International Consensus in Professional Psychology: First steps in Stockholm

Psychologists from around the world gathered in Sweden to discuss and work toward consensus on international definitions, training and practices in professional psychology.

Is psychology defined the same ways in Norway, Australia and Kenya? Are there core competencies that every psychologist should demonstrate? This summer, about 70 psychologists from close to 20 countries asked this question and many others to take the first steps to gather international consensus on the definition, training and practices of professional psychologists around the world. Outcomes from the conference include the inauguration of the “International Project on Competence in Psychology” (IPCP), which will seek broad input over the next several years.

The conference, "5th International Conference on Licensure, Certification and Credentialing in Psychology," took place in July 2013 in Stockholm. Recognizing that there is huge variability in the regulatory systems for psychological practice across countries, as well as huge variability in the educational and training systems for professional psychology, the conference organizing committee wanted to develop a forum where psychologists could collectively move beyond their historical and systemic differences to address a fundamental question: What are the competencies that any psychologist should have?

The July conference was the fifth in a series that began in New Orleans in 1995. The earlier conferences had gathered colleagues from around the world to share information about their regulatory and definitional systems for psychology through individual presentations. The conference this time around had a different format, purpose and outcome. The format was an invited workshop, and the outcomes were notes, ideas and discussion that will begin discussion globally to identify those competencies in psychology seen as central to the discipline.

Organized under the auspices of the Association for State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and the Norwegian Psychology Association (NPA), the conference followed months of preparation by a core organizing group and a larger international committee, coordinated by Sverre Nielsen, senior advisor of the Norwegian Psychological Association, and assisted by staff at the NPA and ASPPB.

Participants were recruited by invitations to organizations of psychology, with a goal of creating a forum where the interests and concerns of organized psychology from every continent and level of development could be represented. The attendance of participants from 17 countries was a first step in this direction. All participants were sent seminal papers as background, including a synthesis across existing models that have defined competencies at the national or regional level. The most visible among the models that already exist internationally is the EuroPsy, or European certificate, which addresses the core set of professional competences agreed on by the 35 members of the European Federation of Psychology Associations (EFPA).

Over the two and a half days of the meeting, participants met in plenary sessions to hear the issues and goals and worked in small breakout groups to carve out areas to address and issues to tackle. They were given targeted questions to address, led by facilitators who regrouped after each session to plan next steps.

As follow-up to the conference, a work group with participants from Canada, China, Colombia, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States will take the notes and summaries from each breakout group to develop a paper describing next steps and use them for international discussion.

APA attendees included 2013 President Donald Bersoff, board members Nadine Kaslow and Kurt Geisinger, Executive Director for Education Cynthia Belar, and staff members Stephen Behnke, Merry Bullock, Lindsay Childress-Beatty, Nabil El-Ghoroury and Catherine Grus.