The History of the Clinical Child Psychology Program

The idea of the Clinical Child Psychology doctoral program (CCPP) at the University of Kansas dates to the mid-1980s, when KU faculty members Marion O’Brien, Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, Jim Sherman, Rick Snyder and others sought a means of bringing together the strengths of the (then) Department of Human Development and Family Life with those of the Clinical Psychology program in the Department of Psychology.  As noted in the original proposal for the program:

The proposed program in Child Clinical Psychology1 would establish the University of Kansas as a nationally and internationally recognized center in Child Clinical Psychology.  The University of Kansas already is recognized for its outstanding research and training accomplishments in psychology generally, and child psychology in particular.  With the combined efforts of the Department of Psychology and the Department of Human Development and Family Life the proposed graduate program would offer an interdepartmental program that is unique in the Kansas Regents schools, and of major stature in American Psychology. (Program Proposal 2/21/1986)

Michael Roberts, then the Coordinator of the Clinical Child Psychology Training Concentration at the University of Alabama and already a recognized leader in Clinical Child Psychology, served as a consultant to the KU faculty during the conceptualization phase of the CCPP.  Building upon his work on key Task Forces focused on the training of psychologists to work with children, youths, and families, Roberts conceptualized the CCPP as “a model of innovation in training because of its specialty focus on child and family training, which includes an orientation to principles of development and empirically supported interventions” (Roberts, 1998, p. 394).  The primary orientation of the CCPP derives from the view that children’s and adolescents’ unique therapeutic needs are best met by psychologists whose training has incorporated developmental theory and sound psychological clinical science into all aspects of the curriculum.  

At the end of long negotiations and planning, approvals, and compromises, the Clinical Child Psychology Program was approved by Dean James L. Muyskens, and Michael Roberts was recruited to KU in the Fall of 1991 as the first Director of the Program. He spent much of the first year securing resources and gaining approval for the new doctoral degree program, which was recognized by the University of Kansas Board of Regents in 1992. 

The first class of Clinical Child Psychology doctoral students was admitted in 1992. At the time, the program existed as a separate degree program (Clinical Child Psychology) under the auspices of the APA-Accredited Clinical Psychology Program, with significant input and support from both HDFL (later the Department of Applied Behavioral Science) and Psychology.  Additional Faculty and Staff were recruited to the CCPP over the ensuing years—Tammie Zordel (1992-2016), Kathy Lemanek (1992-1997), Eric Vernberg (1993-present), Yo Jackson (1995-present), Ric Steele (2000-present), Janice Heath (2000-2009), Bridget Biggs (2005-2008), Leesa Terry (2006-present), Paula Fite (2011-present), Christopher Cushing (2014-present), Matthew Mosconi (2015-present), Julie Boydston (2016-present) and Lauren Bias (2016-present). Additional core faculty members include developmental psychologists John Colombo and Andrea Greenhoot. 

The program achieved independent APA Accreditation as a Clinical Program with an Emphasis in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology in 2001. This was a significant accomplishment in that the APA Committee on Accreditation was reluctant to accredit a “Specialty” program—voicing concern that a program that allowed specialization would neglect “broad and general” training.  It is to Michael Roberts’ credit that he was able to demonstrate how specialty training allowed improved “broad and general” training (See Roberts, 2006, for additional coverage of this topic). The CCPP received reaccreditation from the APA's Commission on Accreditation in 2008 and 2015. 

In its more than 20 years, the Program has produced approximately 86 graduates, and is currently ranked in the top 10 public Clinical Psychology doctoral programs by U.S. News and World Report (2016).  Our graduates hold positions in universities, medical centers, federal agencies, private practice, and community mental health centers, and are recognized for their leadership and scholarship in the field.  As students begin their training in the Clinical Child Psychology Program, they are reminded of the program’s rich traditions, expectations, and mission.  The Program’s history becomes the students’ resource—and the students’ successes add to the Program’s legacy.   

Footnote:  1.  The original proposal for the degree program used the phrase "Child Clinical Psychology." The program and degree title were officially changed to "Clinical Child Psychology" by the Kansas Board of Regents on June 1, 1993. 


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