The APA-accredited doctoral program in counseling psychology is based on the scientist/practitioner model of professional psychology and integrates counseling and psychological theory, scientific inquiry, and supervised practice. Counseling psychology is a psychoeducational specialty in which practitioners help others to improve their well-being, alleviate their distress, resolve their crises, and increase their ability to solve problems and make decisions. Counseling psychologists apply systematic, research-based approaches to help themselves and others understand and develop solutions to problems that are educational, vocational, emotional, social, cultural, health-related, or developmental in nature.

The UW–Madison program places special emphasis on multicultural competence and social justice, integration of research and practice, and preparation for ethical and professional conduct as either a researcher, teacher, or practitioner. The theoretical orientation of the program is best described as eclectic. Course work emphasizes the research base of counseling psychology and students are expected to involve themselves in faculty research. All students complete a one-year, full-time predoctoral internship as a culminating training experience. The planned length of the program for students entering with a master's degree is five years, although students may opt to take additional time depending on academic background and career objectives.

The department also admits a small number of students to a post–B.A. Ph.D. program. These students apply to the Ph.D. program at the completion of their undergraduate degree, and are required to integrate coursework and professional practice training at the master's level, as well as introductory doctoral coursework, during the first two years of study. Students admitted to the post–B.A. Ph.D. program typically have excellent academic records and experiences that demonstrate high levels of both helping skills and research skills prior to admissions. The planned length of the post–B.A. Ph.D. program is six years, although actual completion times will vary depending on student needs and career goals.

The mission of the counseling psychology Ph.D. program is to train psychologists who are skillful in research and intervention with diverse populations, who integrate science and practice into their professional roles, and who uphold high ethical and professional standards as psychologists. Program graduates are broadly prepared for a number of professional roles, including direct service, research, teaching, clinical supervision, and program design and evaluation. 

The Ph.D. program is accredited by the American Psychological Association. For further information on accreditation, contact APA's Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242; 202-336-5979;

Licensure as a Psychologist

Graduates of the Ph.D. program are eligible for licensure to practice psychology. Licensure requirements differ by state, and currently most states require additional supervised practice post-Ph.D. All states require passage of the national licensure examination (the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology or EPPP), and most states also have state-specific written and oral examinations. Links to descriptions of licensure requirements by state may be obtained from the website of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Although the program cannot guarantee funding to students admitted to the Ph.D. program, it is usual for these students to be supported by a combination of graduate assistantships and fellowships while they are completing course work in the program. The predoctoral internship is a paid appointment, with benefits, as well.

Department assistantships are assigned through a competitive application process each spring. Admitted students are included in the process the spring before they start in the program. Students are strongly encouraged to also apply for teaching or project assistantships outside the department, and most obtain at least some of their support in other departments or units on campus during their time in the program. Currently, all graduate assistantships and fellowships include tuition remission and health benefits. 

Qualified applicants may be nominated by the department for the Ed–GRS Education Graduate Research Scholars Fellowship and/or the University Fellowship. Qualifications for these awards are described in the departmental applications materials. Applicants are also encouraged to seek other private or federal funding sources. Applicants may obtain additional funding information from the local/college library and the Office of Student Financial Aid (which also has information on loans and work study).

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

Post–M.A.: 68 credits

Post–B.A.: 95 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

Post–M.A.: 47 credits

Post–B.A.: 74 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Post–M.A.: Half of degree coursework (34 out of 68 total credits) must be completed in must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Post–B.A.: Half of degree coursework (48 out of 95 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 21 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned four or more years prior to admission to the doctoral program is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned four or more years prior to admission to the doctoral program is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

12 credits without advisor approval. Up to 15 credits with advisor approval.

