Degree Requirements: Master's degree
Completion Time: 4 to 5 years
Earned Credits: 76
Guided by practitioner-faculty with years of experience in the field of applied psychophysiology, students will participate in two five-day-long Saybrook Residential Conferences per year and attend the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) annual meeting every year they are in the program. In addition, students pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychophysiology may choose between two doctoral level specializations designed to prepare graduates for careers in a professional practice informed by a scientific understanding of mind and body.
Applied Psychophysiology provides useful concepts and skills—biofeedback, relaxation training, hypnosis, neurofeedback, and stress management—and is applicable throughout an extensive range of industries.
Graduates with an applied psychophysiology and biofeedback degree will use their knowledge to further their careers in sports medicine, education, business, the military, and clinical environments. Focused on a whole-person approach toward stress-related diseases, chronic health conditions, and optimal performance, this applied psychophysiology degree prepares graduates to positively affect people’s lives through a comprehensive understanding of the interconnectedness between psychology and biology.
Applied psychophysiologists are professionals who develop and use behavioral assessments and interventions based on such areas as behavioral genetics, hormonal influence on behavior, individual differences in perception, and abnormal physiological patterns. They assist clients in recognizing and altering problems caused by these biological underpinnings. Common psychophysiological intervention techniques include biofeedback, relaxation training, hypnosis, neurofeedback, and stress management, among others.
For licensed health professionals, the Clinical Psychophysiology curriculum provides a range of useful concepts and skills for application in most specialty areas of medicine and mental health. Students entering the Optimal Functioning specialization will learn to assess and assist healthy people to perform better through behavioral control of their physiological systems. Optimal functioning assessments and interventions are widely used in sports, education, business, military, and clinical environments. Students in the General Specialization have an expanded number of elective choices to design a more personalized course of study.
In consultation with the department chair, students may choose to complete a generalist option which requires 18 credits of APH elective coursework. Students must discuss this option with the department chair and design a course of study with their assistance. The generalist option may be the best option for some students. The specializations are detailed below.
Program Learning Outcomes
- Assess and appraise knowledge of the biological basis of behavior and accurately relate and interpret behavioral dysfunctions to underlying biological dysfunctions
- Evaluate and interpret psychophysiological recording methodology and set, monitor, recognize, and consistently perform correct recordings utilizing psychophysiological equipment
- Create, organize, and conduct independent psychophysiological research studies utilizing accepted design and analysis techniques so that students recognize common mistakes in published studies involving design and analysis and can teach others how to do so
- Explain and assess the physiological and stress responses underlying both behavioral and physiological sequences impacting optimal functioning, in order to design and conduct appropriate training utilizing psychophysiologically based techniques to optimize functioning in business, education, sports, and (when appropriately licensed) clinical environments
- Explain and integrate ethical principles and professional practice standards, as promulgated by the field’s professional organizations, within the field of applied psychophysiology
More program information can be found in our academic catalog.
Students entering the Applied Psychophysiology doctoral program must have completed a master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university prior to enrollment. Doctoral students must complete a minimum of 76 credits. Applicants to the Clinical Psychophysiology specialization must document a current health care or mental health care license or completion of a licensable health care or mental health care degree.
Students entering the program who have not taken undergraduate courses in general biology or general psychology must take any they are missing during their first semester: APH 5001 General Biology, 1 credit; APH 5002 General Psycholog, 1 credit. Students showing weaknesses in academic writing skills must take Graduate Academic Writing, a 3-credit course. Depending on prior education, they may need to review learning modules provided by the department covering areas, including electronic circuitry, mathematics, psychological assessment, and medical information needed to perform psychophysiological assessments.
By approval, Saybrook University may accept up to 9 graduate transfer credits into the Ph.D. degree in Applied Psychophysiology from other regionally accredited colleges and universities prior to entrance. Transfer credits must be from courses substantially similar to those offered by the department. They are applied to reduce the required number of elective or required courses for degree completion. Alternately, they may be waived without granting credit, so students can take other electives in place of the transferred courses. Suitability of the proposed courses for transfer to the intended degree are determined by the department chair.
If a student has taken more than 9 credits of past graduate courses matching required courses, or can demonstrate learning equivalent to a required course, the required course(s) may be waived without credit, and students will take additional elective(s) in their place. For further details regarding transfer credit policies, consult the Institutional Transfer Credit Guidelines section of the University Catalog.
Students who have earned an M.S. Mind-Body Medicine, an M.S. Integrative and Functional Nutrition, or an M.A. Integrative Wellness Coaching from Saybrook University, and who are admitted into the doctoral degree in Applied Psychophysiology, can generally transfer all master’s degree credits that match either a required course or an elective in the Ph.D. program. The exact amount depends on which master’s degree the student has completed, and which Ph.D. specialization the student selects. These students must fulfill the doctoral degree requirements not completed at the master’s level, including the remaining required courses and the dissertation or project.
