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The Scientist Practitioner Model

Posted on July 27, 2009

Clinical researchers' work is part of a self-informing process, according to Deborah Beidel (bio).


The scientist practitioner model of training for clinical psychology is a fairly old model that was established back in the 1940s at a conference that was called the Boulder Conference. And at that conference it was decided that for clinical psychologists, the best training was to learn to both do science that was informed based on practice and then our practice should use science.

So the idea is that a scientist practitioner always has an air of scientific inquiry around their clinical work and always uses the clinical literature but also that our science is clinically relevant to people so that we don't do things that are just so abstract it has no relevance. So a lot of my training and also a lot of the work that I do is really understanding psychopathology, developing treatments based on that psychopathology, implementing those treatments, and then determining their efficacy. So it's a model of I want to understand what the disorder is like so that I know what the treatment should be, and then I want to test that treatment to make sure it really does what I expect it to do, and I change it if I need to.

People have to understand that when they go into a research trial that the advantage of it is most of the times it's free of charge. But in a way, they pay with their time because they're usually asked to fill out many more forms than they would if they just went to see someone in private practice. But you tell them that we're trying to test a treatment and that in order to do this we have to be a little more rigorous than if we were just seeing you for what I call open treatment. So that there may be things that we may not be able to address until later on. I always tell people that if at the end of the scientific trial they're not better, that it's my obligation to do something else, and to help them, and to make sure that I give them the best treatment that I can whether that was in the project or outside of the project, that we don't just turn people away, that our obligation is first – our ethical obligation as clinicians is to help them in whatever way we can and that we do that through the process.

I also tell people that, administratively, it is my responsibility to remove them from the trial if I think the treatment is making them worse, or I think there's something else, that they might be a danger to themselves, that they might be getting seriously depressed, and then I need to do something else. So that's my responsibility sometimes, to take them out of a trial when, as a clinician, I think it's absolutely necessary.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2009 CHIPS Summer Research Institute in Tempe, AZ.


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