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The scientist–practitioner model, also called the Boulder model[1], is a training model for graduate programs that focuses on creating a foundation of research and scientific practice. It was developed primarily to train clinical psychologist members of American Psychological Association but has been adapted by other specialty programs. According to this model, a psychologist is a scientist and a competent researcher, and also a practitioner who applies knowledge and techniques to solve problems of clients.[2]



The model traces its roots to the Boulder Conference on Graduate Education in Clinical Psychology (1949) held in Boulder, Colorado. The conference developed a model of training and education leading to professional practice in which Clinical Psychologists adhere to scientific methods, procedures, and research in their day-to-day practice. Some (e.g., Francine Shapiro) have reframed the model as clinical psychologists as applied scientists.[citation needed] The goal of the training, educational model, an eventual practice is for clinicians to use scientific methodology in their practice-decision; to work with clients using scientifically valid methods, tools, and techniques; to inform their clients of scientifically-based findings and approaches to their problems; and to conduct practice-based research.

Core tenets

Core tenets of the scientist–practitioner model include:[3]

  • Delivering psychological assessment (psychological testing) and psychological intervention procedures in accordance with scientifically-based protocols;
  • Accessing and integrating scientific findings to inform healthcare decisions;
  • Framing and testing hypotheses that inform healthcare decisions;
  • Building and maintaining effective teamwork with other healthcare professionals that supports the delivery of scientist–practitioner contributions;
  • Research-based training and support to other health professions in the delivery of psychological care;
  • Contributing to practice-based research and development to improve the quality and effectiveness of psychological aspects of health care.

Some have questioned if is possible, in today's climate, to continue to expect practicing clinical psychologists to be able to adhere to the ideals and tenets of the scientist–practitioner model. Many clinicians find it difficult to complete their practical duties let alone conduct research (which often goes unfunded) or to remain up-to-date with cutting edge science.

Those clinical psychologists who do adhere to a scientist-practitioner model of practice are likely to utilize techniques that have been scientifically validated through extensive research. It is widely accepted, for example, that cognitive–behavioral therapy is effective in treating a host of mental illnesses.

See also

Further reading

  • Hayes, Steven C., Barlow, David H., & Nelson-Gray, Rosemery O. The Scientist Practitioner Research and Accountability in the Age of Managed Care (Second Edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1999. 438pp.
  • Soldz, Stephen, & McCullough, L. (Eds). Reconciling Empirical Knowledge and Clinical Experience: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999. 286pp.


  1. Association, American (2007). Getting in. Washington: American Psychological Association. ISBN 1591477999.
  2. Fagan, Thomas; Paul G. Warden (1996). Historical Encyclopedia of School Psychology. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313290156.
  3. Renewing the Scientist Practitioner Model, University of Vermont, Retrieved on April 22, 2008

External links

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