Dissertation topics in clinical psychology

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Dissertation topics in clinical psychology
Clinical psychology dissertations may focus on various areas within the field, including counselling. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

A Ph.D. candidate's dissertation should reflect his understanding of a significant issue within the field of study. Since clinical psychology covers a wide range of occupations, disorders and environments, dissertation topics for clinical psychology vary widely. Students should begin preparing for their dissertation as soon as possible, preferably during their first semester in a Ph.D. program, so the paper represents a true culmination of the educational experience.

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Clinical psychologists may work in hospitals or private practice. They treat patients dealing with severe psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, or with personal issues such as divorce and stress. Since the dissertation should combine research with practice, topics may focus on therapy theories, methods and outcomes. The paper may identify a particular problem within a therapy type or focus, give solutions for such a problem or synthesise and evaluate current research on the topic. Sample titles include "Telling Stories in a Veterans' Life Review Group: Design, Pilot Study, and Evaluation" and "Collaborative Health Care in Clinical Practice: An Effectiveness Study."

Alternative Thinking

A dissertation may contribute to the field by offering suggestions for alternative therapies. Such papers generally focus on a particular psychological issue or group, define the type of therapy, explain the theory behind it and research its efficacy. Sample titles include "The Role of Spirituality Among Cancer Patients: A 'Body/Mind' Relationship" and "An Investigation Into the Place of Horseback Riding in Adolescent Female Development." Rather than a specific alternative therapy, the dissertation may suggest new ways of looking at psychological issues, as in "An Idiographic and Phenomenological Approach to Understanding Suicide."

Critical Literature Analysis

While nearly all dissertations include a literature review, a clinical psychology dissertation allows students to analyse current literature regarding a topic in the field, synthesising what has been accomplished, evaluating the projects that have been done and investigating the implications for clinical psychology. Sample titles include "Outcomes of Court intervention and Diversionary Programs for Domestically Violent Offenders" and "Handbook: Basic Clinical Information, Perspectives, and Considerations Regarding Clients With Hearing Loss" for manuals and textbooks.


Many dissertations chronicle an experiment or other type of hands-on project. Students who enjoy pure research may set up studies to investigate psychological, social and educational ideas, resulting in titles such as "Quality of Life and Severe and Persistent Mental Illness: A Pilot Study." Some students prefer to create and implement a program that may become a long-term or permanent part of an organisation, resulting in studies with titles like "Uniting and Empowering Girls--An Eating Disorder Primary Prevention Program."

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