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  • Jocelyn Smith Carter

Diversifying Clinical Psychology in Chicago

In the spring of 2017, psychology programs (DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University, Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University, and Rosalind Franklin University School of Medicine) from the Chicago-land area met with undergraduate students to help prepare them for graduate study in clinical psychology. This program featured faculty and student presentations and panels on the graduate school preparation, application, and transition processes. The program also featured a student poster session in which students could share their research and get feedback on it from current graduate students and faculty. The inaugural event was hosted by Loyola University of Chicago’s Director of Clinical Training, Dr. Grayson Holmbeck, and Diversity Committee planned and staffed. This program provided one solution to increasing the recruitment and retention of under-represented students into clinical psychology doctoral programs.

Why do we need to take steps to prepare under-represented students for doctoral study in clinical psychology?

The American Psychological Association created the Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention, and Training in Psychology in 1995. The taskforce released a report on the success of its activities during the project period (1997-2005). The full report can be found here:

In general, the number of ethnic minorities who earned bachelor’s (36% in 2004) and master’s degrees increased over time (27.2% in 2004), but the percentage earning doctorates increased by only 16.6%. There are also disparities in the ethnic make-up of psychology faculty in the United States – 12.4% of full time professors. These numbers are concerning when we compare them to the percentage of ethnic minorities in the United States – 37.4%.

Doctoral programs in clinical psychology are attempting to close these gaps by increasing access and preparation for students from under-represented backgrounds.

Who is considered underrepresented?

The data presented above includes only members of ethnic minority groups. However, under-representation is not limited to ethnic and racial groups. It also includes individuals with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals and many others. The APA Code of Ethics states that: “Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups.”

How are the gaps closing?


  • Preparation programs include weekend visits and special programs for under-represented students. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hilland University of Virginia sponsor these types of programs annually.

  • Many programs include information about diversity on their websites. The DePaul University Clinical Program advertises our focus on diversity with respect to faculty, students, research areas, and clinical practice. Students visiting our website should see that diversity is central to our training program, department, and larger university.

  • Many universities offer specific lines of funding for those from under-represented groups. These lines of funding usually come from the university or graduate school (in contrast to the department or program). The Ford Foundation and the McNair Scholars Program are two national sources of funding that are external to programs.


  • Retention efforts are harder to document and define than recruitment efforts. Minority student groups are usually found across the entire department or university rather than a program that may not have enough under-represented students to form a group. Mentoring programs can be hosted on-campus or through virtual communities. The National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development is a great resource. The majority of mentoring usually occurs through the faculty advisor-student relationship, but students from under-represented backgrounds should have opportunities to interact with additional faculty to obtain support that may be needed. Model programs include role modeling from faculty outside the program and clinicians/practitioners in the community. This guide from the APA CEMRRAT2 Task Force and APA Committee on Women in Psychology was written for new faculty members, but many strategies may be helpful for graduate students as well.

Stay tuned for more information about the 2018 event!

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