Much work remains on post doc licensure relief

By James Bradshaw Assistant Editor
May 1, 2006 - Last updated: May 31, 2011

A policy decision by the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives to reduce post doc delays in licensing is welcome news for graduate students in psychology and early career psychologists, but for most the reality of faster licensing is years away.

The Council approved the change in principle at the its February meeting, but details on curriculum and practicum sequencing must be worked out by a task force that was not appointed at press time.

The purpose is to replace the requirement in the APA model licensure law that candidates complete a year of supervised post doc training before licensing.

The new recommendation calls for “supervised professional experience equivalent to two years of full-time training” through a one-year predoctoral internship and a second year of supervised training “that can be completed prior or subsequent to the granting of a doctoral degree.”

Doctoral grads have had difficulty finding openings for the one-year post doc internship because those openings are scarce and can be filled just as well by licensed master’s degree professionals. Some have resorted to seeking master’s licensing, often in unrelated fields.

Thomas J. DeMaio, Ph.D., a Council member-at-large and a prime mover in getting the policy measure approved, said many grads and early career psychologists also are handicapped in having education loans converted to a government repayment program because applying for that help requires being licensed.

DeMaio said the movement has followed a long road and has far to go before results are realized, but the policy statement is a victory. “I thought it was a wonderful happening,” DeMaio said. “It’s been at least eight years in the making.”

The effort to alleviate licensing problems for doctoral grads began gathering steam in the late ’90s and resulted in the Council appointing a 30-member commission to study the matter in 2000. Norine G. Johnson, Ph.D., chaired the commission. The commission voted 26-3 to forward recommendations to the council that included the post doc relief, but DeMaio said the Council did not act on them for five years. A work group appointed last year again recommended their adoption, resulting in the February approval.

DeMaio said he and Ruth Ullmann Paige, Ph.D., who is APA’s recording secretary and was a co-chair of the 2000 commission, pushed for the adoption.

The full report includes wide-ranging suggestions for improving education and training to assure doctoral grads are ready to serve the profession admirably, DeMaio said. “I think it’s great because the profession is moving not just to define training during practicum but to define competency,” DeMaio said.

Streamlining the licensure process will encourage psychologists to be more selective in the post-doc experience by pursuing specialty training instead of satisfying for any position to meet licensing requirements, he said.

He said the quality of the curriculum and practicum ultimately recommended is assured by the diverse interests contributing to developing the requirements. The policy approval was recommended by the Board of Educational Affairs, the Board of Professional Affairs and the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice.

Stephen T. DeMers, Ed. D., executive officer of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), said his organization discouraged approving the policy change for the same reason they cast the three opposing votes on the 2000 commission – the belief that it is premature to approve a policy change before developing an accompanying curriculum.

“The potential exists for every state to do its own thing, which could be horrendous for psychologists moving from state to state.” ASPPB has worked for years to improve reciprocity among states to make licensing recognized by one jurisdiction more easily transferred to another.

“We’re always looking to make things consistent across the states,” DeMers said.

He said the majority of the member state licensing boards oppose the change. “There are about four or five that are in favor,” he said, adding that shows movement from 2000 when the boards were uniformly opposed.

DeMers said he is encouraged by the emphasis on competency in a model curriculum. “But our feeling was do this first and have everybody change with a script.”

DeMaio said change comes slowly and there is time to work out the educational requirements. He speculated that once APA approves a model it will take training programs up to five years to make the changeover.

Approval by any appreciable number of licensing boards is at least five to 10 years off, he said.

State associations and state licensing boards do not have to await APA recommendations to take action. The state of Washington approved a comparable change last year and is in the process of writing rules to regulate the training.

DeMaio said the licensing law in Alabama has no post doc requirement. He said two or three more states might not await APA action. “They’re introducing bills, and we’re saying it’s not ready for prime time.”

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