Psychology Training Programs - Washington DC VA Medical Center
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Washington DC VA Medical Center

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Psychology Training Programs

Contacts

Leah E. Squires, PhD
Acting Director of Psychology Training Programs
50 Irving Street NW Washington, DC 20422
Leah.squires@va.gov

Jennifer M. Strang, Ph.D., ABPP-CN
Neuropsychology Training Coordinator
50 Irving Street NW (116B) Washington, DC 20422
(202) 745-8000 x58173

Welcome to our training programs. We are humbled that the psychology interns, fellows and practicum students we train will one day become the face of psychology. We hold in high regard the importance of providing you with the best training possible so that you have the tools and resources, motivation, and perseverance needed to advance the field of psychology.

Philosophy of Training

In our program, we collectively view it as our mission to support psychology trainees in developing their individual identities as psychologists while ensuring they possess the necessary skills and competencies to advance towards independence. Two areas our program highlights are diversity/inclusion and program evaluation/program development. Our program attends to and values the diversity reflected in our staff, trainees and the veterans we serve, and emphasizes the importance of preparing psychology trainees to deliver patient centered, evidence-based psychological services that incorporates individual and cultural diversity at all aspects of assessment, treatment planning and intervention. We offer multiple opportunities for psychology trainees to become involved in program evaluation, with the intent of encouraging them to think about how they can develop and improve clinical, research, and systems processes for the future.

Our Setting: The Washington DC VA Medical Center

All training takes place within the Washington DC VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) and its five surrounding Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). Located in the nation’s capital, the DC VAMC is among the most visible and dynamic facilities in the entire VA system. Patients seen at the DC VAMC are primarily Vietnam-era Veterans in the 60-70 age range. The DC VAMC also serves Veterans who participated in World War II, the Korean War, Gulf War I, Bosnia, and other conflicts, as well as many who experienced non-combat trauma (i.e., Military Sexual Trauma (MST), training accidents, responding to natural disasters, etc.). The DC VAMC is very active in providing outreach, education, assessment, and treatment to our newest returning Veterans.

The DC VAMC is a comprehensive medical center that treats Veterans of all genders who have a wide array of medical and psychiatric illnesses needing treatment in both inpatient and outpatient settings and is a tertiary care, Complexity Level 1B facility. It provides comprehensive primary and specialty care in medicine, surgery, neurology and psychiatry. The DC VAMC is part of the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) #5. VISN 5 includes Washington DC, Baltimore and Perry Point, MD, and Martinsburg, WV. The DC VAMC is also the designated Polytrauma Network Site for VISN 5.

Our training handbook provides detailed information about training experiences

The DCVAMC Psychology Service welcomes practicum students from APA accredited doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology. Clinics that routinely host practicum students include:

    • Health Psychology
    • Home Based Primary Care (HBPC)
    • Mental Health Clinic
    • Neuropsychology
    • Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC)
    • Polytrauma
    • Primary Care –Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI)
    • Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP)
    • Trauma Services Program

Please see our Practicum Training Brochure for additional details about each clinical training experience

We will be accepting applications in early 2020.We plan to follow the guidelines of the Greater Washington Area Directors of Clinical Training (GWADCT) with regards to applicant selection and notification. At this time application deadlines have not been set. Please contact the program in early 2020 for updates.

To apply: Please email a cover letter and curriculum vitae to the Training Director, Dr. Leah E. Squires, at leah.squires@va.gov In your cover letter, please indicate the one clinic that most interests you and detail the specific reasons that you are choosing to apply to that clinic. We ask applicants to specify only one clinic because of the large number of applications that the psychology staff receive and need to review. Dr. Squires will forward your application to the staff psychologists associated with the specific rotation that you identify. Please do not send letters of recommendation or sample treatment reports unless requested to do so by a staff psychologist.

