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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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PhD Program in Clinical Health Psychology


​​Program Director: Kevin S. Masters, PhD                            

Program AssistantAnne Beard

The Psychology Department at CU Denver offers a Doctor of Philosophy degree with an emphasis in Clinical Health Psychology (CHP).  Our program adheres to the scientist-practitioner model. Training emphasizes the contribution of research to the understanding, treatment and prevention of a wide range of health-related problems, and the application of knowledge that is grounded in scientific evidence.  

Students are trained in a variety of approaches and techniques for evaluating, diagnosing and treating a wide range of psychological disturbances. Since our program places an emphasis on health, our students are also trained to assess the psychological factors associated with different medical problems and learn to design efective interventions that integrate biological, psychological and social factors. Students acquire research expertise by completing a master's thesis and doctoral dissertation, and demonstrate competence in clinical assessment and intervention through several applied practica experiences, a clinical competency evaluation, and a pre-doctoral internship. The clinical program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association (APA).

CU Denver is the premier research university in Colorado and the PhD program in Clinical Health Psychology was conceived as an important bridge between the Downtown Campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus (AMC).  The Downtown Campus is housed in the Downtown Campus which is located in the heart of Denver close to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the LoDo District and the state capital.  The Anschutz Medical Campus includes over 5 million square feet of research, educational and clinical space on 227 acres.  The PhD program offers research and clinical opportunities for its students at AMC in addition to the many relationships it has established with other clinical facilities in the Denver area.

Our program is committed to diversity. We encourage applications from prospective students with a variety of life backgrounds and experiences. We recognize that diversity is a broad concept, encompassing a range of dimensions such as culture, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, age, and gender. Diversity is also represented in our faculty and student research interests; for example, research is being done among military and veteran couples (Beth Allen, Relationships Studies Laboratory), and religious couples (Kevin Masters, CALM Heart Lab). Applicants and current students can click the links below for more information about diversity programs at CU Denver.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Educational Opportunities Program

List of University Diversity Students Resources

CHP  Defined

A primary focus of clinical health psychology is the development of effective disease prevention behavioral interventions for populations at high risk for medical problems. A second focus of clinical health psychology is the development of strategies to help individuals who are already ill to manage their disease, increase their ability to collaborate with medical professionals, and improve their coping skills. A clinical health psychologist combines expertise in research on health psychology with training in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists have particular expertise in the theory and practice of understanding, predicting and alleviating mental health problems and psychological maladjustment, and promoting adaptation, adjustment, and personal development. Health psychologists are psychologically trained researchers and disseminators of knowledge.  Clinical health psychologists are scientist-practitioners who can conduct scientific research and/or clinical work with individuals or groups of patients. Upon completion of the PhD (including a one-year pre-doctoral internship) and one year of postdoctoral work, a clinical health psychologist is eligible to apply for a state license to practice in the community, in hospitals and clinics, and other institutions.  Please note, however, that each state has its own licensing requirements for psychologists.

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CHP's Importance

According to the American Psychological Association's Division 38 (Health Psychology), "Reports by the Surgeon General's Office indicate that the leading causes of mortality in the U.S. have substantial behavioral components. These reports recommend that behavioral risk factors (e.g., drug and alcohol use, high risk sexual behavior, smoking, diet, a sedentary lifestyle, stress) be the main focus of efforts in the area of health promotion and disease prevention. Given its emphasis on behavior and behavioral change, psychology has a unique contribution to make. For example, Health Psychologists are currently conducting applied research on the development of healthy habits as well as the prevention or reduction of unhealthy behaviors. Both the impact of behavior on health, as well as the influence of health and disease states on psychological factors are being explored. Psychosocial and physiological linkages in areas such as psychoneuroimmunology, cardiovascular disorders and other chronic diseases are being defined. Groundbreaking work is being conducted in psychopharmacology, as the neurological bases of behavior are being mapped. Psychologists are in increasing demand in health and medical settings. The single largest area of placement of psychologists in recent years has been in medical centers. Psychologists have become vital members of multidisciplinary clinical and research teams in rehabilitation, cardiology, pediatrics, oncology, anesthesiology, family practice, dentistry, and other medical fields."

The CHP Job Market

The role of health psychologists is increasingly valued in the medical community, in part because illness is recognized as a biopsychosocial phenomenon. The American Medical Association recently established Current Procedural Technology (CPT) codes for use with a wide range of psychosocial services to patients and families with physical health diagnoses. Thus, clinical health psychologists can now bill for various assessment and intervention services that "address the psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and social factors influencing a person's physical health and well-being” (Knight & Camic, 2004, p. 8). 

These diverse and valuable service and research applications make clinical health psychology among the most desirable and marketable of clinical degrees. According to American Psychological Association, the largest area of employment placement of psychologists in recent years has been in medical centers. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that "overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012," and notes that health psychology will be one of the desired applied specialties in this market. Graduates from our PhD program in clinical health psychology should be highly competitive for a range of applied and academic health psychology positions, as well as clinical psychology jobs.

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CHP at CU Denver

In July 2004, the CU Denver campus merged with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, yielding increased possibilities for research collaborations between faculty members and students at the Health Sciences Center (now renamed the Anschutz Medical Campus) and Department of Psychology. In addition, Denver is a major regional medical center that houses a substantial number of health care and clinical institutions that provide additional opportunities for research collaborations and applied clinical work. Faculty Advisors work with their students as they conduct their research to help them gain access to needed patient populations and medical settings. Further, our Coordinator of Clinical Training works closely with each student to match his or her clinical training interests with appropriate placements in the larger health care community. ​​​

​ CHP at CU Denver

In July 2004, the CU Denver campus merged with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, yielding increased possibilities for research collaborations between faculty members and students at the Health Sciences Center (now renamed the Anschutz Medical Campus) and Department of Psychology. In addition, Denver is a major regional medical center that houses a substantial number of health care and clinical institutions that provide additional opportunities for research collaborations and applied clinical work. Faculty Advisors work with their students as they conduct their research to help them gain access to needed patient populations and medical settings. Further, our Coordinator of Clinical Training works closely with each student to match his or her clinical training interests with appropriate placements in the larger health care community.