Speaking of Education
As APA CEO Norman Anderson explains in his column (page 9), APA's new Center for Psychology and Health provides a foundation for new initiatives to advance psychology in health, as well as for consolidating ongoing work by the association. Among the Education Directorate's contributions to these efforts has been working with the Health Service Psychology Education Collaborative over the past two years. This collaborative is an interorganizational endeavor among APA, the Chairs of Graduate Departments of Psychology and the Council of Chairs of Training Councils that was funded in March 2010 by APA's Board of Educational Affairs to address concerns raised by the education and training community about preparation in professional psychology.1
One of the collaborative's first decisions was to focus on core preparation for health service psychologists, rather than any particular professional specialty or area of applied work. The collaborative reviewed existing literature and related survey data. In response to requests for public comment, the collaborative also digested numerous remarks from the field and APA governance groups. A final report in an upcoming issue of the American Psychologist will detail seven recommendations that comprise a blueprint for advancing psychology as a health profession. Despite the diversity of perspectives represented among the collaborative's members, they were unanimous in believing that these recommendations are essential for psychology to advance as a health profession.
As part of their efforts, the collaborative also articulated a set of competencies to be expected in the preparation of all health service psychologists. As scientific knowledge has advanced our understanding of the relationships between behavior and health, psychology has become a broad health profession, not one focused only on mental health problems. Preparation for such practice requires knowledge and skills related to biological, psychological, social and cultural aspects of health and behavior regardless of whether one proceeds to practice with traditional mental health populations or in other areas of health. And the articulation of the competencies to be expected informs not only education and training programs, but students, employers, the public, regulators and policymakers.
Of special note in these competencies are the increased emphases on the relevant biological aspects of health and disease, evidence-based practice, preparation for interprofessional collaborative practice, knowledge of health policy and informatics, skills in practice-based research (especially those skills essential for program development, evaluation and quality improvement efforts), self-assessment for lifelong learning, teaching and supervision.
Being part of this experience has been one of the most encouraging experiences in my career. Participating with such talented leaders over four meetings and multiple days of intensive discussion and work confirmed my belief that commitment to a higher order goal can help unite rather than divide a profession. It was my first experience in more than 35 years that major stakeholders in professional education and training met and did not make discussions of training models the focus of discourse. Instead, the collaborative examined the preparation of health service psychologists in the context of scientific foundations, societal needs and the 21st century health-care system. The final document represents a collaborative group process in which each member participated in reviewing and approving every statement. I believe their recommendations will prove essential to psychology's evolution as a health profession.