Psychology (Clinical) - 8256

Program Summary

Faculty: Faculty of Science

Contact: School of Psychology

Campus: Sydney

Career: Postgraduate

Typical Duration: 2 Years  

Typical UOC Per Semester: 24

Min UOC Per Semester: 6

Max UOC Per Semester: 24

Min UOC For Award: 96


Master of Psychology (Clinical) (Specialisation)

View program information for previous years

Program Description

The Master of Psychology (Clinical) program began in 1971. The School’s theoretical orientation has primarily been one of experimental empiricism, and the Clinical program adheres to the scientist-practitioner model for clinical training. The program has an emphasis on cognitive-behavioural approaches to the understanding and management of clinical programs. The program concerns itself with adult, adolescent and child clinical psychology, neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation.

The program is accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) as the fifth and sixth years of study leading to full membership of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and registration as a psychologist with the national Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA). Graduates of the program are eligible for Associate Membership of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists. After completing a further two years of full-time equivalent supervised practice, graduates of the program are eligible to apply for full membership and endorsement as a Clinical Psychologist.

Program Objectives and Graduate Attributes

Graduates of the Master of Psychology (Clinical) program will have, as per the APAC Accreditation Standard 5.1.12, the following core capabilities and attributes that are essential for practising psychology safely upon registration.

Knowledge of the Discipline

Overall knowledge of the discipline underpins all of the other capabilities and includes knowledge of psychological principles, professional ethics and standards, theories of individual and systemic functioning and change, dysfunctional behaviour, psychopathology, the cultural bases of behaviour and organisational systems.

Demonstrated capabilities

Strong knowledge of:
  • relevant psychological theories and models;
  • published empirical findings supporting theories (especially those which underpin the major forms of psychological intervention) and the methods employed to establish them;
  • the major methods of psychological investigation and techniques of measurement, and their application and interpretation; and
  • design and implementation of psychological interventions.
Ethical, Legal and Professional Matters

The ethical, legal and professional aspects of psychological practice.

Demonstrated capabilities

1. Familiarity with legal and professional matters including:
  • the main provisions of the State and Commonwealth Acts and Regulations of Parliament relevant to psychologists’ work;
  • codes of conduct relevant to psychologists’ work including those published by relevant psychologist Registration Board(s);
  • the Australian Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics and Ethical Guidelines;
  • confidentiality and privacy issues;
  • administrative and record keeping procedures (including adequate clarification of any financial arrangements);
  • consent issues;
  • issues concerning practice with minors and those unable to provide informed consent;
  • boundary issues;
  • sexual propriety;
  • psycho-legal issues;
  • role and cultural issues, including issues for minority or marginalised groups;
  • gender and sexuality issues;
  • service needs of vulnerable groups in society;
  • registration issues;
  • advertising and public statements;
  • billing practices;
  • the role of the psychologist within the profession and the workplace;
  • the roles of other professions and the capacity to report to other professionals appropriately and to work collaboratively;
  • the propriety of relationships amongst psychologists, and between psychologists and other professionals, employers and clients;
  • the mechanisms for the resolution of conflict between psychologists and clients, colleagues, employers and other professionals;
  • negotiated workplace agreements;
  • note-taking and record keeping.
2. Conduct or behaviour consistent with the legal requirements and codes of conduct relevant to psychologists, especially:
  • ethical and professional behaviour and manner;
  • State, Territory and Federal Codes of Behaviour for Psychologists and statements of Clients’ rights;
  • the Australian Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics and Ethical Guidelines;
  • appropriately clarifying and negotiating the role and responsibilities as a trainee psychologist;
  • record keeping, including demonstrated knowledge of the ethical and legal implications of administrative and record keeping procedures including confidentiality.
3. Self-evaluation or self-assessment skills, including identification of the limits of one’s professional competence.

4. Ability to apply ethical principles to ethical dilemmas.

Psychological Assessment & Measurement

The ongoing, interactive, and inclusive process that serves to describe, conceptualise, and predict relevant aspects of a client ('client' here meaning an organisation, group or individual).

Demonstrated capabilities

A strong level of skills and knowledge in conducting systematic psychological assessment using a wide range of assessment techniques, including:

1. The theoretical basis for the assessment techniques used in psychology.

2. Knowledge of psychometric properties of psychological tests and the ability to use this knowledge to inform problem formulation.

3. Test selection – ability to select appropriate assessment techniques and instruments with proper consideration of issues relating to reliability and validity.