APPIC Match Number: 119311

Applications Due: November 1, 2019

The DC VAMC offers a generalist psychology training internship program to qualified graduate students in an APA-accredited clinical or counseling psychology doctoral programs. Our training program prepares psychology interns for the effective, independent, and ethical practice of professional psychology. Because psychologists participate widely in this large and active teaching center, interns are exposed to a broad range of potential training experiences, including those in traditional psychiatric settings, therapeutic communities, and contemporary health psychology. Our staff and Veteran population reflect the vibrant multi-ethnic communities in the greater metropolitan Washington D.C. area. Training is a very high priority at the DC VAMC. The internship program has been accredited by the American Psychological Association since 1981. At this time, we offer seven internship positions. Staff psychologists adhere to a diverse range of theoretical orientations and are trained in a variety of evidenced based clinical practices. The variety within our medical center and the diversity among our staff enables us to approach each intern's training through an individualized plan, with the goal of maximizing the intern's personal growth and professional competence.

The predoctoral internship at the Washington DC VA Medical Center is fully accredited by the commission on accreditation of the American Psychological Association. The next site visit will be in 2020. Internship applicants must meet these criteria to be considered for any VA psychology internship program:

  • Doctoral student in good standing at an APA-accredited graduate program in clinical or counseling psychology. Persons with a doctorate in another area of psychology who meet the APA criteria for respecialization training in clinical or counseling Psychology are also eligible.
  • Approved for internship status by graduate program training director.

Download the brochure for more detailed information about rotations and application requirements. (link to internship brochure)

Internship Admissions, Support and Initial Placement Data

Applications Due: December 12th, 2019

Program Overview

Within the Clinical Psychology Fellowship Program, we offer training in three areas of emphasis. For the 2020-2021 training year, we will be recruiting 5 postdoctoral fellows in the following emphasis areas:

  • Trauma (PTSD) - two Fellow positions
  • Health Psychology (Liver Disease and HIV) – one Fellow position
  • Serious Mental Illness (SMI) two Fellow positions

This section provides information about experiences that are shared across all three emphasis areas. Click on the emphasis area links to view details about the unique features of each emphasis area.

Our goal is to train psychologists who can accurately diagnose patient problems, implement evidence-based interventions incorporate new findings from the clinical research literature into practice and conduct ongoing evaluation of programs to advance the practice of psychology.

Based on a practitioner-scholar model, where clinical work and research complement each other, the Program helps trainees become expert clinicians, as well provides them much needed exposure to clinical/programmatic researcher, and to integrate new research findings into their clinical practice. Postdoctoral Fellows learn assessment and treatment skills and learn to provide clinical supervision to Predoctoral Psychology Interns and Practicum Students.

Our training program views the development of program evaluation and development skills as key to preparing Fellows to further clinical practice. Therefore, each Fellow is granted 20% of their time for dedicated clinical improvement/programmatic research projects that they complete in collaboration with staff psychologist mentors and supervisors.

The Postdoctoral Fellowship Program's objectives at the DC VAMC are consistent with the mandate for evidenced-based mental health care throughout the VA system. The Program meets the Secretary's Transformation Initiatives (which include improved Veteran mental health care), and the services are consistent with the VA Mental Health Uniform Services Package.

The three emphasis areas involve different allotments of time for assessment and intervention, both group and individual. Regardless of emphasis, some experiences are shared by all Fellows. Each Fellow receives a minimum of four (4) hours of structured learning and supervision per week, including two (2) hours per week of clinical supervision, two (2) hours per week of didactic training as part of the Postdoctoral Fellowship Training Series and one (1) hour in interdisciplinary treatment team meetings. In addition to these minimum standards, a Fellow has a variety of Medical Center-wide seminars and other structured learning opportunities.

All fellows have mentorship meetings with the Director, Psychology Training Programs periodically throughout the year. Fellows are also able to participate in the larger Psychology Service Mentorship Program to be paired with a staff psychologist mentor. Fellows may also volunteer to provide mentorship to psychology practicum students as part of our mentorship program.

Application Procedure

The preferred method of application submission is through the APPA CAS system. Please access APPA CAS (APPIC Psychology Postdoctoral Application), a service of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). Complete the basic demographic, education, clinical training information and transcripts required of all applicants for all APPA CAS programs. APPA CAS allows you to request letters of recommendation electronically, which are then uploaded by the letter writer. In addition to APPA CAS requirements, we request 3 brief essays as part of our application.

Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens and must have completed a doctoral degree in Clinical or Counseling Psychology, including a doctoral internship, from APA-accredited programs. The VA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to enhancing diversity within our staff. Applicants from underserved and underrepresented communities are strongly encouraged to apply as we are very committed to attracting a diverse class of residents, as well as in training a future generation of psychologists capable of delivering high quality care to an increasingly diverse population.

The Washington DC VAMC Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is accredited by the APA Commission on Accreditation through 2020. The APA Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation can be reached at the APA, 750 First St. NE, Washington DC 20002-4242, (202) 336-5979.

Postdoctoral Fellowship Admissions, Support, and Initial Placement Data.

Trauma (PTSD) Emphasis

The Trauma Emphasis Fellowship trains fellows to accurately diagnose PTSD and related conditions, to create a comprehensive treatment plan, to provide effective individual and group treatment, and to be aware of and implement current PTSD research. The Trauma Services Program at the DC VAMC offers a variety of different treatments to Veterans, including Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy (group and individual formats), Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills, Dual Diagnosis groups, and Peer Support Services. Offering these evidenced-based treatments represents a unique learning experience to Postdoctoral Fellows to deliver the most robust evidenced-based treatments for PTSD.

Clinical Setting—The Trauma Services Program

The Trauma Services Program (TSP) is an outpatient clinic that provides treatment for PTSD to Veterans from all eras of service. While many Veterans in TSP served in combat, we treat Veterans with a variety of traumatic experiences that occurred during military service including, but not limited to, military sexual trauma (MST), training accidents, and motor vehicle accidents. The DC VAMC Trauma Services Program is a thriving and highly active clinic, consistently in the top 10 (of 120 VA trauma-specific programs) for the number of outpatient PTSD visits. The clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of providers (i.e., psychologists, social workers, nurses, and peer support counselors).

Health Psychology (Liver Disease and HIV) Emphasis

Program Overview

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest single provider of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) care in the United States. Veterans with these medical conditions often have mental health and substance use treatment needs. Addressing the significant psychiatric needs of these patient populations promotes health, wellness, and successful treatment and disease management.

The Liver Disease & HIV Residency provides the opportunity to receive quality training in Health Psychology with an emphasis on working with these complex patient populations.

The Liver Disease/HIV Residency position is focused on the effective, independent, and ethical mental health treatment of individuals with Liver Diseases (including HCV), and HIV. Our aim is to train psychologists who can accurately diagnose patient problems; implement evidence-based treatments; consume with sophistication the clinical research literature and incorporate new findings into clinical practice. Residents receive focused training in HIV, hepatitis C, advanced liver disease, as well as dedicated training in substance use assessment while working on integrated care teams to assess and address the mental health needs of patients living with HIV, HCV/HIV co-infection, HCV mono-infection and advanced liver disease. We expect training experiences will foster a deep understanding of the relationship between psychiatric disorders and these special medical conditions, and how the effective recognition and treatment of mental disorders can improve the care of HIV -infected veterans and those with HCV and advanced liver disease. The psychiatric disorders include those caused by HIV/HCV as well as preexisting disorders that complicate the treatment of HIV/HCV.

Based on a practitioner-scholar model, where clinical work and research complement each other, the program helps trainees become expert clinicians focused on complex mental health needs of patients with HIV and HCV and other Liver Diseases and provides them exposure to clinical/programmatic research.

Clinical Training Settings

The Infectious Diseases Clinic is an interdisciplinary primary care clinic that serves veterans with HIV, HIV/HCV co-infection and tuberculosis. Residents provide integrated mental health services in this clinic that range from brief assessment & triage, consultation with medical providers and individual and group psychotherapy to address a range of presenting concerns including: medication adherence, sexual risk reduction, stress management, and other health management skills such as smoking cessation, insomnia & weight management. Residents also address general mental health concerns that may arise, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The ID service also fields consults related to pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PReP) and residents are actively involved in HIV education and prevention efforts throughout the hospital.