Program-Specific Courses Required

Post–M.A. track:

COUN PSY/​PSYCH/​RP & SE  729 Advanced Social Psychology3
COUN PSY/​ED PSYCH/​RP & SE  735 Legal and Ethical Bases of Counseling and Psychology3
COUN PSY/​ED PSYCH/​RP & SE  736 Seminar in Psychology of Individual Differences3
COUN PSY/​ED PSYCH/​RP & SE  737 Seminar in History and Systems of Psychology3
ED PSYCH 542 The Biological Basis of Behavior3
ED PSYCH/​HDFS  725 Theory and Issues in Human Development3
ED PSYCH 795 Introduction to Learning Sciences I3
COUN PSY 890 Advanced Assessment Techniques in Counseling Psychology3
COUN PSY 900 Counseling Psychology Practicum--Foundational2-6
COUN PSY 902 Counseling Psychology Practicum in Supervision2-6
COUN PSY 903 Counseling Psychology Practicum--Advanced3
COUN PSY 905 Research Practicum in Counseling Psychology3
COUN PSY/​RP & SE  925 Seminar in Counseling Psychology3
COUN PSY 950 Research Methods in Counseling Psychology2-3
COUN PSY 951 Counseling Psychology Research in Individual Intervention2-3
COUN PSY 740 Abnormal Behavior and Psychopathology3
COUN PSY 960 Research Methods in Counseling Psychology, II3
RP & SE 980 Adult Cognitive Assessment3
COUN PSY 990 Research or Thesis1-12

Post–B.A. track:

Must complete all courses listed for the Post–MA track and

COUN PSY 620 Special Topics in Counseling and Guidance1-6
COUN PSY 800 Theories of Counseling3
COUN PSY 805 Helping Relationships and Techniques3
COUN PSY 806 Supervised Practicum in Counseling I3
COUN PSY 807 Supervised Practicum in Counseling II2-5
COUN PSY 808 Supervised Practicum in Counseling III: Advanced2-5
COUN PSY/​RP & SE  850 Consultation Procedures for Counselors3
COUN PSY 860 Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling3
COUN PSY 865 Lifestyle and Career Development3

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

Ph.D. students in the Department of Counseling Psychology may elect to develop a minor area of concentration. This minor is optional. Students who wish to complete a cohesive body of work outside the major may wish to obtain a doctoral minor. Students are expected to consult with their advisors concerning minor/breadth requirements.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

Students are required to attain a minimum course grade of B for all required courses.

Probation Policy

Placement on probation indicates a very serious faculty concern about a student's performance. Students are placed on probation, as opposed to being dismissed from the program, when the faculty determines that the student likely will be able to address the difficulty that led to the probation if appropriate remediation is provided. If a recommendation for probation and remediation is adopted by the faculty, the student and advisor work with the Doctoral Training Committee (or a subset of this committee) to formulate a remediation plan including explicit goals and deadlines for evaluation of their attainment.

Students on probation cannot be approved as ready for the next level of clinical training (i.e., for foundational practicum; for internship) until they have successfully remediated the identified concern(s). This can have a substantial impact on time to degree, as practicum applications begin in the fall semester for the following academic year.

Advisor / Committee

Upon admission to the doctoral program, all students are assigned a faculty advisor. The doctoral student may select a major professor from the Department of Counseling Psychology who is not the original faculty advisor. In view of the important role that the major professor plays in the student's dissertation research, students are advised to allow themselves sufficient time to get acquainted with all faculty, so that they can select a major professor with whom they share similar research interests, career goals, or other interests. The doctoral student's faculty advisor plays an important role in monitoring and assisting the student with program planning.

Reviews of student progress are an agenda item for departmental faculty meeting in November (1st-year students only) and in April or May (all active Ph.D. students). All students are required to conduct a yearly progress report meeting with their advisor. Student perspectives are taken into account in these reviews, and all students complete the Doctoral Student Report on Progress, in conjunction with their advisors.

Assessments and Examinations

Satisfactory progress is demonstrated by earning a minimum grade of B in all required courses, demonstration of competency on routine evaluation milestones, responsible professional conduct in employment and practicum settings, and timely progress on independent work. A comprehensive formative review of student performance, encompassing academic and clinical training, research involvement, and other roles such as employment and departmental activities, is conducted annually.