4. Test administration and interpretive skills, including experience in the skilled administration and interpretation of at least:
  • the current version of an individually administered adult or child test of intelligence (some examples of appropriate tests include - WISC IV, WAIS IV, WPPSI-III, Stanford-Binet V, Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test, Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, Differential Ability Scales);
  • the current version of at least one major standardised test of personality (examples of appropriate tests include - 16PF, MMPI, CPI, OMNI, NEO-PI);
  • the current version of at least one specialised memory assessment (e.g. Wechsler Memory Scale, Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning); and
  • other tests, appropriate to the learning objectives of the course, which are based on empirically validated approaches and equivalent accuracy in the measurement of cognitive or behavioural functioning or an accurate measurement of aptitude, abilities or skills.
5. Awareness of limitations of psychological tests with particular reference to notions of validity, reliability, and cultural issues.

6. Proficiency in interviewing (structured and unstructured interviews, selection interviews, survey interviewing, history taking, clinical interviewing for diagnostic purposes and group-based interviewing).

7. Systematic observation of behaviour involving both naturalistic and clinical observation and in using predetermined procedures for observing the behaviour of one or more persons.

8. Knowledge of psychopathology and of diagnostic classification systems (including current versions of DSM and ICD).

9. Assessment and diagnostic processes (selecting the appropriate assessment tool(s), administering the assessment tool(s), interpreting the assessment results, interviewing /micro counselling skills involved in the assessment process, problem formulation and hypothesis testing).

10. The ability to competently undertake a mental status examination.

11. Writing informed, succinct, valid and well organised reports.

Intervention Strategies

Activities that promote, restore, sustain or enhance cognitive functioning and a sense of well being in individuals or groups of clients through preventive, developmental or remedial services and/or in the case of groups or organisations, restoring or enhancing group or organisational functioning.

Demonstrated capabilities

Strong skills and knowledge regarding intervention strategies, including:

1. Superior interpersonal skills (including the ability to form a professional relationship including positive working alliances with clients and colleagues).

2. Ability to skilfully negotiate a treatment or service contract.

3. Ability to use a theoretical system that explains aetiology and remediation of psychological, social or organisational problems.

4. Ability to investigate identified issues relevant to the delivery of the interventions (e.g., ethical dilemmas, stakeholders).

5. Ability to identify the nature and documented efficacy of potential interventions.

6. Ability to design and/or plan preventative, developmental or remedial
interventions to achieve the best possible outcomes.

7. Formulation of treatment plans, goals and strategies for intervention including the ability to justify the link between diagnosis formulation and intervention chosen.

8. Researching the empirical literature to develop plans for interventions and drawing on published studies and theories/models relevant to the problem and intervention.

9. Justifying the link between diagnosis/formulation and the intervention chosen.

10. Implementing preventative, developmental or remedial programs and interventions.

11. Familiarity with a range in intervention techniques and strategies as well as their theoretical and empirical bases, for both individuals and groups;
counselling skills.

12. Highly skilled use of core behaviour change skills including counselling and cognitive behavioural approaches to helping as appropriate in group individual or organisational settings.

13. Organisational interventions; career development (i.e., helping with career planning in private or organisational contexts).

14. Ability to design and implement evaluations of the impact of the interventions (including the ability to employ appropriate research designs to evaluate the effectiveness of psychological interventions) including:
  • measuring attitude and behaviour change
  • evaluation of a client’s response to the initial intervention
  • revision of problem formulation and initial intervention if necessary
  • program evaluation
Research and Evaluation

Systematic inquiry involving problem identification and the acquisition, organisation, and interpretation of information allowing critical analysis and disciplined, rigorous, careful and scientific inquiry into psychological phenomena.

Demonstrated capabilities

The application of research knowledge and skills to psychological practice, including:

1. Finding, understanding, collating and critiquing published empirical research findings relevant to a phenomenon or problem of interest.

2. Identifying and defining problem situations based on observation and other assessment.

3. Generating hypotheses-based problem definition and other information.

4. Designing interventions, therapeutic programs or other means to test hypotheses including an understanding of the principles of single case designs.

5. Designing and implementing program evaluation;
collecting, recording, and analysing responses to interventions or therapeutic programs.

6. Use of qualitative and quantitative methods, skilled analysis of data, and the ability to draw accurate research inferences.

7. Critical evaluation of the effectiveness of interventions and programs including:
  • suggesting modifications for future use.
  • awareness of issues regarding reliability and validity of observations.
6. Communication and Interpersonal Relationships

The capacity to convey, appraise and interpret information in both oral and written formats and to interact on a professional level with a wide range of client groups and other professionals, including:

1. The ability to establish and maintain constructive working relationships and in clinical settings therapeutic alliances with clients.

2. The ability to communicate, interact and liaise for a range of purposes (e.g., discussing research with other professionals; discussing relevant psychological services with clients, potential clients).

