Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a modality of psychotherapy grounded in psychoanalytic theory, also called depth psychology, which entails the study of conscious and unconscious mental processes. It is part of the “family” of psychological models in which thoughts, feelings, and actions are explained in terms of a person’s past experiences and motivational forces, some of which may be unconscious.
All psychodynamic treatment modalities share the goal to alleviate human suffering through bringing awareness to thoughts, memories, feelings, motivational and dynamic forces within the client's mind.
The primary focus of psychodynamic psychotherapy is to reveal the unconscious content as it relates to formative and at times traumatic experiences within the client’s mind (psyche) from the earliest moments of life. The goal is promoting insight and alleviating inner conflict (psychic tension) between a person’s needs, desires, morality, and the demands of society and reality.
Visit Psychodynamic Psychology for resources related to the study of psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Psychodynamic therapy, at times called psychoanalytic psychotherapy, is similar to psychoanalysis as a treatment form and is based on the same foundational principles.
When psychoanalysis is narrowly defined as a treatment method, it refers to Sigmund Freud’s model of psychotherapy. This practice requires a fairly intensive process that prescribes multiple sessions per week with the analyst and client, conducted over a long time span. The goal of psychoanalysis is deep, structural change of the psyche.
In contrast, psychodynamic psychotherapy is more broadly defined and frequently refers to a briefer treatment modality that may not employ multiple sessions per week. It is based on the same theoretical principles as psychoanalysis, but borrows from many schools of psychoanalysis, as well, and may involve techniques from a variety of sources rather than just one set of interventions. In addition, the process of contemporary psychodynamic therapy may be more interactive than traditional psychoanalysis, and the therapist and client may rather focus on addressing and resolving a specific problem than aiming at structural change.
The short answer is no. Our PsyD does not limit graduates’ chosen clinical practice.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy takes a developmental approach to mental health and healing. A client’s current suffering is explored in the context of their entire life history and circumstances. Early experiences in childhood, especially intense and traumatic experiences, are considered particularly formative. This approach lends itself to working with very young children in play therapy, as well as in talk therapy with older children, adolescents, adults, parents, couples, and groups.
By examining both the impact of unconscious thoughts, feelings, motivations, and actions, and developing the skills for building and using a strong therapeutic relationship, PsyD graduates are able to assist individuals from diverse backgrounds and across all age groups.
Traditional psychoanalysis was based on the experiences and definitions of well-being established by middle-class White Europeans more than a century ago. Times have changed, and contemporary psychodynamic psychotherapy acknowledges and appreciates diversity in human relations. From an historical perspective, psychoanalytic theorists broke the taboo of sexuality and began to address how sexuality is a powerful motivational force in the human psyche, yet their theorizing was limited by the mores of the time and their own experiences. Psychoanalytic thinking has evolved, and continues to contribute to the thinking about gender as it has come to recognize the complexities and multiplicities of sexualities.
Psychoanalysis is involved in a reckoning project with its own history of ethnocentricity in its theoretical body. As contemporary psychodynamic approaches are focused on individual, subjective and interpersonal experience, they are particularly suited to examine and honor human experiences in different cultural contexts.
Entering doctoral students must possess a master’s degree that qualifies them for licensure as a mental health professional. Nearly 80% of our students are already licensed at the time of their enrollment (LCSW, LEP, LMFT, LPCC), and the remaining are license-eligible through their master’s degree. As a result, many of our doctoral students choose to retain their existing licensure and not pursue further licensure in psychology.
A second group of our PsyD students indicates an intention to become licensed as clinical psychologists in the State of California. Such licensure is governed by the California Board of Psychology, and further details can be found in our discussion of pathways to licensure. The Reiss-Davis PsyD fulfills the educational requirements established by the Board of Psychology. In addition, students may complete internship hours in the fourth year of the PsyD program; they work toward completing their dissertation while accruing supervised professional hours towards their licensure in psychology.
Reiss-Davis faculty and staff assist students in familiarizing themselves with the state’s licensing requirements in psychology and registering with the California Board of Psychology.
Blended education combines the best of face-to-face and online learning. Each course consists of three weekend meetings (either Friday evening, or all-day Saturday or Sunday) led by the school’s distinguished faculty. These classes are conducted as seminars, with plenty of opportunity for interaction and community-building with peers.
In addition, the blended format includes weekly learning activities, consisting of readings, discussion boards, video presentations, and written assignments – all of which students can conveniently access in an online course web site. While assignments have weekly submission deadlines, students can complete the majority of the online activities at their own pace and at times that fit with their work and family commitments. There are no required synchronous meetings during the weeks when learning activities are conducted online.
Weekend residential classes are held on the campus of Vista del Mar Child and Family Services. The campus, in West Los Angeles, is easily accessible from several nearby freeways.
Reiss-Davis is located in the Mayer Building; class sessions are located there and in adjacent buildings on the Vista facility. The sculpture garden directly outside Mayer hosts informal meet-and-greets at the beginning of the weekend residentials and is a pleasing spot for lunch breaks and groupwork.
The Reiss-Davis Graduate School Library is also housed on the Vista Del Mar campus. It is a short walk from the Mayer Building. Library hours include weekends when residential sessions are being held.
We consider a class size of 12-15 participants the upper limit.