Students in the Ph.D. degree program in Applied Psychophysiology pursue a 25-credit sequence of core courses in Applied Psychophysiology, 18 credits in specialization courses, and 12 credits of psychophysiologically relevant elective courses. This training prepares graduates for a broad range of employment opportunities in medical and mental health care, stress management, optimal functioning, sports and mental health coaching, and wellness education. Students in the Ph.D. Applied Psychophysiology program also complete a 21-credit sequence of research courses, culminating in a doctoral dissertation and oral defense of the dissertation. Students carry out several original research projects, including the doctoral dissertation, on topics relevant to psychophysiological assessments and interventions in areas such as optimal functioning and health care.
Each doctoral specialization is described separately with its coursework and career applications, following discussion of the core Ph.D. degree in Applied Psychophysiology.
Psychophysiological Recording, Assessment, and Interventions
This course provides a basic understanding of the physiology and methodology underlying common psychophysiological recording techniques used in behavioral medicine including surface electromyography, electroencephalography, respiration, blood pressure, pulse rate, skin temperature, and electrodermal responses. Sufficient knowledge about how common psychophysiological recording and biofeedback instruments function and are used is provided so students can incorporate psychophysiological aspects of assessment into their normal practices.
This course also teaches the principles and applications of general biofeedback as used in educational and clinical settings. The strengths and weaknesses of evidence supporting the use of biofeedback for a variety of clinical disorders are reviewed and the techniques for providing biofeedback are detailed. Techniques for using biofeedback as a tool for shaping and conditioning responses to stress are emphasized.
The laboratory portion of the courses provides sufficient hands-on exposure to typical, clinical-grade psychophysiological recording and biofeedback equipment and techniques so that students will be able to recognize adequate and inadequate signals and be able to attach sensors to their patients appropriately and so that good signals can be recorded.
EEG Biofeedback: Assessment and Intervention
This applied psychophysiology and biofeedback course teaches the principles of recording the brain’s electrical activities through EEG, as well as other imaging techniques, that pertain to applied to psychophysiological assessments and interventions. The basic psychophysiology of the EEG signal is reviewed in relationship to educational applications and disorders (such as epilepsy and ADHD) treated with EEG biofeedback. The strengths and weaknesses of evidence supporting the use of EEG biofeedback for a variety of clinical disorders are reviewed and the techniques for performing EEG biofeedback are detailed.
Optimal Functioning: Psychophysiological Applications in the Community, School, Sports, and Workplace
Effectively working within large organizations to increase work efficiency, decrease accidents, and increase morale while decreasing stress-related absences, disorders, and conflicts is a complex task requested by more and more employers as the impact of stress on the workforce becomes more recognized. Optimal performance in these environments is difficult but achievable with appropriate training. The research supporting the efficacy of such efforts is reviewed and the typical techniques for interventions with diverse groups are illustrated.
A wide variety of behavioral interventions have been effective in enhancing and optimizing performance in many settings. Effects include increased endurance and accuracy under many circumstances–especially within sports and the military. The evidence supporting this assertion is reviewed and examples are provided of specific interventions shown to be effective in specific circumstances.
Effective presentation of behavioral medicine concepts to diverse groups is a daunting task that requires considerable training and experience. Practices are frequently augmented through communicating with peers, other health care professionals and administrators, the public, and potential patients. Effective methods for presenting to each type of group are very different but have been worked out well. Typical presentation methods for workshops, lectures, and public appearances are presented, which are likely to optimize understanding of behavioral medicine techniques.
Basic Training and Education in Hypnosis
This course provides students with a basic skill set to conduct simple hypnotic interventions, along with knowledge about hypnotic concepts and approaches, including familiarity with research-based applications of hypnosis to common medical and behavioral disorders. Additionally, it provides students with an introductory level of understanding helpful for engaging in hypnosis-based clinical practice and hypnosis-oriented research in integrative health.
This course introduces simple trance induction protocols, trance deepening techniques, the use of post-hypnotic suggestion, and techniques to re-alert the subject and closes the trance phase. In addition, the course overviews current scientific approaches to explaining hypnotic phenomena introduces the measurement and significance of hypnotic susceptibility and presents several of the widely used and effective approaches for utilizing hypnosis in psychotherapy and personal transformation.
Students completing this basic training sequence are equipped to begin the intermediate level training. The course is designed to follow the Standards of Training in Clinical Hypnosis as presented by D. Corydon Hammond and Gary R. Elkins for the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis—Education and Research Foundation (2005).