be the best match for you if these areas are not of interest to you, if you cannot see yourself becoming interested in these areas, or if your career goal is full-time private practice without a significant research commitment.)

From this pool of potential students each faculty chooses applicants they believe will best match their particular interests. The main focus of my research involves examining mechanisms of change in the psychotherapy treatment for borderline personality disorder, continuing with a post-treatment follow-up study that is currently in progress, and examining affect regulation in BPD using experimental procedures. I am also in the planning phases of two studies: The first will examine the developmental precursors of personality problems in children of parents with personality disorders; and the second which will be directly designed to study mechanisms of change within the context of a randomized controlled trial of psychotherapy for patients with borderline personality disorder. Additionally, I have several other research interests that cover a broad range of areas within psychology and I welcome graduate student involvement and collaborations; however, the main focus of our work must remain close to the areas mentioned above. Please be careful and honest with yourself and with me about your interests as this match is very important and neither of us will be happy if your interests and commitment are not sincere.

This all said, I am looking for bright, energetic, and intellectually curious individuals with exposure and interests in personality disorders, attachment theory, and/or psychotherapy research. A strong developmental background and solid familiarity with statistics are also important. Previous clinical or research experience with personality disorders is desirable. Those applying to the lab should also be interested in developmental/psychodynamic models of personality and psychopathology (e.g., object relations theory).

Mentoring is a complex, multidimensional process that is more than mere advising, and it is through this process that much of the lasting benefits of training in psychology are derived. Therefore, I employ a strong mentor-collaborator model and considerable contact time is given to each graduate student.

For clinical graduate students, the emphasis is placed upon developing excellent research and clinical skills, as these are both necessary and mutually enhancing. Graduate students in my lab are expected to participate in and collaborate with ongoing projects, as well as develop their own related areas of expertise. Graduate students will be involved in interviewing participants, performing and coding psychological assessments (e.g., Mary Main's Adult Attachment Interview, Peter Fonagy's Reflective Function scale, and Sid Blatt's Object Representation Inventory among others), data management and analysis, undergraduate supervision, and manuscript and grant writing. It is my hope that students publish their master's thesis and dissertation, as well as apply for grant funding. I see my job as facilitating your ability to do so. The lab operates as a team with each graduate student answering specific questions as part of a larger program of research. Students should be comfortable with a team setting and a scientist-practitioner training model.

One last issue: Doctoral level graduate students normally receive financial assistance each year for up to five years. The most frequent form of aid is university teaching assistantships. These assistantships typically require 20 hours a week (1/2) and provide about $15,000 a year stipend plus tuition waiver. There are some scholarship monies available during summer months as well. However, please be aware that graduate training is a full-time, 12-month endeavor regardless of summer monies, and students are expected to continue with research and clinical responsibilities throughout the entire year. Although the work required by teaching assistantships is integrated into standard academic training and intended to contribute to professional development, I encourage potential students to apply for external support. There are a surprisingly large number of federally funded and private foundation sources of support available. Some examples include National Science Foundation, National Institute of Mental Health, Jacob Javits Fellowships, American Psychological Association Minority Fellowships, Ford Foundation Minority Fellowships, The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans (which includes children of immigrants who were born in the United States). Such funding is prestigious, will provide you with more time and flexibility, and will be looked upon very favorably by the Graduate School and psychology department.

If you are interested in the Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychotherapy Lab and would like to know more about our research, please contact Ken Levy, Ph.D., at and put "Prospective Graduate Student" in the subject line. I would be happy to talk with potential applicants and applicants about my research and the possibility of working in my lab. You may also contact current members of the lab (see current graduate students under people heading). Also, if you are including an attachment in your email, such as a CV, please save using the following format: last name_description.doc. For example, Levy_CV.doc.

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