Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology: Quick Reference Guide to Postdoctoral Residency Programs

The accreditation standards summarized below are to be applied within the context of basic "Guiding Principles of Accreditation" summarized on pp. 2-5 of the Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology. The principles emphasize:

  • Broad and general preparation for practice at the entry level

  • Focused and in-depth postdoctoral preparation for specialty practice

  • Integration of science and practice

  • The degree to which a program achieves outcomes and goals consistent with its stated training model and with the Accreditation Guidelines and Principles.

Thus, accreditation in psychology is intended to "achieve general agreement on the goals of training… encourage experimentation on methods of achieving those goals and…suggest ways of establishing high standards in a setting of flexibility and reasonable freedom." 1

Domain A: Eligibility

A1. Program offers postdoctoral residency education and training in psychology, one goal of which is preparation for professional practice in a substantive traditional or specialty area. (see IR C-11[a], Postdoctoral Residencies, and C-11[b], Postdoctoral Specialty Practice Areas).

A2. Program sponsored by an institution or agency that has among its primary functions providing services to clients of sufficient numbers and variability to meet training goals and objectives.

A3. The program:
  • An integral part of the mission of the institution in which it resides

  • Represented in the institution's budget and plans

  • Financially supports and provides benefits to all residents consistent with that afforded comparable doctoral level professionals in training

A4. Program requires of each resident a minimum of 1 year of full-time training to be completed in no less than 12 months or no more than 24 months half-time with the following provisos:

  • School psychology residencies may be completed in 10 months

  • Traditional practice residencies may consist of up to 3 years of training

  • Specialty practice residencies may require longer training intervals consistent with the program's training model and the standards of the specialty practice area

A5. Program engages in actions that indicate respect for and understanding of cultural and individual diversity as reflected in its recruitment and retention policies for supervisors and residents, didactic and experiential training, nondiscriminatory policies and operating conditions, and avoidance of actions that restrict program access on grounds irrelevant to success. The definition of diversity includes but is not limited to:

  • Age

  • Disabilities

  • Ethnicity

  • Gender

  • Gender identity

  • Language

  • National origin

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Culture

  • Sexual orientation

  • Social economic status

A6. Formal written policies are available concerning:

  • Resident selection

  • Internship and academic preparation requirements

  • Financial and administrative assistance

  • Resident performance evaluation

  • Feedback, advisement, retention and termination

  • Due process and grievance procedures for residents and staff

Domain B: Program Philosophy, Objectives and Training Plan

B1. Program publicly states a philosophy and model of training by which it intends to prepare residents for advanced practice in a traditional or specialty practice area consistent with the sponsoring institution's mission and that emphasizes:

  1. Development of advanced practice competencies and expertise based on the integration of science and practice

  2. Postdoctoral training of sufficient breadth to ensure advanced competence as a professional psychologist and sufficient depth to ensure technical expertise in the traditional or specialty practice area.

B2. Postdoctoral program builds upon but is distinct from doctoral and internship experiences, is differentiated clearly from other training programs offered within the institutions, and:

  1. Training activities are cumulative, graduated in complexity, and structured in their sequencing, intensity, duration and frequency

  2. Primary training method is supervised service delivery in direct contact with service recipients

  3. Training includes socialization into the profession augmented by other modalities such as mentoring, didactic exposure, role-modeling, observational/vicarious learning and supervisory or consultative guidance

B3. Program specifies objectives in terms of competencies expected of graduates consistent with its training model and standards of the advanced substantive or specialty practice area that is represented. In achieving its objectives, all residents are required to demonstrate advanced competencies, skills, abilities, proficiencies and knowledge in the following content areas:

  1. Theories and effective methods of psychological assessment, diagnosis and interventions

  2. Consultation, program evaluation, supervision and/or teaching

  3. Strategies of scholarly inquiry

  4. Organization, management and administration issues as they relate to service delivery and practice, training and research

  5. Professional conduct, ethics, law and related standards

  6. Issues of cultural and individual diversity relevant to all of the above

B4. Full-time residents receive a minimum of 4 hours structured learning activities per week, at least 2 hours of which is individual face-to-face supervision including the following:

  1. Each resident has at least 2 supervisors during any one training year, at least one of whom is a psychologist who serves as the resident's primary supervisor

  2. Supervision is consistent with training activities in the designated traditional or specialty practice area, and supervisors maintain responsibility for the service recipients

  3. Methods of supervision are appropriate for advanced practice training and reflect the knowledge base of the traditional or specialty practice area

  4. Residents have access to supervisor consultation and intervention in emergencies

B5. Residents are encouraged to participate in state, provincial, regional, national and international professional and scientific organizations.

B6. Program demonstrates that residents' service delivery duties are primarily learning oriented and that training takes precedence over service delivery and revenue generation.

B7. Program has a well documented administrative structure and procedures for the systematic coordination, control, direction and organization of its training resources and activities including program content and resident recruitment, selection, evaluation and termination including:

  1. A designated psychology director licensed in the program's jurisdiction who is primarily responsible for the program and has commensurate administrative authority

  2. Director's credentials and expertise are consistent the program's mission and goals and with the advanced traditional or specialty practice area in which training is offered

Note: Program provides and documents the minimal levels of achievement required of residents for satisfactory progress and postdoctoral residency completion.

Domain C: Program Resources

C1. Program has formally designated residency training supervisors who are sufficient in number to accomplish the program's service delivery, training and supervision goals.

C2. Formally designated supervisors include at least two psychologists who:
  1. Deliver services in the advanced traditional or specialty practice area of training

  2. Function as an integral part of the program at the site where the training occurs

  3. Have primary professional and clinical responsibility for the cases they supervise

  4. Are licensed to practice psychology in the jurisdiction where the program is located

  5. Are of appropriate quality for the program's training model and goals

  6. Have expertise, substantial competence and credentials in the advanced traditional or specialty practice area represented

  7. Participate actively in program planning, implementation and evaluation

  8. Serve as professional role models for the residents

C3. Program may include qualified adjunct staff and/or supervisors who augment and expand residents' training experiences.

