What Is The Scientist-practitioner Model?

Following the development of WW II: the engagement of the male adult population during the war, the stress inflicted by modern warfare on these male adults serving in the armed forces; and the trauma intertwined with the war proved a propelling force in devising clinical psychological methods for treatment.

At, the Scientist-Practitioner Model came about as a result of the extreme occupation of clinical scientists over psychologists in the treatment of war veterans. With this, psychologists whose works are based on theoretical and logical explanations of the human mind, body, and health began to be invited to engage in the treatment of war veterans.

Before this period, psychologists like Sigmund Freud had started work on trauma and psychoanalysis which serves as another backdrop for human psychology. With the influx of psychologists applying their knowledge in clinical science positions, what came after was a generation of scientists who became practitioners by necessity.


Scientist-Practitioner Model can be explained as a training model that incorporates both the practice of psychology and science which must symbiotically operate.

As O’Gorman, 2001, puts it, it is “a training model which integrates science and practice in psychology, where each must constantly inform each other.” By this, the Scientist-Practitioner Model is informed by the increase in the need for psychology in clinical services post-WWII.

The origin of this model can be traced to the conference on Graduate Education in Psychology under the influence of the Federal United States of America Government. The conference was held and a model was established in Boulder, Colorado, in 1949 (which led to the address of the Scientist-Practitioner Model as the Boulder Model).

At the conference which featured 71 representatives from different universities, countries and academic institutions, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) was created for purposes of research into diverse disorders characterized by the Second World War.

While researching these disorders, the aim is to provide answers to varied disorders. They reached a consensus to prerequisites to guarantee admission into higher institutions of learning bothering on the Scientist-Practitioner Model.

At this point, the role of the psychologists involved in this clinical science service is to conduct research and extend the tools of research work and its applications into scientific innovations and techniques; while the clinical science services involved in this model is basically to administer the results of the research in concerned patients.

With the inauguration of this model, the fields are fused to ensure a healthy free and mentally protected society of the United States.

During WWII, psychologists served as infantries preparing propaganda and disseminating disinformation. Psychologists became involved in designing user-friendly appliances for war vehicles and warplanes.

While at this evangelism of humanism, clinical psychologists were charged (or rather say, found themselves) in the capacities of providing counselling and psychotherapy for soldiers.

At this, the Veteran Administration (VA) approved and initiated clinical psychology internships for interested students. Another association was charged with the regularization of would-be clinical psychologists.

So, fundamentally, the Scientist-Practitioner Model (or Boulder Model) was intended to train clinical psychologists in the fields and applications of science in psychological research processes.

The model has however extended to the training of professional psychologists in the fields of school psychologists and counselling psychologists. This is to ensure capability in both science and practice by granting attention to the results of sciences through the fusion of the 2 fields.

It should be noted here that this model, according to O’Gorman 2001, is used to train psychologists in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

This is because of the vast resources pulled together that psychology students use in acquiring both research skills and clinical skills (which is the incorporation of science) in the fields of health.

Today, a graduate of the Scientists-Practitioner Model can work in Non-Governmental Organizations bothered on Mental Health and psycho-analysis, Hospitals, and clinics. Therefore, as noted before, the Boulder Model is also applied to counselling and industrial-organizational psychology as it embraces the concept of ageing and health.

An important feature of the symbiosis of the model is the necessary ability of students to perform some tasks. That is, students –must be and– are capable of reading, comprehending and applying scientific principles of observation, hypothesis; facts or laws; in their practice of clinical science.

Many claims that the development and subsequent application of the Scientist-Practitioner Model is one of the finest achievements of psychology, at this, one must be brought to the knowledge of the incorporation of science and its cultures, and humanism as the principles behind it.

As the training emphasizes research techniques applicable to therapeutic processes, it also ensures the contribution of practitioners in science with the use of a laboratory.


Trained psychologists and would-be scientists gain important scientific skills that border on critical thinking and the ability to understand produced research as well as the evaluation of outcomes of previous interventions.

This was argued by Stoltenberg and Pace, Kashubeck-West, Biever, Patterson and Welch in 2000 because of the importance of the scientific approach to the field.

More so, society stresses the importance of continual research for treatments efficiency. At this, the importance of psychologists cannot be sidelined as knowledge outpaces (even) its dissemination.

This retains the necessity of clinical scientists in applying this knowledge gathered from research into the professional practice of the field. The interventions derived from these researches allow for limited resources since a dedicated amount of persons are engaged in the process of research, analysis, and applications of such fluid knowledge.


As fascinating, however, as the Scientist-Practitioner Model is, it has gross criticism against it. Such is Frank, 1984, who suggests that (1) there should be no need for the research training to be a clinician and (2) the interests and talents necessary for research work and clinical work are incompatible and impossible to combine.

Other scholars argue that their researches are inapplicable and poorly supplied, hence, irrelevant to the practice. Indulgence in it, however, would discontinue development in finding better ways to address mental health and other health disciplines.

Another criticism is the stance that clinical psychologists rarely produce or utilize research. Prochaska and Norcross, 1983, argue that although many clinicians pay lip service to the importance of the scientist-practitioner model, adherence to the model may be ideal rather than a reality.