The Law-Psychology Graduate Program is based on the idea that many legal issues involve underlying psychological questions. Typically, lawyers and psychologists are trained to examine psycholegal issues from separate perspectives. This program trains lawyer-clinical psychologists to combine their knowledge of both fields. By integrating the two fields, graduates are trained to bring fresh insights to the process of understanding, evaluating and correcting important psycholegal problems.
This six-year program leads to the awarding of the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree by Widener University's Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology and the Juris Doctor (JD) degree by Widener's School of Law. The PsyD portion of the program and its internship are accredited by the Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation of the American Psychological Association (750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242; phone: (202) 336-5979). The JD portion of the program is accredited by the American Bar Association.
The program offers a number of benefits. For students who have a genuine interest in clinical psychology and law, it gives them the option of pursuing both fields simultaneously instead of choosing one over the other. When compared to the option of seeking both degrees separately, the program is shorter and therefore saves students the equivalent of two years of tuition and time. The interdisciplinary training helps graduates integrate the two fields while offering a significant way of differentiating themselves in the job market.
This training is expected to open the doors to a wide variety of career opportunities. Students focus on and develop special expertise on many issues at the interface of law and psychology. To name a few, these include: child custody, divorce mediation, personal injury, special education, civil commitment, confidentiality, informed consent, malpractice, professional licensing, health insurance, malpractice, insanity defense and competence to stand trial.
Graduates are prepared to play diverse roles in society: teacher, consultant, administrator, legislator, judge, policy-maker, practicing lawyer, practicing clinical forensic psychologist, etc. They are trained to add new dimensions to these traditional roles by using their joint areas of expertise in an integrated fashion.
The curriculum includes a number of courses designed specifically to help students acquire an integration of psychology and law and develop specialized skills:
- Introduction to Law-Psychology
- Legal Rights of Patients and Clients
- Professional Issues and Ethics
- Psycholegal Intervention and Treatment
- Psycholegal Assessment, Diagnosis and Testimony
Similarly, students are provided with opportunities to put into practice their special skills as lawyers-psychologists within their practicum and internship placements. A large portion of the curriculum, however, is similar to the requirements of all students in the PsyD or JD degree programs. That is, students complete the basic requirements of each degree, 97 credits toward a PsyD degree and 75 credits towards a JD degree.The training culminates in a law-psychology dissertation and in an oral defense of a forensic case study presentation.
The first year is spent in full-time residence at the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology. Starting with the second year, students take courses both at the Institute and at the School of Law. Several courses are taken during the summers. Students are expected to earn their JD and PsyD degrees within six years of study.
In evaluating applicants for admission, the following information is considered:
- GRE and LSAT scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Other indicators of academic excellence, and relevant experiences
An undergraduate major in psychology is not required, but desirable. Past experience has shown that applicants who were accepted possessed a grade point average of 3.5 or above and scored at or above the 70th percentiles in their GRE tests and LSAT. All applicant materials must be received by February 1 for fall admission. Spring or summer admission is not possible.
Application files for the Law-Psychology Program are reviewed by a committee of faculty members from the School of Law and the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology. The top candidates are invited for personal interviews and an orientation, after which final acceptance decisions are made, usually by April 1.
Students pay for approximately six years of full-time tuition, three of which are at the rate of the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology and three of which are at the rate of the School of Law. The exact tuition amounts depend on the number of credits taken per semester.
Students are eligible for institutionally sponsored government loans and federal work study aid. A select number of students whose academic achievements merit special recognition receive scholarships and awards. Career-related field work is also available. For example, stipends are paid for the clinical psychology internship during the fifth and sixth years. In addition, part-time jobs in law firms and legal agencies are available.