Dispute’s End Not In Sight Yet, But Masters, APA A Step Closer

By Henry Saeman, Editor
July 1, 2000 - Last updated: May 31, 2011

“The vast majority of masters-trained people in psychology from Vermont who take the national licensing exam pass it. I passed that exam better than 80% of the rest of the nation. I am proud to say that it is my belief if I pass the standards that APA has established which we agree to be a national standard of entry into the field of psychology, I should be able to practice as a psychologist.”

So spoke Margaret Joyal, who lives in Vermont where masters and doctoral psychologists practice side-by-side. Joyal had joined 100 colleagues supported the conference of Northamerican Masters in Psychology (NAMP). It was held June 22-25 at Francis-Marion University in Florence, S.C.

Joyal militantly favored the use of the title “psychologist” by masters people. In Vermont, she is statutorily allowed to use the title “psychologist-masters.”

Since NAMP’s last conference, two significant events have transpired that affect masters people in psychology: the death of Logan Wright, Ph.D., NAMP’s founder and unchallenged leader; and a notable effort–an olive branch–by APA’s current president, Pat DeLeon, Ph.D., J.D., to settle this 50-year-old intraprofessional dispute.

Apparently, there have been several unofficial rendezvous on these issues during recent months. Before he died abruptly last December, Wright is said to have engaged in confidential conversations with APA officials to bring an end to the longlasting hostilities.

In the February issue of the APA Monitor, DeLeon wrote about “ending the confusion over the master’s issue.” According to sources, there have been follow-up conversations but without explicit results.

After their meeting in South Carolina, Ted Dorfman, president of NAMP, threw the olive branch back to DeLeon, saying that NAMP, too, would like to end the hostilities, would be willing to meet with APA representatives with one condition:

“That APA would accept the fact that we are an important part of the family of psychologists, that we need to work on the identity issue of the masters community.”

Yet, Dorfman said that NAMP members at the conference were opposed to compromising on use of the title psychologist. “This created an enormous debate within our organizations,” he said. “There are those who feel it is a sellout and betrayal of our cause, that we have been educated by psychologists, our graduate courses are in psychology, the training is the same, and that it would be dishonest for us to give up the title.”

What stands between us is the title and use of the word “psychology,” according to Dorfman. “It’s a tough issue but if both sides are interested in getting it resolved, they will be able to do this.”

The conference ended with a resolution that “as a professional reference, we would regard ourselves as masters psychologists,” Dorfman stated.

“I sense the beginning of rapprochement, that we are moving in the right direction,” Dorfman continued. Two APA representatives were “quite helpful,” according to Dorfman. They were Paul Nelson, Ph.D., who is in charge of training, and Laura Barbanel, Ph.D., appointed by DeLeon to represent APA.

“The only issue that stands between us is the title of psychologist,” Dorfman continued. “The previous issues, scope of practice and independent practice, are settled. We believe the reason they are resolved is that APA already has lost that battle to other mental health professionals. One of our attendees expressed it by saying “while APA decides who is going to be in the food line, counselors and social workers are eating our lunch.”

Dorfman declared that Wright had indicated “if we get 95% of what we wanted, we could then compromise on the title issue. But he noted that, at the June weekend meeting, a change that followed Wright’s death seemed clear. “A majority of our members do not want a compromise,” he said. But the “majority” referred to the 100 persons at the conference. Dorfman clarified that the association’s 3,000 members will be polled in the near future.

Use of the title was reduced to a lighter side when attendees began referring to “give ’em ‘l'”, or finding a suffix that follows “psycho,” whether “psycho-logist, psycho-logical.”

If and when that dilemma is resolved, according to Dorfman, the battle is over.

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