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Social Health Behavioral
Health Administration

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Complete your studies on your own time.

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Start your first course when it’s convenient for you.

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Finish your PhD-PSY in just 20 courses.

PhD-PSY in Behavioral Health Administration and Social Policy

More than 20% of adults have some mental health issues, creating a critical need for better understanding and treatment. The PhD-PSY in Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration specialization offers a strong base in theory and research, promotes an awareness of ethics and a respect for diversity, and will help you advance your critical thinking and communication skills. Taught by professors who all hold doctoral degrees, you will appraise literature on the application of behavioral health and organizational management, develop a working knowledge of forensic casework, and gain an in-depth understanding of financial issues related to mental health policy and practice. Graduates assume senior leadership positions in the field of behavioral health service organization and delivery, state government or private enterprise. You will also gain the skills to conduct research, manage therapists and psychologists with varying backgrounds, as well as conduct training or teach at the graduate level.

Note on Licensure: The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology or counseling professional.


Unmatched Flexibility

NU offers weekly course starts, no scheduled lecture hours, no group assignments, weekly assignments, and the ability to schedule courses around your personal and professional obligations.

100% Doctoral Faculty

No matter the degree level you pursue, you can rest assured that you will be mentored by doctors in your field of study.

One to One Engagement

You won’t have to fight for facetime as one of many within a classroom. At NU, you’ll have the opportunity to interact one to one with your professor, receiving personalized mentoring.

Course Details


Credit Hours : 60

Courses: 20

Estimated Time to Complete: 48 months

*Credit hours and courses reflect new students meeting credit requirements and utilizing no transfer credits. Est. Time of Completion reflects new students following the preferred schedule designed by the Dean for the program.

Course Name

Students in this course will be prepared for success in the psychology doctoral program at the University. Students are introduced to relevant academic communities, professional standards, and doctoral-level expectations. Essential skills needed to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology are emphasized, including critical thinking, comprehending complex scholarly texts and research articles, and effective written communications. Students will identify and begin to explore potential research topics for use in their doctoral studies and complete the course with a roadmap to navigate their way to degree completion.

This course focuses on scholarly and academic writing with an overarching goal of critically analyzing and thoughtfully synthesizing research findings while adhering to APA style and the principles of Academic Integrity. The emphases in this course are on how to (a) conduct effective literature searches; (b) critically review and summarize research studies; (c) write comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature; (d) formulate ideas and convey them in an ethical fashion; and (e) use feedback to revise and improve one’s work.

This doctoral-level course focuses on the fundamentals of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches to psychological research. Students gain an understanding of the strengths and limitations of each approach, and how these methods apply to a research topic. The concepts of critical evaluating, published research, research ethics, and developing a research proposal will also be explored and practiced. In addition, it provides a foundation for subsequent research courses in preparation for successfully completing a dissertation at the University.

This course provides an introductory exploration of statistics for the graduate student. It includes instruction on the calculation, use, and interpretation of descriptive statistics, and introduces inferential statistical analysis. The emphasis of this course is on providing a working knowledge of basic statistical concepts to help the student understand statistical methodology used in psychology, and also more generally, developing a working knowledge of statistical usage in everyday life.

This doctoral course in tests and measurements provides the student conceptual as well as practical guidelines in test and scale construction. This course will expose the students to concepts and theories including: the nature of psychological constructs and concepts, measurements and measurement error, item construction and analysis, Classical Test Theory, and the different approaches to establishing instrument reliability and validity. Students will have the opportunity to apply the skills and concepts to a construct relevant to their own research interests.

This doctoral-level course will introduce the student to psychological test construction, administration and interpretation as well as current research in the area. Commonly used tests to assess cognition and personality will be studied.

This course will provide a foundation for knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methods used in the social sciences, including psychology. Knowledge of research methods is essential both for successful completion of the dissertation and for being a skilled consumer and creator of scholarly knowledge in your field. Topics explored will include the purposes of the two basic research methods (quantitative and qualitative), the nature of multiple research designs within each method, analytic strategies used within each method, factors in quality research within each method, and ethical issues in research methods. Scholarly writing and appropriate use of the scholarly literature will also be reinforced through all topics. This course is intended to provide a broad understanding of research methods to support deeper exploration and application using more refined resources in future courses.

The purpose of this course is to acquire deeper knowledge of the quantitative and qualitative designs. The focus is on active learning to develop applied research skills that will help you in design development, data collection, and data analysis reporting phases. During the course, you will also examine how your research reflections and analysis are grounded in the empirical literature.

This course focuses on how to conduct effective literature searches, specifically in preparation for the dissertation, develop a plan for writing comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature, and critically review and write about underlying theoretical frameworks that lay the foundation for future research. The overarching goal of this course is for students to conduct an extensive search of the peer-reviewed empirical and theoretical literature in their topic area and identify potential areas of inquiry for their dissertation.

The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is intended to ensure students have mastered knowledge of their discipline prior to candidacy status and demonstrated the ability to design empirical research as an investigator before moving on to the dissertation research coursework. Students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize empirical, peer-reviewed research to support all assignments in this course. The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is completed only after all foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

*The Elective course in the PhD in Psychology degree can be satisfied by any 8000-level course in the Department of Psychology.

