5 Easy Steps to Implement the APA Policy on Licensure

The APA Council of Representatives recently passed a resolution in support of licensure eligibility upon completion of the doctoral degree in psychology. This policy is intended to encourage State, Provincial, or Territorial Psychological Associations (SPTAs) to work with the appropriate entities in their areas (e.g. licensure boards, law makers, etc.) to change licensure laws and/or regulations so that supervised postdoctoral hours are no longer required for licensure. Instead, APA recommends licensure eligibility for applicants who demonstrate that they have completed two years of sequential, organized supervised experience that includes a one-year predoctoral internship and an additional year of supervised professional training experience that can be completed prior or subsequent to the granting of the doctoral degree.

Your SPTA must now decide whether and how to make current licensure laws consistent with this policy. Such changes are clearly advantageous for psychology graduate students and early career psychologists. The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) and the APA Committee on Early Career Psychologists (CECP) developed the following action plan to help students and early career psychologists advocate for implementation of the APA policy in their SPTAs.

Step 1

APAGS and CECP recently sent a letter to all SPTAs supporting the APA Policy. Please follow-up on this letter by:

  • Finding contact information for your SPTA governance members on the association’s website. View association website addresses. 
  • Writing an email or letter to your SPTA’s APA council representative to inform him/her that you support the council’s passage of the policy change. Ask your council representative how he/she voted on the issue and indicate your willingness to work with the SPTA to help the state move toward changing their licensing laws. Note: This policy change was supported by an overwhelming majority of APA Council members who voted in favor of the change. A small minority were opposed.
  • Writing an email or letter to your SPTA executive director and board members asking them to endorse the APA Licensure Policy and pursue implementing the policy change locally.
    Please Note: When contacting your SPTA, the approach you take may differ based on whether or not you are currently a student member:
    • If you are a member or student affiliate of the SPTA, communicate this to board members and let them know this is an issue of major importance for the association’s student and early career psychologist membership.
    • If you are not a member of your SPTA, you should communicate that their support of this change would encourage you to join and demonstrate that they are committed to issues that are important to you. For example, you might say “I am a student/early career psychologist at XYZ University/Institution and am interested in possibly becoming a member of the XXX Psychological Association. I am particularly advocating for changing our licensure eligibility laws to permit licensure upon completion of the doctoral degree. I am wondering if this issue of great importance to students and early career psychologists is one that is currently a priority in your association?”
      **Please also note that Washington State has already eliminated the postdoctoral requirement for licensure and a few other states (e.g. Alabama) never had such a requirement. Thus, you will want to keep this in mind when talking with your SPTA leaders.

Step 2

Encourage your SPTA to build support from their general membership (including students) for the policy change by:

  • Creating a special section on the SPTA website with information supporting the need for the statute/regulation change.
  • Asking for feedback through the website, SPTA listservs, mailings, special meetings and conference events.
  • Holding an open forum or online discussion to provide an opportunity for all members to discuss the steps necessary to advocate for a change.

Step 3

Work with students, early career psychologists and others to raise awareness about the need for a state licensure law change by:

  • Working with existing SPTA groups representing members who will be impacted by the change, particularly any student and early career psychologist groups that already exist within the associations.
  • Compiling feedback and posting it on special section of SPTA website.
  • Writing letters to the editor or special columns for the SPTA newsletter.

Step 4

Form a special committee or task force to:

  • Formalize the SPTA’s position on the Licensure policy (e.g., will the task force be taking the lead on licensure with the SPTA Board being supportive, neutral or opposing?)
    Note: The leadership of your SPTA will be essential in advocating for the licensure policy and working with the Licensing Board to understand and implement the APA policy. The APA Model Licensing Act is being revised and will be available to SPTAs as soon as possible. Contact the APA Practice Directorate’s Professional Development Office for specific questions about the APA Model Licensing Act at (202) 336-5800.
  • Outline the legislative and regulatory strategies for implementing the policy (e.g., submitting a bill and updating licensure regulations).
  • Coordinate and manage legislative and political advocacy in your state.
  • Ensure proposed bills or regulations are consistent with APA and ASPPB recommendations for legislative and regulatory language and procedures.

Step 5

Stay the course.

  • Remember that advocacy takes time, so do not get discouraged if some members of your SPTA leadership/governance are unsure about or even resistant to changing the licensure laws.
  • The most important thing that students and early career psychologists can do is to continue to educate and energize the SPTA membership by personalizing the issue for SPTA leaders and emphasizing that this change demonstrates support for and commitment to us, the future of psychology.
  • To make our voices heard, it is important to join your SPTA if you are not already a member and to encourage your colleagues and peers to join, as well.
  • It is also critical to be active within SPTA leadership/governance to ensure that the needs of students and early career psychologists are consistently heard and addressed by SPTA activities and priorities.

With your help, APAGS and CECP are confident the profession can move swiftly to implement this critical and important policy for our generation of psychologists. Please keep us informed of your related advocacy activities and the responses you get from your SPTA by emailing APAGS. We will be tracking individual state response at a national level to identify additional ways that we can help move this licensure issue forward. Additional information about the policy and recent updates can be found at the APAGS home page.
Thanks for your support; it’s critical!