APA approves resolution on accreditation for doctoral and internship programs

News alert: for future graduate students in professional psychology.

By Catherine Grus, PhD

In August 2013, the APA Council of Representatives approved, by a majority vote, a resolution on accreditation for programs that prepare psychologists to provide health services. The resolution sets forth a vision that all students training to become health service psychologists will be trained in doctoral and internship programs accredited by APA/CPA, or an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for the accreditation of professional psychology education and training in preparation for entry to practice.1 The resolution sets the goal of seven years for internship programs and five years for doctoral programs not currently accredited to become accredited. 

So why is this important?

For students in or considering graduate education in health service areas of psychology, the resolution is important in several respects.

  • Accreditation of the program provides assurance to students that the training they will receive has been compared against and met minimal standards set by the profession for quality education in training. 
  • Accreditation offers protection for students’ rights.
  • Completion of a doctoral program and internship that are APA accredited is a requirement for some job opportunities already, such as employment within the Veterans Administration.
  • Because of this resolution, and the reasons behind it, students interested in graduate education and training to become licensed as a health service psychologist should consider seeking training in both an accredited doctoral and an accredited internship program.

Reaching the goal set forth in the resolution will require actions such that no students or programs are disadvantaged during this transition, and efforts are underway in this regard. Specifically, many have wondered about the resolution’s impact on the internship imbalance. This resolution is an important vision, but it is essential that the education and training communities continue to work to address the internship imbalance. APA has taken steps to help internship programs become accredited through grants for internship programs, started in 2012 when the APA Council of Representatives allocated up to $3 million over three years for small grants to help internships in the process of seeking APA accreditation.

1APA defines health service psychologists as those who: “are duly trained and experienced in the delivery of preventive, assessment, diagnostic and therapeutic intervention services relative to the psychological and physical health of consumers based on: (1) having completed scientific and professional training resulting in a doctoral degree in psychology, (2) having completed an internship and supervised experience in health care settings, and (3) having been licensed as psychologists at the independent practice level.” (APA, 1996) The definition broadly encompasses most psychologists trained in the specialty areas of clinical, counseling and school psychology. 

About the Author

Catherine Grus, PhDCatherine Grus, PhD, is the deputy executive director of APA’s Education Directorate.