PEI

UPEI doctor of psychology program 'a chance to build something new,' says director

In the spring of 2018, UPEI announced plans to offer a doctor of psychology program, and after a year of building the program the first cohort of students got started this fall. 

The first cohort of 6 students got started in the program this fall

Dr. Jason Doiron, director of clinical training for the doctor of psychology program, says a unique aspect of the new program is that students get started right away in mental-health outreach initiatives. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

A new program aimed at training clinical psychologists on P.E.I. is off to a solid start, according to the director of the program. 

In the spring of 2018, UPEI announced plans to offer a doctor of psychology program, and after a year of building the program the first cohort of students got started this fall. 

'Students are remarkably strong'

"It's going really well," said Dr. Jason Doiron, director of clinical training for the program. "The students are remarkably strong students, it's an intensive program, it's jam-packed." 

The hope was that offering this level of psychology training here on the Island would help alleviate the shortage of psychologists on P.E.I. 

We have developed an initiative where all of our students, from Day 1, are involved in mental-health outreach initiatives.— Dr. Jason Doiron

According to the Psychological Association of P.E.I., the Island has the second-lowest number of psychologists per capita of the provinces.

Doiron said a lot of time, energy, and consultation went into the development of the program, which is rooted in Canadian Psychological Association accreditation criteria. He said it has a strong focus on integrating students within the community — and enhancing existing mental-health support for students, and eventually, for the wider population.

"It's always a great opportunity when you have a chance to build something new," he said.

Mental-health outreach important component

"One of the unique aspects of our program is that we have developed an initiative where all of our students, from Day 1, are involved in mental-health outreach initiatives," said Doiron. 

He said the initiatives are evidence-based, designed to help students develop their skills and in the process connect them with established Island psychologists, in addition to faculty hired specifically for the new program.  

Joshua Peters, originally from P.E.I., says he never expected to be able to study clinical psychology at the doctoral level in his home province. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

"It feels like the program, and our students, have kind of been welcome to the psychological community with this kind of shared purpose of improving access in P.E.I," said Doiron.  

Doiron said that out of more than 40 applicants, six were chosen to be part of the inaugural cohort. 

Joshua Peters — originally from P.E.I. — is one of them. 

After years studying and working in Ontario, Peters said it was a dream come true to be able to work toward a doctor of psychology on P.E.I.  

'It's really special for me'

"It's really special for me," said Peters. 

"It's allowed me to go back to my roots and feel really comfortable here and be able to hopefully provide some service in the future for the Island."

He said he's bought a home on P.E.I., and plans to stay on the Island once he's completed his studies. He said he's grateful the program was created because he believes the Island is an excellent place to train, and get started in the field of clinical psychology. 

"Just to be able to learn how to work with communities like the ones on P.E.I. that are a little bit smaller, but oftentimes offer a lot of opportunities for people to engage with, that maybe they wouldn't get in the bigger cities," said Peters.

'We're sort of almost helping to form the program ourselves too, which is a really cool experience that I wasn't necessarily expecting,' says Allegra Netten. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

For fellow student Allegra Netten, the integration of practice and research is what drew her to the program. She said being able to work so closely and collaboratively with professors has been enriching as well. 

"I'd been looking at other programs that are more established, and the students have much less say, much less interaction with the professors," said Netten. 

"So being part of that first cohort … we can give feedback. We can talk with the professors. And we're sort of almost helping to form the program ourselves too, which is a really cool experience that I wasn't necessarily expecting."

Completion of the four-year program includes 26 required courses, a minimum of 750 hours of practical experience and a 12-month pre-doctoral internship. 

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About the Author

Jessica Doria-Brown

Videojournalist

Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

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