Choose Your Path
The master's program offers two different options, Thesis and Non-Thesis, to accommodate a variety of career paths. There are two required courses in the master's program: Foundations of Humanistic Psychology (PSYC 6000) and Human Growth and Potential (PSYC 6010).
Foundations of Humanistic Psychology (PSYC 6000) explores and examines the historical, philosophical, and theoretical grounds for contemporary humanistic psychology
Human Growth and Potential (PSYC 6010) addresses the importance of holism, mindfulness, and personal and intersubjective growth in an experiential context.
Other than these two courses, students can choose classes consistent with personal interests and goals.
Researching, writing and defending a thesis is a great deal of work for any student. Writing a thesis is strongly encouraged for those students who hope to continue on to a doctoral program. A Thesis demonstrates the ability to do significant and solid work. Writing a thesis is one of the best ways to prepare for writing a dissertation. You should become acquainted with areas of interest among the faculty and try to find someone who will be the “best fit” for your topic faculty members may not be available every semester. The thesis tracks requires 33 hours of coursework plus a 3 hour Thesis preparation course. Up to 9 hours may be taken outside of the Psychology Department. Theses should conform to the guidelines in the Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Handbook. Students may also wish to review the Thesis and Dissertation FAQ. Both the Handbook and FAQ are also available in the department's main office, Melson 123.
Under this option students must complete a total of 45 hours of coursework. Up to 12 hours may be taken outside of the Psychology Department. However, appropriateness of the course should be considered thoroughly.
Thesis Track: 33 Hours of Coursework + 3 Hours Thesis course + Thesis & Defense
Non-Thesis Track: 45 Hours of Coursework
The student must demonstrate his or her ability to conduct exploratory research, design appropriate projects, and engage in creative reflection within the field of psychology. In the Non-thesis track, a student must submit a written document as directed by his or her committee.
This practicum will emphasize conceptually informed work with individuals and the community. The focus of this practicum is on prevention, mitigation, and amelioration and buffering of psychological struggle, the sources of struggles as problem, as opposed to a reactive approach.
There are only two formal gatherings that will be part of your experience in the Masters program. One is your admissions interview, in which you and two or three faculty members have an opportunity to explore your preparation and interests as they correspond to departmental offerings and emphasis. This interview occurs of course prior to an offer to you of admission to the program. The other formal interview, prior to your graduation and generally after you have completed all coursework, is the final oral examination, referred to more generally as the “exit interview.” Although the exact nature and format of this oral examination gathering varies with whether or not you complete a thesis, and also varies somewhat depending on the students and faculty involved, there are some common elements that will help you in preparing for and benefiting from this professional opportunity.
1. Familiarize yourself with the “Registrar’s Requirements for Graduation,” found here. This page contains very helpful information about Graduate School paperwork, calendar and timetables, and procedures for graduation. Be certain to give it a look.
2. Select and extend an invitation to a major professor who will serve as the chair of your committee. This person may be the person serving throughout your time here as your advisor (see “Selecting an Advisor and Preparing a Plan of Study,” elsewhere). Remember that we do not assign students to advisors, but we faculty members welcome invitations to serve in this way. Think about faculty members who have been your teachers, who have shared your scholarship or involvement or personal growth interests, or with whom you feel a particular vocational affinity. Then invite this person to serve as your major professor (and chair of your oral examination committee). Ideally this invitation should be thoughtful and respectful and deliberate, and should probably not occur haphazardly in the hallway between classes or by e-mail. It is an honor and a privilege for faculty members to serve in this role and it is not one we take lightly.
If you are doing a thesis as part of your Masters program, you may find detailed guidelines for that process, and the role in it of the major professor, in the “So You Want to Do a Thesis?” section of this website.
3. In consultation with your major professor, select and invite two additional members of your oral examination committee. One member of your committee needs to be a member of the Psychology Department faculty, and the other needs to be a faculty member from outside the Department. Again, think about teachers and mentors with whom you’ve worked elsewhere, and in consultation with your major professor invite these committee members respectfully to accompany you in this way. Sometimes your major professor will have recommendations for you as well of external or internal faculty colleagues who might accompany you in the exit interview.
4. Schedule a date (with your major professor and committee members) and reserve a location (with the Department administrative assistant or secretary) for your oral examination meeting. Please plan on an hour and a half or two hours.
5. Your preparation for the meeting will vary depending on whether or not you are doing a thesis.
For a thesis, you will to provide a copy of your thesis, approved initially by your major professor, to the other committee members a week before your scheduled examination. As in all matters, consult with your major professor regarding the format (i.e., e-mail or paper copy) and any pre-meeting feedback (from other committee members) around the thesis prior to the examination.
For a non-thesis oral examination, you will need to prepare a paper that will be in large part the focus of the discussion. This paper:
should be written after consultation with your major professor
is typically seven to ten pages in length
and may take various forms:
an intellectual autobiography of your academic experience in the Masters program;
a more detailed thought piece or conceptual exploration around a topic of interest (for example, “Humanistic Psychology in Relation to Culture,” or “Meditation as Embodied Knowing”);
a foundation for additional exploration, such as a rewriting of your statement of interest for the Masters program for application for doctoral study; or
some combination of these elements or others (in consultation with your major professor)
Some students have also done projects (visual arts, music, or other creative outlets) accompanied by a briefer written psychological context.
Provide your committee members a copy of your paper a week in advance of your scheduled interview date. Again, consult with your major professors regarding format and feedback.
6. The oral examination will consist typically of
Review of your plan of study, as needed;
An introduction of you and your project to the committee, by your major professor;
A brief (10-15 minute) presentation by you of the major findings of your thesis, or the fundamental elements of your oral examination paper; and
Collaborative discussion of the paper or the thesis among you and the members of the committee, with your major professor serving as facilitator and moderator of this collaborative discussion.
It is probably most helpful to think of this meeting as an opportunity for you and those working with you to punctuate and celebrate your good work, rather than as an examination per se.
At the conclusion of the meeting you will be asked to leave the room briefly and your committee members will discuss the meeting and its outcomes. In the case of a non-thesis oral examination, you will either pass or (much more rarely) fail the examination, and committee members will indicate that outcome to you on your return to the room (as invited by your major professor) and by their signature on the required forms (located here).
If you are presenting a thesis, there are various outcomes of the oral examination:
approval of the thesis as it is, with signatures by all committee members
approval of the thesis with revisions as indicated by committee members in the meeting, with the understanding that the student and the major professor will implement the required changes and committee members signing at the time of the meeting
approval of the oral examination but a need for modification and additional independent or committee review of the modified thesis prior to final approval and signatures later
non-approval of the examination as well as of the thesis, with modifications required prior to another exit examination
7. The last component of the exit interview is to make certain that all forms (the Plan of Study, the Report of the Oral Examination, and any thesis-related paperwork) are signed and returned by your major professor to the departmental administrative assistant. In recent years we have also asked students to complete a contact information form and provide some feedback about their experience in the program.
We hope that this information is helpful as you prepare for this important part of your experience here.
Please see the Department’s Graduation Information page.