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Southern Utah University approved for first doctorate program focused on treating mental health

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Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University will soon have a historic first. The Utah Board of Higher Education has given final approval for SUU’s new Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.). The program will prepare students to practice psychotherapy and psychological testing. The new program will result in the expansion of mental health care access in rural Utah. 

“When our first doctorate program begins in the Fall of 2022, it’ll be Southern Utah University’s 125th year of providing higher education in our region. That’s a significant achievement in our history,” said SUU President Scott L Wyatt. “Just as important, this new program will help solve a problem found in rural Utah and throughout the country - the availability of mental health practitioners.”

The new doctorate program must still receive final approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, SUU’s regional accreditation higher education agency.

“This is a culmination of literally decades of effort in trying to bring graduate training in psychology to SUU. Our primary motivation has always been to increase the availability of mental health services to the people in our community and the region,” said Dr. Steve Barney, SUU professor of psychology. “We’re thrilled with the approval, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before we welcome students on campus in the fall of 2022.”

This will be the only Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.) program focusing on mental health offered in the state of Utah. It differs from a Ph.D. degree which places a greater emphasis on research rather than specifically training professionals for practical application. 

“This program will make a significant difference in people’s lives,” said SUU Provost Dr. Jon Anderson. “Graduates of this program will provide greater access to mental health care, particularly in rural Utah. The faculty have been working toward this degree for many years and are prepared to deliver a high quality curriculum. We look forward to the good this program will do.”

Added Dr. Barney, “Our emphasis is going to be on rural mental health, on clinical practice, and on sucide and abuse prevention. We’re going to give students a broad base of experience so that they can go to the communities where they choose to live and practice psychology.”

Once approved by SUU’s regional accreditation agency, faculty will begin building the academic course work and clinical programs.”

The new Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology degree will take five years to complete. The degree adds to SUU’s more than 140 undergraduate programs and 21 graduate and certificate programs.