For the seventh consecutive year, North American psychologists met to discuss professional education, training and credentialing issues across the continent, May 3-5 in Washington, D.C.
The Trilateral Forum on Professional Issues in Psychology, a joint effort of psychologists in Mexico, Canada and the United States, focuses on the key issues facing professional psychology in each of the three nations and allows participants to discuss professional psychology in a global context.
"It's absolutely fascinating to hear about the structures, requirements and educational processes of the different countries," says forum chair Emil Rodolfa, PhD, associate director of the University of California, Davis, Coun- seling Center and former chair of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). "The better informed psychologists are, the more capable they are to deal broadly--especially in issues of [professional] competence and cultural competence."
A portion of this year's conference was devoted to discussing just those issues. Citing the pressing need for culturally competent psychologists, Barbara Hanna Wasik, PhD, chair of APA's Board of Educational Affairs, noted that in some North Carolina schools, 50 to 60 percent of students speak Spanish, though few psychologists do.
Canadian and Mexican psychologists talked about their efforts to develop competency-based standards for education and credentials. Juan José Sánchez Sosa, PhD, coordinator of the Mexican Committee for the International Practice of Psychology, and his colleagues shared their nation's efforts to improve the government accreditation process for psychology training programs.
"Sixty-one percent of schools of psychology at the licentiate level [roughly equivalent to a PsyD degree] have gone through our new accreditation," he explained. "One of our next goals is to open accreditation to graduate schools."
In Canada, the Agreement of International Trade, a federal law that mandates reduced barriers to professional mobility across provinces, as well as competency-based licensure requirements, have led to new standards.
Each Canadian province and territory has its own requirements to practice psychology--for example, some provinces require a PhD to independently practice while others require a master's or allow master's-level psychologists to practice in certain circumstances--all of which make creating uniform standards complicated.
After intense debate, Canadian psychologists have determined a list of minimum competencies for licensure. Several Canadian provinces are expected to sign onto the agreement this summer.
APA President Norine G. Johnson, PhD, gave an update on the work of the Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure in Psychology, which recently released for public comment a report and recommendations related to the quality and sequence of education, training and licensure for entry-level practitioners.
"The commission is a 30-person body that I believe is unique in APA because it really does cross all constituencies," said Johnson.
Marjorie Peace Lenn, PhD, who directs the Council for Quality Assurance in International Education, updated participants on efforts to globalize many professions. Participants also discussed drafting an ethics metacode that would provide overarching principles for North American countries.
Because professional mobility and licensure are such key issues within many countries, it's only a matter of time before they become issues between North American countries, added Rodolfa, who represented APPIC, the forum's host organization.
For more information on the Trilateral Forum, contact Paul Nelson, deputy executive director of APA's Education Directorate, (202) 336-5970; e-mail.