3. The ability to develop knowledge of theories and empirical data on professional relationships, such as:
  • interpersonal relationships;
  • power relationships;
  • therapeutic alliance;
  • interface with social psychology;
  • more specific knowledge of the fluctuations of the therapeutic/professional relationship as a function of intervention setting.
Demonstrated capabilities

1. High level oral communication and interpersonal skills in communicating effectively with clients, other psychologists, other professionals, the community; individuals, small groups and agencies from varied cultural, ethnic, religious, social and political backgrounds, including:
  • rapport building skills;
  • professional personal presentation;
  • clarity, accuracy, coherence, organisation and succinctness of communication;
  • style of communication (appropriateness for audience)
  • organisation of communication;
  • seeking out and understanding information;
  • personal and professional boundaries in communications;
2. Seeking out, understanding and responding appropriately to information provided by a range of persons in order to adequately meet their needs.

3. Excellent written communication, including the ability to write, in an organised fashion, reports and other documents:
  • which are informed, succinct, accurate, lucid and well-organised;
  • for a range of audiences, including educational, health and legal professionals, courts, government departments, insurance companies, corporations and other entities and which clearly communicate the intent of the writer taking into consideration the sensitivity of the matters under discussion and the capacity of the reader to accurately interpret the information.

Program Structure

The program consists of three components, all of which are compulsory, totalling 96 units of credit (48 in each Stage):
  1. Coursework – Weekly lectures and seminars with associated written forms of assessment (48 UOC)
  2. Professional practice – Completion of a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised clinical practice within the School Clinic and in field clinical settings, weekly Clinical meetings and Skills Training Workshops (24 UOC)
  3. A research thesis (24 UOC).
Stage 1
Stage 2

Academic Rules

  1. Students must satisfactorily complete PSYC7227 Research Thesis (Clinical) 1 before they can enrol in PSYC7228 Research Thesis (Clinical) 2.
  2. Each professional placement in the program is linked to a Professional and Ethical Practice (PEP) course. Until the placement has been successfully completed, a PE grade will be applied to the PEP course. If the placement is not completed to a satisfactory standard, or placement requirements have not been met (as determined by both the Placement Coordinator and Program Director), a UF grade will be applied to the PEP course. Failure to meet placement requirements and successfully complete the placement will lead to failure of the PEP course. No hours from an unsatisfactory placement will count towards the minimum 1000 hours of supervised practical placement experience required for completion of the program
  3. Should a student fail a course*, approval to enrol in the failed course again will be at the discretion of the Program Director (and Placement Coordinator, in the case of PEP courses)^. Alternatively, the Program Director may recommend that the student withdraw from the program.
* Any of the 14 courses required for the program, including PSYC7227 (Research Thesis (Clinical) 1), PSYC7228 (Research Thesis (Clinical) 2) and any of the four PEP courses.

^ In Australia, the psychology profession is regulated by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act as overseen by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). The School of Psychology is responsible for adhering to federally legislated professional and accreditation standards for training provisionally registered psychologists in full compliance with the APS Code of Ethics and Ethical Guidelines. Master of Psychology students, as provisionally registered psychologists, are expected to display the competencies, professionalism and reputable behaviours the discipline demands. In making their recommendation, the Program Director will consider these factors not simply from an academic standpoint, but as the discipline's chief authority on such professional and ethical matters within the program.
Should a student disagree with a recommendation made by the Program Director, their avenue of appeal will be to the Head of School and/or School Board.
Refer to individual Course Descriptions for prerequisite information.


For information regarding fees for UNSW programs, please refer to the following website:  UNSW Fee Website.

Participation and Enrolment Requirements

The minimum entrance requirement is completion of an accredited four-year Bachelor degree in Psychology (with First Class Honours) from UNSW, or equivalent from another APAC-recognised university.

Psychology qualifications obtained outside of Australia must contain a significant research thesis component, and must be assessed as the equivalent of an Australian four-year sequence in psychology (including Honours) by the APS.

UNSW English Language Requirements can be found here, however all Master of Psychology students must meet registration standards developed by both the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and PsyBA in order to register as provisional psychologists. Those not registered as provisional psychologists cannot undertake professional practice, a compulsory component of all Master of Psychology programs, as they are not permitted to have any client contact.

Therefore, all applicants, regardless of current residency or citizenship status, should familiarise themselves with the PsyBA registration standards here, and AHPRA’s new standards on English language skills and criminal history.

As the number of places available each year is limited, entry into the program is competitive. Selection is based on academic qualifications for the program, two referee reports, and performance at an interview. Only shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview.

Applicants should refer to the School of Psychology’s How to Apply page for more detail about the application procedure and requirements.

Additional Information

When taking a full-time load of 24 UOC per semester, this program extends across two calendar years, rather than four academic semesters with vacation breaks.

The minimum period of enrolment before the award of the degree is four semesters for full-time students and six semesters for part-time students.

Part-time students are normally expected to take 12 UOC per semester.

Area(s) of Specialisation