Masters In Psychology, A ‘Doormat’ No More, Intent On Flexing Muscles, Catching Up

By Henry Saeman, Editor
January 1, 2000



Leaders of the masters in psychology organization are determined to forge ahead which means altering the relationship between themselves and “orthodox psychology,” the title they ascribe to the American Psychological Association.

Ted Dorfman, M.A., of Pittsburgh, has led the NorthAmerican Masters in Psychology (NAMP) for the past two years, asserts that attempting to work with APA has been futile and isn’t likely to improve. Conferences to solve the “masters issue” date to 1954.

The changes envisioned by Dorfman and leaders of NAMP, if enacted, will inevitably draw the people trained under psychology’s roof–by psychologists and in psychology departments–closer to counselors, social workers and psychiatrists.

Dorfman doesn’t mince words and responds in a self-assured way that his organization has to move forward. “We feel psychology is in a period of stagnation,” he declared. “It is an artifact of the industrial era, stuck in the 1970s. We feel psychology has been unable to deal with the disruptive changes, primarily managed care and the competition of low cost providers among mental health professions.”

He continues: “We cannot recognize any great contribution to American society that psychology has made in the last 10 years.”

Dorfman sees his organization as providing the solution for psychology. He asserts that managed care has finally come around to adapting to change. “They seem now to be willing,” he said. “It is interesting that psychology has long recognized the association between intelligence and adaptation, but it’s a paradox that psychology has not been able to cope with the changes brought about by managed care.”

Dorfman said his organization plans no legislative initiatives to obtain licensing in the year 2000, content to plan ahead, then move on licensing legislation in 2001. NAMP and its state affiliates were instrumental in gaining independent practice rights for masters level persons in Oklahoma and Kansas in 1999.

Meanwhile, NAMP foresees its most pressing agenda item in 2000 leadership in limiting psychological services to empirically validated treatments.

This model was included in the Masters bill in Oklahoma and Kansas earlier this year, advocated by Logan Wright, Ph.D., a former president of APA and founder of the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology (AAAPP). Wright has long championed the cause of masters in psychology people.

To practice at the independent level, masters persons in Kansas and Oklahoma were willing to drop the title “psychology,” which is the most compelling issue on APA’s agenda. In Kansas, the state legislature established the title “licensed clinical psychotherapist and In Oklahoma, master level persons call themselves “licensed behavioral practitioner.”

However, Dorfman said that masters persons would insist on limited use of the title “psychologist.” He cited two courts cases, in an Oregon federal court and another in a Florida state court, which enables psychologists the right to use the term “psychologist” based on freedom of speech factors. Under these rulings, said Dorfman, psychologists can call themselves “psychologist” but not “licensed psychologist.” Dorfman compared it to title restrictions that apply to certain other professions such as “accountant” and “certified public accountant.”

The title “licensed behavioral specialist” doesn’t please Dorfman. He perceives risks in fragmenting the title. “There is substantial risk in having different titles in different states,” he said. “If we can (legislatively) get the title ‘psychologist,’ we would prefer it. If we have to settle for less than we want, we are prepared to do this.”

Although NAMP claims only 2,000 to 3,000 members, it views its operating base among the 80,000 to 100,000 masters level persons as the key to future success. He vowed a serious membership campaign in the future but notes that, in the meanwhile, NAMP has ample resources to develop and implement its action plan.

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