Reiss-Davis Graduate School embraces the practitioner-scholar model. All faculty members are clinically trained and usually maintain a psychotherapy practice, while also being involved in education, administration, and publishing. They bring the experiences of their professional life into the classroom. Classes are held in seminar style, offering ample opportunity for all students to benefit from interactions and discussions with their peers and the instructor.
If you use an email account, maintain a Facebook or other social media account, search the internet, or watch videos on YouTube, you will easily be able to maneuver through the course pages in the learning management system. Courses are built to be navigated easily and intuitively. You need not have any technology training, and in fact you will be provided with an overview session during Orientation prior to starting your first term.
You need not take our word for the ease of navigating through the online courses: please ask an admissions counselor to give you a tour of Populi, our online system.
Reiss-Davis Graduate School is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). This is the regional accreditor for colleges and universities in California, Hawaii and internationally.
In addition, Reiss-Davis Graduate School is approved to operate in the State of California by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.
Visit Accreditation for additional information about our accreditation status and reporting requirements.
The Board of Psychology does not accredit doctoral programs. Rather, it establishes criteria for licensure as a clinical psychologist.
As an accredited institution of higher education in the State of California, Reiss-Davis’s PsyD is recognized by the Board as fulfilling the academic requirements for licensure as a clinical psychologist.
Reiss-Davis has determined that regional accreditation by WSCUC is more advantageous to our educational mission than accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA). While the APA claims to set the “gold standard” for education in psychology in the U.S., this comes at a price. Specifically, APA sets requirements for the number of full-time faculty, research capacity, faculty publications and grants, and the like. In addition, APA requires that accredited doctoral programs include a one-year internship, which many of our students choose to bypass because they already hold a master’s-level license that allows them to practice. (See Licensure Options for more information)
In order to offer a doctoral degree without the tuition costs typical of APA-accredited programs, Reiss-Davis has developed an equally rigorous program that employs a dedicated team of scholar-practitioners as instructors. The program and the curriculum have been designed to meet the highest standards in the profession of a doctoral-trained clinician. All courses use up-to-date literature and integrate the advances in the latest research in psychology and in mental health treatment methodologies. A constant process of assessment assures not only that the program meets the expectations of the regional accreditor but that it serves all students and graduates.
Reiss-Davis does not require students to complete an internship as part of the doctoral program. The internship is an optional experience that can be conducted in the fourth year in the program, after formal coursework is concluded and the student is working on the dissertation. Up to 1500 pre-doctoral hours can be used toward the State of California Board of Psychology requirement of supervised clinical experience.
PsyD students who do not intend to pursue licensure as a clinical psychologist through the Board of Psychology may decide to forgo an internship. In these cases, students decide to maintain their license as clinical counselors, clinical social workers, educational psychologists, or marriage and family therapists.
Reiss-Davis offers two forms of financial assistance: scholarships that reduce the total cost of tuition; and access to federal loans. Scholarships are limited to the first three years of coursework, and do not cover the year(s) in which the dissertation research and writing are being completed.
Reiss-Davis Graduate School has been approved to participate in the Federal Student Aid program through the U.S. Department of Education since August 23, 2019.
The Scholarships page offers additional information about available financial aid and the application process.
The Reiss-Davis faculty and admissions team invite prospective students to visit campus. Tours typically occur during the weekend residential, when prospective students can meet enrolled students and faculty, attend a sample class, and visit the library. Staff members are also available to discuss the application process, financial aid, and other topics.
Prospective students who are unable to visit campus during a residential session may, instead, join faculty and staff for a virtual Open House or individual consultation. We are especially proud of the unique doctoral program we offer, and are always happy to connect.
The Graduate Record Exam is not required for admission. The Reiss-Davis PsyD is designed for clinicians seeking to balance clinical and academic pursuits. Given this goal, we have not found the GRE to be particularly useful in evaluating the fit between applicants’ backgrounds and the contents and format of the program. Instead, we rely upon a thorough questionnaire, a detailed statement of intent as a writing sample, and an interview.
Yes. Applicants complete an interview with a committee consisting of two faculty, usually one of the administrative faculty (the Dean or Program Chair) and another instructor. You will have the opportunity to meet with these two scholar-practitioners in order to elaborate upon the essay and other application materials you submitted. This is also an opportunity to learn more about the program, explore licensing options and professional goals, and have your own questions answered.
As an applicant, you are encouraged to authentically present your aspirations and interests in the interview. Rehearsing answers or memorizing the previously submitted essay is not recommended. Rather, this is an opportunity for a dialogue with reciprocity, exploration, and interaction on a more collegial level.
Yes. Reiss-Davis allows students to transfer credits (units) completed prior to matriculation into the doctoral program. Doctoral-level credits may be accepted for transfer if earned from another institution of higher education accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the courses requested for credit review must support the PsyD program and fulfill learning objectives that are similar to an existing course as determined by the Dean or a faculty designee.
To be considered for transfer credit, the course must have been completed with a grade of “B” or better. Coursework completed at an institution with pass/fail grading will be required to present information from the catalog or transcript that a grade of “passing” is equivalent to a letter grade of “B” or better. Grades below a “B,” such as a “B-,” do not meet this criterion.
Transfer credit is awarded for academic coursework completed no more than 10 years prior to a student’s matriculation in the Reiss-Davis PsyD.
To request consideration of transfer credit as part of the application process, please inform your admissions counselor of your intention.