The doctoral preliminary examination includes three components, all of which include both written and oral presentations. The clinical case study (PE-1) is an in-depth reflection on a single counseling case, and serves as an exemplar of clinical competencies in the role of counselor. The supervision case study (PE-2) is an in-depth reflection on a relationship with one supervisee, and serves as an exemplar of clinical competencies in the role of supervisor. The dissertation proposal (PE–3) includes a literature review and method section for a proposed dissertation project, and serves as an exemplar of academic and scientific proficiency.

Time Constraints

Students have eight years from the date of admission to complete all of the necessary courses. Courses that are more than eight years old will not fulfill program completion requirements for admission to candidacy. Admission to candidacy occurs when students successfully complete all required coursework and pass their doctoral preliminary examinations. Students must be admitted to candidacy within ten years of admission to the Department. Once admitted to candidacy (dissertator status) the student has five years to complete the dissertation and pass the final oral examination.

Once students are admitted they are expected to maintain continuous enrollment and make satisfactory progress toward their degree. Failure to maintain continuous enrollment may result in lengthy reentry process or possible termination from the program.

Prior to reentry into the program, the student should contact the Department and petition the faculty for reentry. The full faculty will determine whether the student is granted reentry without conditions, granted reentry conditionally (e.g., require additional coursework or adherence to time lines for completion of degree requirements) or denied reentry.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

Admissions Decisions

Admission to the counseling psychology Ph.D. program is highly competitive. Approximately 110 doctoral applications are received each year. The department typically enrolls seven to eight doctoral applicants per year. Students are admitted once per year for either summer or fall matriculation. The Ph.D. application deadline is December 1.

In addition to acquired academic competencies and counseling skills, the counseling profession requires a high level of ethical behavior, self-awareness, and personal maturity. All are considered in assessing a student's fitness for a career as a professional counselor or counseling psychologist.

Currently, all materials listed below must be submitted to the department at the time of application and received by the application deadline:

  • The Graduate School Electronic Application and the associated Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Supplemental Electronic Application.
  • The general Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required. The subject test in psychology is optional. Scores are considered in conjunction with other admission information in the admission decision. Scores are to be sent directly from ETS to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
  • Transcripts from all institutions attended since high school must be sent directly to the Department of Counseling Psychology. The GPA for the last 60 semester credits (or last two years) of undergraduate work is calculated and should be at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A statement of one to three pages should address specific goals and interests, background preparation; (both academic and professional), and reasons for graduate study in the Department of Counseling Psychology. This essay is electronically submitted through the Graduate School Application portal.
  • Letters of recommendation should include at least three current letters that address the applicant's professional and scholarly competence and potential. Letters are electronically solicited while completing the Graduate School Application on-line.
  • All work experiences (volunteer or paid) should be included on the Supplemental Application, whether or not they are counseling related.
  • Publications, presentations, and research experiences should be included on the Supplemental Application.

The application process is subject to change. Applicants should refer to the department website for the most up-to-date information.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Student will prepare for role as professional psychologist:
  • Apply professional standards and conduct;
  • Demonstrate scientific foundations;
  • Acquire knowledge and skill in psychological practice;
  • Acquire knowledge and skills in clinical supervision;
  • Develop relational skills.
  • Student will gain an understanding of the scientific basis for practice:
  • Acquire knowledge of research methods;
  • Apply research findings to psychological practice;
  • Apply scientific thinking to practice.

Professional Conduct

  • Student will develop a multicultural competence and social justice orientation:
  • Acquire cultural and scientific knowledge relevant to diverse and underrepresented groups;
  • Develop awareness of self as a cultural being;
  • Develop skill in application of knowledge of self, culture, and context to clinical work.

Faculty: Professors Hoyt (chair), Gloria, Quintana, Uttal, Wampold; Associate Professors Thompson, Valdez; Faculty Associate Lotta; Clinical Associate Professor Graham; Visiting Assistant Professor Budge