Palo Alto University

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Palo Alto University
Former names
Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (1975-2009)
Motto Engaging Minds, Improving Lives
Type Private University
Established 1975
President Maureen O'Connor, Ph.D., J.D.
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 1081
Location Palo Alto, California, United States
37°22′56″N 122°11′15″W / 37.382281°N 122.187542°W / 37.382281; -122.187542Coordinates: 37°22′56″N 122°11′15″W / 37.382281°N 122.187542°W / 37.382281; -122.187542
Colors Blue and Gold

Palo Alto University (PAU) is a non-profit, private educational institution in Palo Alto, California, United States. PAU is dedicated to education with an emphasis in the behavioral and social sciences; to promoting future innovators and leaders for the benefit of society; to generating knowledge through research and scholarship of the highest level; and to providing services to the community informed by science and scholarship. The school was founded in 1975 as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (PGSP).

PAU offers two undergraduate degree programs (Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and Social Action and B.S. in Business Psychology) and five graduate programs: a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology; a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology as part of a consortium with Stanford University, and two master's degree programs: an M.A. in Counseling, and an M.S. in Psychology. Palo Alto University subscribes to the practitioner-scientist training model, a variation of the Boulder scientist-practitioner model, which emphasizes clinical practice along with scientific training.[citation needed]

PAU has an interconnected relationship with Stanford University and the Stanford University School of Medicine. PAU maintains its prominent doctoral program in conjunction with Stanford University, often employs its students in Stanford research laboratories, houses prominent faculty members who teach at both institutions. Furthermore, along with other prominent members of the Stanford University faculty, the chair of the Stanford Department of Psychiatry holds a membership on the PAU board of trustees.[1]


The Pacific Graduate School of Psychology was founded in 1975 and has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), since 1986. It has been continuously accredited since then. The university is not affiliated with the similarly named Pacifica Graduate Institute, located in Carpinteria, California. It has been continuously accredited since then. PGSP re-incorporated as Palo Alto University in August 2009.

In August 2009, PGSP officially reincorporated and changed its name to Palo Alto University. In 2009, it moved to a new campus on Arastradero Road, formerly occupied by the American Institutes for Research, which it had purchased the previous year.[2][3]

Undergraduate/College Transfer Programs[edit]

The undergraduate programs at Palo Alto University are offered in partnership with Silicon Valley area community colleges like De Anza College, Foothill College, and the College of San Mateo. The Bachelor's degree completion programs are created for community college students wishing to transfer to a Bachelor's program and for college graduates wishing to re-specialize in psychology or business psychology. PAU offers an education in psychology for the lowest tuition and fees of any private university in the Bay Area and a smooth transfer process for community college students or those who have completed their freshman and sophomore years of college.[4]

Master's Programs[edit]

Palo Alto University offers two master's degree programs: (1) M.A. in Counseling MFT/LPCC (Online/On-Campus), (2) M.S. in Psychology (Online). The M.A. in Counseling MFT/LPCC is a terminal Master's degree that prepares students to see clients as a licensed therapist or counselor. There are two areas of emphasis: The Marriage, Family, and Child emphasis fulfills all requirements for MFT licensure in the State of California. The Clinical Mental Health emphasis fulfills all requirements for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) licensure in California and select U.S. states and countries. The M.S. in Psychology, is designed to prepare students to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology or careers in community college teaching, research, and related business and nonprofit fields and is taught through distance learning (with the one-week summer intensive).[5] In January 2017, both emphases of Palo Alto University's M.A. in Counseling degree were awarded CACREP accreditation.[6]

Palo Alto University offers its M.A. in Counseling program to graduate students abroad through its Global Advancement of Counseling Excellence (GACE) initiative. With its main location in China, where the indigenous counseling professions are still developing, PAU educates students online with international faculty while providing locally based training on the ground with associated practitioners. In these locations, students take web-based classes along with other M.A. Counseling students. Through partnerships with local institutions, students have practicum sites where they can see clients. With these resources, students are able to earn PAU's M.A. in Counseling degree, while completing the practicum training necessary to become licensed clinicians in their home communities or elsewhere.[7]

Ph.D. program[edit]

Palo Alto University's Ph.D. program has been accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1988. The Ph.D. program consists of several emphasis areas including: Child & Family, Diversity & Community Mental Health, Forensic Psychology, LGBTQ Psychology, Meditation & Psychology, Neuropsychology, and Trauma.[8] The Ph.D. Clinical Psychology Program at PAU is deeply committed to educating well-rounded clinical psychologists who are capable and competent as both researchers and clinicians. Students are taught to be science minded while appreciating the larger role of psychology in alleviating suffering in the world. Students have access to specialized research groups and clinical training opportunities through the Gronowski Center, a community-based psychology training clinic and treatment center dedicated to providing high quality, evidence-based, clinical services to adults, older adults, adolescents, children, and families in the community.[9]

PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium[edit]

The PGSP Stanford Psy.D. Consortium program, in conjunction with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Stanford University's School of Medicine, was accredited by the American Psychological Association in 2006.[10] According to U.S. News & World Report, the PAU-Stanford Consortium ranks 79th in the nation for best health schools by category of clinical psychology.[11]

Clinical training[edit]

Students from the PAU Ph.D Clinical Psychology and PAU-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium program receive initial clinical practical training at the Gronowski Center, a mental health clinic hosted and partially funded by Palo Alto University that provides low-fee services on a sliding scale to the Bay Area community.[12][13]

Notable faculty and alumni[edit]

  • Larry E. Beutler, Ph.D., ABPP (Systematic Treatment Selection, Past President, Division 12, APA)
  • Bruce Bongar, Ph.D., ABPP (an international expert on the study of suicide and psychiatric emergencies).
  • Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D. (a highly regarded behavioral psychologist)
  • Ricardo Muñoz, Ph.D. (one of the foremost authorities on web-based psychological interventions and Founder of Institute for International Internet Interventions for Health (i4Health)


  1. ^ Board of Trustees, About PAU, Palo Alto University, retrieved November 19, 2012.
  2. ^ Will Oremus, "Palo Alto gets new psychology school", The Oakland Tribune, August 12, 2009 (online at Highbeam); "Palo Alto U. is now open, psychology school moves to foothills, prepares to expand", San Jose Mercury News, August 9, 2009.
  3. ^ "Palo Alto University Makes Last Mortgage Payment to Become Debt-free", Biotech Week, October 17, 2012 (online at Highbeam)
  4. ^ "Undergraduate Programs". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Master's Degree Programs". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "CACREP Directory- Palo Alto University". Retrieved 2 February 2017. 
  7. ^ "PAU China". Palo Alto University. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Areas of Emphasis, Ph.D in Clinical Psychology, Palo Alto University, retrieved May 18, 2015.
  9. ^ [1], Ph.D in Clinical Psychology, Palo Alto University, retrieved May 18, 2015.
  10. ^ PGSP – Stanford Psy.D. Consortium, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford School of Medicine, retrieved May 18, 2015.
  11. ^ Palo Alto University, Graduate Schools, U.S. News & World Report, updated 2012, retrieved May 18, 2015.
  12. ^ Chris Kenrick, "'Unplug your kids,' psychologist advises", Mountain View Voice, November 16, 2012, p. 7.
  13. ^ The Gronowski Center retrieved May 18, 2015.

External links[edit]