Eleven psychology training councils came together in February — the first joint conference in a decade.

The meeting was prompted by the individual councils’ growing interest in the competence movement — demonstrating that psychology practitioners are competent to provide psychological services — and the accompanying benchmarks developed by APA’s Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) in collaboration with the Council of Chairs of Training Councils (CCTC).

“We wanted to get people excited about the competency benchmarks and make it clear that’s something all of us have in common, making sure we’re training well-qualified psychologists,” says CCTC Chair Cindy L. Juntunen, PhD, a counseling psychology professor at the University of North Dakota.

Perhaps most important, the conference allowed different training councils to come together to discuss a shared vision of the future of psychology training.

“This joint event was an effort to bring all the groups together to build on the increasing cohesiveness and shared interests we had discovered in CCTC itself,” says conference chair Robert L. Hatcher, PhD, president emeritus of the Association of Psychology Training Clinics and director of the Wellness Center at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Organized by CCTC, the Orlando, Fla., event brought together more than 700 educators, journal editors, professional organizations, regulators and accreditors from many areas and levels of professional psychology training.

In addition to participating in the meeting, APA contributed an $8,000 block grant to help to keep fees low so more people could come.

“APA is pleased to have been a major contributor to this conference,” says APA President Carol D. Goodheart, EdD. “Our education and training programs are fundamental to the evolution of our profession.”

Interest in competency has snowballed in recent years, says Catherine Grus, PhD, associate executive director for professional education and training in APA’s Education Directorate.

“Competency is the word these days in higher education broadly but also in the health-care professions,” says Grus, explaining that policymakers, regulators and consumers themselves are all pushing health-care providers to demonstrate their competence. “We see our counterparts who are training future physicians, nurses and physical therapists all talking about how they can prepare their students using a competency model.”

Now psychology is deepening its own conversation about competency, the core knowledge and skills doctoral students need to acquire to be well-prepared for careers in professional psychology.

“The conference was an unparalleled opportunity for the multiple training groups to advance the culture of competence in professional education and training,” says APA Education Directorate Executive Director Cynthia Belar, PhD, who helped found CCTC.

Grus moderated a plenary session devoted to explaining two major APA-sponsored initiatives related to competencies. Competency benchmarks lay out the core competencies a professional psychologist needs to acquire to provide services safely and effectively. And a Competency Assessment Toolkit for Professional Psychology, created in response to demands from educators and regulators, gives graduate, internship and postdoctoral programs a way to assess whether their students and trainees have acquired various aspects of competence.

The benchmarks give training programs at all levels a common vocabulary, Grus told the conference-goers. “The internship program can talk to the doctoral program, for example, and understand what their future interns have already learned and still need to learn,” she says.

Participants also discussed plenty of other key issues, says Hatcher, among them the imbalance of internship supply and demand. In one session, for instance, participants learned about CCTC’s new Psychology Internship Development Toolkit, which provides resources to expand or develop internship opportunities. Another theme was the need to prepare students to work with specific populations, such as older people, medical patients and rural communities. “There was a lot of discussion about the need to develop new kinds of internships and practica to help expand the reach of psychology beyond where we are now,” says Hatcher.

CCTC is planning two more meetings. One, which will be a collaborative endeavor with BEA, will focus specifically on doctoral training. “We’ll talk about what the psychologist of 2020 should look like and how we know we’re preparing that person,” says Juntunen, adding that the meeting is tentatively scheduled for 2012.

CCTC has also decided to make the joint meeting of all the training councils a regular occurrence. And this time, says Juntunen, CCTC won’t wait a decade to bring the groups together again.

Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.