Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE—The Department of Psychology’s Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, received the Innovation in Graduate Education Award from the American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Educational Affairs for its novel curriculum emphasizing social justice and community empowerment in 2012.

The award recognizes innovative practices in graduate departments of psychology that have improved the quality of education and training.

Brett Pelham, APA associate executive director for graduate and postgraduate education in psychology, presents the Innovation in Graduate Education Award to Brent Mallinckrodt, professor of psychology and director of the counseling psychology program.

Brent Mallinckrodt, professor of psychology and director of the Counseling Psychology program, accepted the award on behalf of the Counseling Psychology Program faculty and students at a ceremony on April 20 at UT. Brett Pelham, APA associate executive director for graduate and postgraduate education in psychology, presented the award.

“I was incredibly impressed with the coherence of the program and the way it really integrated the advocacy component, which was not just placed in the program as window dressing, but truly transformed what the students are trained to do,” Pelham said.

Christine Boake, associate dean for research, graduate studies, and facilities for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the innovative curriculum builds on existing strengths and ensures that graduates are at the forefront of their field.

“The college is delighted that this outstanding program has been recognized nationally for its innovative, creative and path-breaking curriculum,” said Boake. “The faculty is already attracting highly qualified students and has a strong record of successful placement of these graduates.”

In 2007, Mallinckrodt and psychology professors Jacob Levy, Gina Owens, and Dawn Szymanski, met to discuss innovations to the counseling psychology program that would draw upon their collective strengths in teaching and research while emphasizing a distinctive focus that would attract the highest caliber students. Each was a licensed psychologist whose research and work with clients contributed to a conviction that many counseling clients’ problems result from oppressive conditions in the social environment.

The four faculty members quickly discovered a strong shared commitment to social justice and decided to make this the emphasis of the revised curriculum. In 2010, Joe Miles, assistant professor, joined the program as a fifth key member.

“We recognize that clients’ despair and anxiety are natural, understandable reactions to some of the social environments they experience, just as shivering is a natural and expected reaction to being drenched in the cold,” said Mallinckrodt. “Therefore, we designed this program to teach students to address the conditions of the ‘cold and rain’ more so than the symptoms of ‘shivering’.”

Since 1950, the scientist-practitioner model has dominated training in professional psychology programs accredited by the APA until UT pioneered the addition of a third component: training in social justice advocacy. In the treatment setting, for example, the scientist-practitioner-advocate model calls for working with clients to help them find their own voice and, if clients choose, to help them develop the tools to advocate for themselves.

Innovations in curriculum include social justice themes infused into many graduate courses offered by the program. In 2008, the new social justice practicum was described online and in recruiting materials. Since then, applications to UT’s counseling psychology program have increased by 235 percent. The program was first accredited in 1980. In 2009, it was re-accredited by the APA, the first of its kind to adopt the new scientist-practitioner-advocate training model.

“This program would not have been possible if we were not at an institution that encourages change and innovation, and we have been very fortunate to have UT’s support throughout the process,” Mallinckrodt said.

For more information on UT’s Counseling Psychology Program, visit the website.

C O N T A C T :

Brent Mallinckrodt (865-974-8796, bmallinc@utk.edu)

Cheryl Travis (865-974-6843, ctravis@utk.edu)