A new Washington state law signed in June by Democratic Governor Gary Locke will allow new psychologists in that state to get licensed right out of graduate school.
Previously, the state required licensure applicants to have two years of supervised experience but specified that one year must be logged after completing the degree-criteria similar to many state licensing laws. But the new Washington state law marks a departure from that norm: Although the state still requires two years of experience, it no longer stipulates that one must be postdoctoral. That means that students graduating with two full years of practica and internship experience may already meet the state's supervised experience requirements.
The legislative changes were packaged with a larger bill designed to reduce entry barriers in several health-care fields.
"This is a huge step forward in removing barriers to people getting licensed as practicing psychologists," says 2003 Seattle Pacific University graduate Traci Lee, PhD, a therapist at Greater Lakes Mental Health Care in Lakewood, WA, who helped push for the legislation.
The law is the first to follow a new graduate education model proposed by APA's Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure in Psychology-a group of psychologists and students that, among other things, recommended eliminating the postdoc requirement (see "Toward solutions for professional postdocs," January gradPSYCH).
The committee's rationale was that licensing laws requiring a postdoc didn't keep up with changes in graduate education over the past 30 years, says Ruth Ullmann Paige, PhD, a co-chair of the commission, a member of APA's Board of Directors and a former president of the Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA). Specifically, she says, psychology students today log substantially more predoctoral supervised hours by graduation than did their peers 20 to 30 years ago, when the postdoctoral requirement was formulated.
Moreover, the postdoc requirement put an undue financial burden on new psychologists, Lee says. For example, in addition to the $1,500 she will spend to study for and take her licensing exam, she is paying $500 a month toward her student loans and another $700 a month for supervision-and then will pay another $600 to apply for licensure. Meanwhile, because postdocs aren't licensed, most managed-care panels don't reimburse them for their services, which limits their income. By eliminating the postdoc requirement, the new law is intended to ease some of that crunch, says Paige.
However, experts note that it's still unclear whether psychologists licensed under the new provision will be able to get licensed in other states without getting extra supervision. Most state laws and mobility mechanisms-which bank psychologists' credentials so they more easily can be licensed in another state-require a postdoctoral year.
The law will take effect officially once the Washington State Examining Board of Psychology formulates new regulations to implement it, says Lucy Homans, EdD, WSPA professional affairs director, who advocated for the bill with University of Washington psychologist Andy Benjamin, PhD, and others. At gradPSYCH press time, a timeline for that process was still pending.
-D. SMITH BAILEY