Crisis, or trauma, psychology is one of many sub-disciplines in the greater field of psychology. As an academic and applied concentration, crisis psychology seeks to understand the effects of trauma on psychological health. Crisis psychologists seek the best approach to help individuals suffering from shock and distress. They treat clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as victims of disaster or abuse.
In a crisis psychology Ph.D. program, students transcend general knowledge of the subject to acquire the expertise necessary for intervention and therapeutic treatment for trauma victims. At this level, students invest much of their time in research and fieldwork.
Why a Ph.D.?
The doctorate degree in any concentration within clinical psychology marks the principal credential for conducting research and diagnostic assessments to treat clients suffering from mental health issues. Doctoral degree crisis psychology students, on the other hand, learn about cultural awareness and how to apply it when treating trauma victims from various backgrounds This means that doctoral degree in crisis psychology degree holders are trained to apply not only assessment and diagnostic techniques, but also to offer culturally-informed skills when supporting clients’ in therapy.
Inside a Crisis Psychology Ph.D. Program
Programs differ considerably, partly because ‘crisis’ has taken on more significance in psychology. Some departments offer concentrated crisis psychology programs that focus on culture and trauma. Students who enroll in these programs engage in research on cultural contexts of interpersonal trauma recovery. Projects go beyond sexual assault and abuse to include human trafficking, genocide, and racism as it appears on a global level.
Other programs teach students how to support organizations, as well as individuals suffering from trauma. Students often leave the classroom to conduct fieldwork, sometimes in foreign countries that have endured traumatic events; in the process, they experience firsthand the problems international psychologists deal with when supporting organizations and governments in states of crisis.
Some programs require students to complete international field experiences before graduation. In more traditional programs, graduate students take classes such as ‘Assessment of Psychosocial and Mental Health,’ ‘Reactions to Traumatic Stress,’ ‘Mental Health Interventions,’ and ‘Self-Care Strategies in Humanitarian Efforts.’
In any doctorate in crisis psychology program, students will be required to complete coursework as well as a dissertation, exiting exam, and an internship.
What's Next for Crisis Psychology Ph.D. Holders?
Crisis psychology Ph.D. holders may find work as international psychologists, working with individuals and organizations abroad. Others will pursue careers in clinical psychology where they focus on crisis research, assessment, and treatment of trauma victims. Graduates might also seek work in the government as military psychologists. Some will go on to earn a professional certificate, such as the post master’s certificate in health psychology, to further bolster their resume.
The employment outlook for clinical psychologists is positive. Moreover, The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that clinical psychologists earned a mean annual wage of $74,030 as of May 2014.