This month, as thousands of students travel across the country for internship interviews, my thoughts turn once again to the internship crisis — the imbalance of internship positions and applicants resulting in nearly 25 percent of students without an internship placement.
To alleviate the internship shortfall, APAGS, APA's Education Directorate and other groups continue to advocate for federal and state funding for internship positions. In the past few months, we've had two landmark achievements: The protection of the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) federal funding and the restoration of state funding for 22 New York psychology interns.
The GPE program funds internships and postdoctoral fellowships focused on treating underserved populations suffering from mental illnesses. Even in today's political climate of sweeping budget cuts, Congress is anticipated to maintain GPE funding at nearly $3 million — a direct result of advocacy by APAGS and APA members who conducted more than 450 meetings on Capitol Hill last year.
In addition, APAGS partnered with the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) and the New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA) in a successful effort to restore funding for New York psychology interns. On Sept. 28, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) fired 3,000 temporary and contract workers in state psychiatric facilities due to a labor dispute. This included 22 psychology interns who would have been forced to leave their positions and reapply for internships for the following academic year. APA and APPIC spoke with Cuomo's staff and explained the contractual agreement among internship sites, students and their doctoral programs, the financial hardship and stress of reapplying for another internship, and the importance of psychology interns to public health. APAGS rallied New York graduate students to deluge the governor's office with letters and phone calls. As a result of our combined efforts, Cuomo reversed his decision and restored full funding for the psychology interns. I'm proud of the difference we made for these students and the people they serve, many of whom wouldn't be able to afford mental health care otherwise.
However impressive, this win is just one part of a larger campaign to end the internship crisis. To develop a comprehensive solution, APAGS passed the following policy in November:
All emerging psychologists deserve quality, respectful and complete training.
The internship crisis is a membership, workforce and health service provider issue that affects all of APA, as well as consumers of psychological services.
The internship crisis will need multi-level and multi-systemic changes at the student, doctoral program and internship program levels.
APAGS strives for an APA-accredited internship for each student from an APA-accredited doctoral program.
APAGS will continue to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders and develop a systematic framework to identify short- and long-term goals with regard to the internship crisis.
Based on this policy, APAGS will work toward a solution to the crisis on several fronts, including educating students about the internship crisis, promoting truth in advertising among graduate programs, encouraging the development of accredited internships, creating a system of accountability for graduate programs and closing loopholes in state licensure laws.
Perhaps the most important step we've taken on the internship issue is to make sure that all stakeholders realize that this is, in fact, a crisis. To that end, APAGS is conducting a slew of meetings with a variety of organizations to drive home the point that this crisis threatens to derail psychology's education and training, jeopardize psychology's workforce, undermine public confidence in the profession, and leave tens of thousands of Americans without adequate mental health care.
APAGS will continue to work toward the day when every student from an APA-accredited program has the opportunity to complete an APA-accredited internship. We welcome your feedback on our efforts and invite you to submit your suggestions on how APAGS can best address the internship crisis.