C4. Program has one or more postdoctoral residents who:

  1. Have opportunities for peer interaction, support and socialization

  2. Have completed appropriate doctoral (or respecialization) education and training including an internship

  3. Have interests and attitudes appropriate for the residency's goals and objectives

  4. Understand the program's philosophy, training model and goals

  5. Have meaningful involvement in activities and decisions that enhance training

  6. Have a title commensurate with that carried in the setting by other comparable professionals in training

C5. Program has additional resources necessary to achieve its goals and objectives including:

  1. Financial support for resident stipends, and training supervisors and activities consistent with the standards of the traditional or specialty practice area represented

  2. Clerical and technical support

  3. Training resources, materials and equipment

  4. Physical facilities, training populations and settings

C6. Program takes advantage of the resources and diversity offered by the local community.

C7. If the program is a consortium of multiple independent entities then there is a formal written consortium agreement that articulates:

  1. Nature and characteristics of the participating entities

  2. Rationale for the consortium partnership

  3. Each partner's commitment to the training program including philosophy, model and goals

  4. Each partner's obligations regarding contributions and access to resources

  5. Each partner's adherence to central control and coordination of the training program

  6. Each partner's commitment to uniform administration and implementation of the program's policies and procedures that address resident admission, financial support, resource access, performance expectations and evaluations

C8. An individual consortium partner may not publicize itself as independently accredited unless it also has independently applied for and received accreditation.

Domain D: Cultural and Individual Differences and Diversity

D1. The program:
  • Has made systematic and long-term efforts to attract and retain residents and supervisors from differing ethnic, racial and personal backgrounds (Domain A.5 defines diversity)

  • Ensures a supportive learning environment and the provision of training opportunities appropriate for the training of diverse individuals

  • Avoids actions that restrict program access on grounds irrelevant to success in postdoctoral training or a career in professional psychology (Footnote 4 for exceptions)

D2. Program has a thoughtful and coherent instructional plan to provide residents with relevant knowledge and experiences about the role of individual and cultural diversity in psychological science and practice.

Domain E: Resident-Supervisor Relations

E1. The program:
  • Recognizes the rights of residents and supervisors to be treated with courtesy and respect

  • Ensures that residents, training supervisors and other staff interact with one another as colleagues and in accordance with accepted ethical principles and professional standards

  • Informs residents of these principles and of their avenues of recourse should issues arise

E2. Training supervisors are accessible to interns, provide guidance and supervision, and serve as role models who promote residents' acquisition of relevant knowledge, skills and competencies.

E3. Respect for cultural and individual diversity is demonstrated in accordance with Domain A5.

E4. Upon admission residents receive written materials that describe grievance and conflict resolution policies and procedures as they relate to residents' performance expectations and requirements and program continuance or termination if necessary. Nature and structure of supervision is reviewed early in the program. Residents receive, at least semiannually, written feedback on the extent to which they are meeting these performance requirements and expectations. The feedback should include:

  1. An initial written evaluation provided early enough to serve as the basis for self-correction (if needed)

  2. A second written evaluation which occurs early enough to provide time for continued correction (if needed) or further development

  3. Discussions and signing of each evaluation by resident and supervisor

  4. Timely, written notification of any problems, opportunity to discuss them, and guidance regarding steps to remediate problems noted (if remediable)

  5. Substantive written feedback on the extent to which corrective actions have or have not been successful in addressing identified problems

E5. Program issues a certificate of residency completion to those who complete the training successfully.

E6. Program permanently maintains records of the residents' supervised training experiences and evaluations for future reference, certification and credentialing purposes and adheres to the sponsor institution's regulations as well as local, state, and federal statues regarding due process and fair treatment.

E7. Program keeps records of all formal complaints and grievances filed since the last accreditation site visit.

Domain F: Program Self-Assessment and Quality Enhancement

F1. With appropriate involvement of training supervisors, residents and former residents, the program engages in a self-study process that addresses its:
  1. Expectations for the quality of residents' preparation for and performance in the program

  2. Effectiveness in achieving goals and objectives in terms of outcome data while residents are in the program and after completion including residents' views of the quality of the program

  3. Procedures to maintain current achievements or to make changes as necessary

  4. Goals, objectives, and outcome data in relation to local, regional, state and national standards of practice and changes in the knowledge base of the profession and the traditional or specialty practice area in which training is provided

F2. Program provides resources and/or opportunities for the continuing professional development of its training and supervision staff.

F3. Program and its host institution value and recognize the importance of the resident training and the supervisors' efforts in tangible ways.

Domain G: Public Disclosure

G1. Program is described accurately and completely in documents available to current residents, applicants, and the public:
  • Descriptions of the program should include:

    • Goals, objectives and training model

    • Selection procedures and requirements for completion

    • Training supervisors, residents, facilities, service recipient populations, training settings and other resources

    • Administrative policies and procedures

    • Average amount of time per week residents spend in service delivery and other training activities

    • Total duration of the program to completion

  • Public materials state the program's accreditation status including the specific program covered by that status, and the name, address and telephone number of the CoA

Domain H: Relationship with Accrediting Body

H1. Training program abides by the CoA's published policies and procedures.

H2. Training program informs the CoA in a timely manner of changes in its training model, goals, objectives, curriculum plan, resources and operations that could affect program quality

H3. Training program pays necessary fees to maintain accredited status.

1The APA Committee on Training in Clinical Psychology (1947). First report of the new accreditation process in psychology. American Psychologist, 2, 539-558.