Specialization and Elective Courses

Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration Specialization will focus on two areas: social policy and behavioral health administration. These two areas are highly related in the field and will allow future psychologists the ability to be leaders in the field in different settings (e.g., government, community-based organizations, etc.) and influence decision-making. The specialization contains 21 credits with 4 required courses and 3 electives from a list of 7 courses in PSY, DMFT, and PUB. Students will have the ability to design their specialization with the electives. For example, they may choose organizational-focused courses or complete a supervised internship experience.

Required Courses

Course Name

In this course you will explore the historical and current treatment of those who suffer from mental and substance use disorders as well as the various treatment settings. This course will review the role of social stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders, and take a deeper examination of how the health care system is experienced by individuals who are historically underrepresented including persons of color, person who identify as LGBTQIA+, and those who are economically disadvantaged. Finally, this course will provide an overview of how local and federal policies regarding mental and behavioral health play a critical role in healthcare financing and the accessibility of appropriate quality treatment services.

Effective development, integration, and maintenance of a mental health organization are necessary in today’s market in order to have sustainability. Beginning with problem analysis you will transform an idea into a feasible program plan. How an organization adapts to change will also be discussed. In this course you will be asked to analyze strategic management factors such as how to best create a multidisciplinary team that will coordinate roles within the organization and maximize supervisory capabilities.

Students seeking a PhD in Psychology with specialization in Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration are required to take this course. This course covers ethics and cultural diversity as it relates to mental health and wellness. The history of ethics as well as how ethics relates to legal standards are addressed. Cultural diversity, sensitivity, and competence are also covered.

Students seeking a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in Social Policy and Mental Health Administration are required to take this course. In this course, you will analyze various evidence-based practices used by behavioral health practitioners in the treatment of mental illness and behavioral challenges. Methods of therapeutic accountability, clinical feedback, and outcome monitoring which can be used across all therapeutic approaches will be examined. You will analyze and evaluate treatment approaches in regards to moral, empirical, and political criteria. You will also evaluate considerations for best practice and appraise and select appropriate instruments for behavioral health evaluation.

Select three of the following courses:

Course Name

Prerequisites: Fundamental requirement in General Management

In this course you will explore budget formulation, implementation, and execution within the context of public organizations and nonprofit or non-governmental entities. By the end of this course, you will be able to explain the craft of public budgeting, assess the tools used in the budgeting process, and depict the budget process for various levels of government. Finally, you will learn to evaluate capital public budgeting and asset management within the context of the public sector.

This doctoral-level course will provide an overview of grant writing for dissertation and post-doctoral research on psychology-related topics. Basic grant writing skills such as researching, reading and responding to a Research Funding Proposal (RFP); as well as, developing the grant proposal inclusive of writing the rationale, purpose, problem statement, letters of support, budget and/or plan of work will be discussed. Assignments and projects will be available to engage and strengthen doctoral learners grant writing skills.

This course focuses on the theories, research findings, and applications of community psychology. Relationships between environmental conditions and culture and the development of the health and well-being of all members of a community are also examined. Students will examine key concepts, principles, and values of community psychology. The theoretical frameworks in peer-reviewed research will be examined, assessed, and synthesized.

In this course, you will gain an appreciation of leadership and how it differs from management. You will approach these topics through a review of literature. Self-assessment on key leadership scales will help you to understand your own profile as leaders, as well as gain additional insight in the characteristics of leaders.

This course focuses on contemporary theories and research surrounding job attitudes and motivation in the workplace. You will explore the methods used to measure job attitudes and motivation. You will also examine strategies for increasing motivation and improving job attitudes. In addition, important issues such as generational diversity, affectivity, occupational stress, and organizational withdrawal will be addressed.

In this course you receive an overview of theory, research and practice related to the implementation and management of change in organizations. The role of culture, climate and leadership in planned organizational change is explored.

Students seeking a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in Social Policy and Mental Health Administration may opt to complete their degree by taking an internship as an elective. During the internship experience, you will meet weekly with your assigned University professor as well as your internship site supervisor to discuss your experiences. Weekly experiences include submission of required evaluations and preparation for the final theoretically grounded presentation summarizing the internship experience. Internship experiences are designed to align with social policy and/or mental health administration, which result in growth in competencies demonstrated through application in practice. 

This doctoral-level course invites students to look at an organization from a systems-based perspective, examining the patterns of interactions, current events, and managerial solutions, while keeping in mind foundational concepts of general systems theory (GST). Students will learn how to use their systemic training to consult with personnel from a variety of organizations including medical field, academia, corporations, justice system, faith-based organizations, military, sports organizations, and family businesses. Students will have an opportunity to design a proposal to offer systems consultation services.

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology Learning Outcomes

  • Apprise theories and principles in psychology to inform professional contexts
  • Evaluate research methods and data analysis in psychology
  • Select psychological principles and research for application to personal, social, and organizational issues
  • Evaluate ethical principles of psychology in academic and professional issues
  • Critique diversity issues in professional contexts
  • Design clear and effective communication for fellow professionals and the public
Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

NU graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a program, certification/licensure, employment, and state-by-state basis that can include one or more of the following items: internships, practicum experience, additional coursework, exams, tests, drug testing, earning an additional degree, and/or other training/education requirements.

All prospective students are advised to review employment, certification, and/or licensure requirements in their state, and to contact the certification/licensing body of the state and/or country where they intend to obtain certification/licensure to verify that these courses/programs qualify in that state/country, prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s/country’s policies and procedures relating to certification/licensure, as those policies are subject to change.

National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.