The practitioner-scholar model, often called the Vail model, is a training model for graduate programs that is focused on clinical practice. It was developed primarily to train clinical psychologists but may be adapted by other specialty programs. According to this model, a psychologist is a scholar, a consumer of research, and a highly-trained professional practitioner who applies knowledge and techniques to solve problems of clients.
In 1973, a new clinical psychology training model was proposed at the historic Vail Conference on Professional Training in Psychology in Vail, Colorado -- the practitioner-scholar model—providing yet another path of training for those primarily interested in clinical practice. Prior to this, in 1949, a ground breaking conference was held in Boulder, Colorado, endorsing a model of study for clinicians that to this day has dominated clinical programs at most University based institutions: the scientist-practitioner model, designed to provide a rigorous grounding in research methods and a breadth of exposure to clinical psychology. Prior, research scientists had dominated the field of psychological work, and this second, new model, known as the 'Vail' model, called for more practitioner-oriented course work.
Several features differentiate the practitioner-scholar model from the other two:
- Training in this model is more strongly focused on clinical practice than either of the other two.
- Many (but not all) of these training programs grant a Psy.D. degree rather than a Ph.D. or Ed.D.
- Admissions criteria may place more of an emphasis on personal qualities of the applicants or clinically related work experience.
- These programs are typically housed in a greater variety of institutional settings than are research scientist or scientist-practitioner programs.
Like scientist-practitioner training, practitioner-scholar training is characterized by core courses in both basic and applied psychology, supervision during extensive clinical experience, and research consumption. Both require predoctoral internships that are usually full-time appointments in universities, medical centers, community mental health centers, or hospitals.