The Liver Clinic is a specialty clinic that provides treatment of hepatitis C and manages veterans with advanced liver diseases. The resident serves as a member of this specialty team and meets with veterans in collaboration with the medical providers to aid in the identification to potential challenges to treatment, provide brief interventions & refer to specialty mental health as appropriate. Through both the Liver and ID clinics, the resident aids in assessing veterans readiness for HCV treatment and provides treatment support as needed. Residents also participate in the Liver Transplant Evaluation process.

The Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP)

Due to the high level of substance use co-morbidity in these patient populations, the resident devotes a minimum of 10% of the training year to focused training in substance use disorders through the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP).

SARP is an outpatient drug treatment program that uses a multidisciplinary team to treat Veterans with alcohol and drug addictions. As there is considerable prevalence of substance use disorders within the HIV and HCV patient populations, the fellow devotes a minimum of 10% of clinical training time in a focused substance use training experience. This is usually completed as a minor rotation within the SARP clinic, and may involve both individual and group therapy experiences depending on the fellow’s training goals. Residents also serve as liason between the ID and Liver Clinics and the SARP program and work on initiatives related to HIV and HCV patient education projects.

Liver/HIV Emphasis Didactics

The Liver Disease/HIV resident at the DC VAMC is one of several nationwide residents participating in this focused training. As part of participation in the National Liver Disease/HIV Residency program, the resident attends weekly didactic webinars on topics relevant to HIV, Liver Disease and integrated mental health care, in order to provide structured training in these topic areas. The resident also attends monthly conference calls with the national program coordinator and other fellows to discuss training progress, clinical topics and to develop a sense of community and cross-site collaboration. The Liver/HIV Resident also has access to the HIV/HCV program’s sharepoint site which provides the opportunity to share resources with residents at other VAs nationwide. Finally, the resident has the option to attend other national calls related to HIV and Liver Disease management that include both medical and mental health providers.

Research/Program Development & Evaluation Training

The Liver Disease/HIV resident devotes 20% of the training year to research/program evaluation activities. Residents work closely with their supervisor and other psychology staff to develop ideas for projects that are feasible to complete within the training year. This may include contributing to a manuscript, conducting a small independent research study, or development of a new clinical initiative and evaluation of its impact. Examples of past projects that Residents completed include: development and implementation of a brief cognitive assessment to identify Veterans who may have HIV associated neurocognitive impairment and implementation of a cognitive skills group for Veterans with HIV identified as having cognitive concerns; implementation of a group relationship skills intervention for male veterans with HIV who were engaging in high-risk sexual contact; addressing the intersections of diabetes and HIV by providing a group diabetes management intervention targeted for veterans with HIV.

FELLOWSHIP SUPERVISORS

Leah Squires, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, HIV/ Liver Psychology, Acting Director Psychology Training Programs
Leonard Tate, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, SARP
Lynne Padgett, PhD. Clinical Health Psychologist

Additional Staff

Slavomir Zapata, Ph.D., Acting Chief of Psychology, DCVAMC, Clinical Psychologist

Please see the Training Handbook for additional information and staff biographies.

Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Emphasis

Postdoctoral fellows applying for this specialized training experience should express a specific interest in psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery-oriented therapeutic care. Fellows, at the beginning of their training year, work closely with their primary clinical supervisor and the program manager to develop an individualized training plan that meets their training needs and interests. Postdoctoral fellows in the Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Fellowship Track will have an opportunity to work both in the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC), which is an intensive outpatient skills building program, and on the acute inpatient psychiatry unit. Staff in the PRRC and on the inpatient psychiatric unit provide services to Veterans who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness (e.g., Schizophrenia, Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Anxiety Disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and experience significant functional impairment. Both the PRRC and inpatient Veteran population is diverse in race/ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and cognitive/physical functioning. Programming is curriculum-based and specifically designed to teach the requisite skills that are necessary for defining and realizing Veterans’ self-chosen roles and goals in all domains of health and life. Recovery-focused approaches are respectful of the Veteran as an individual rather than focusing solely on a problem, diagnosis, or set of symptoms. Services provided are individualized, person-centered, strength-based, and promote hope, responsibility, and respect.

Please see the Serious Mental Illness Emphasis Program Brochure for additional details about training in this emphasis area.

Please see the Neuropsychology Program Brochure for details regarding this program.