Feature

Psychologists from Canada, Mexico and the United States discussed professional education, training and credentialing issues across the continent at the 10th Annual Trilateral Forum on Professional Issues in Psychology, held in Washington D.C., April 30-May 1. Among the trends covered at this year's conference:

  • Canadian professional psychology is increasingly moving to a doctoral standard for practicing psychologists, especially in Quebec, a traditionally master's-level province that is proposing a new competency-based doctoral standard.

  • Mexico consolidated its professional psychology program accreditation system into the National Council for Teaching and Research in Psychology in 1992 and became accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in 2002.

At the meeting, educators, accreditation representatives and leaders of organized psychology talked about these and other key issues in each country. For example, they discussed the countries' common drive for accreditation standards based on student competencies.

Such forum efforts are just one example of international psychologists learning from each other, says Paul Nelson, PhD, deputy executive director of APA's Education Directorate. For example, the weekend before the Trilateral Forum, APA's Board of Directors co-sponsored the Third International Congress on Licensure, Certification and Credentialing of Psychologists, hosted by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. That meeting included psychologists from such countries as Bulgaria, Peru, Finland, Spain, New Zealand and Nigeria who discussed the education, training and credentialing of professional psychologists on a global level. (For more information, visit www.asppb.org/congress.)

A decade of development

Since the first Trilateral Forum was held in 1995 to encourage the countries' open communication and development of common standards, attendees have annually reported on and debated significant changes in the field, including an overhaul of the Mexican psychology education and training system; implementation of an agreement that allows psychologists licensed in one Canadian province to practice in any other; and the revamping of the U.S. accreditation process, just to name a few.

The annual meetings, says Nelson, help psychologists understand how the countries' evolving training and licensure systems reach similar goals in different ways.

For example, Mexico's higher education system uses an academic degree structure that's different from the similar U.S. and Canadian models. Students there attend three years of secondary school and another three years of preparatory bachillerato school. To practice, they must then earn a five-year licenciado degree. After the licenciatura, students can also go on to earn a one- or two-year specialization or a two-year professional master's degree. After the master's degree, it takes another two to four years to earn a doctoral degree.

At this year's meeting, Mexican psychologist Sebastián Figueroa-Rodríguez, PhD, executive secretary of the National Council for Teaching and Research in Psychology, explained that new federal laws have created an accreditation system for the licenciado level of psychology. The accreditation standards, he added, assess program features such as research activities and program infrastructure and require a competence-based curriculum.

Moreover, to help programs meet these new accreditation standards, the National Council is developing new ways for programs to assess themselves. For example, at the meeting, Ana Delia Lopez-Suárez, who recently earned her master's, outlined a survey she is developing that will allow programs to assess themselves by following up on their graduates' professional progress.

Now that licenciado programs are coming in line with the standards--since publicly funded programs risk losing their federal dollars unless they earn accreditation--many have turned their eyes to standardizing the bachillerato, said Lucy María Reidl-Martínez, PhD, a dean at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and president of the National College of Psychologists.

Achieving mobility

Canadian professional psychology is also in the midst of change, said its delegation. The driving force is a 1994 federal, provincial and territorial agreement designed to break down interprovincial trade barriers. To comply, psychology boards spent several years hammering out a recognition agreement that would allow psychologists to more easily move their practice to another province or territory--a daunting task considering that the provincial and territorial licensure laws varied widely in 1994. Today, the group is ironing out the final details of the agreement.

"Our mutual recognition agreement is not based on everybody having to have the same criteria and having to do things the same way," explained Pierre Ritchie, PhD, executive director of the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. Rather, he said, the agreement is a system of mutual recognition that focuses on the endpoint--whether the trained psychologists have met required competencies. Indeed, the idea, said Janel Gauthier, PhD, a former president of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), is that the provinces can take different paths but still get to the same endpoint.

Gauthier, a professor of psychology at Laval University in Quebec, also discussed developments in his own province, which until recently was the largest educator of master's-level psychologists in Canada and the United States. In the wake of two events--CPA endorsed a model PsyD curriculum in February, and Quebec has proposed a regulatory change that would require psychologists to have a doctoral degree--Quebec universities have closed their professional master's programs, and four have opened new PsyD programs--in effect making Alberta and the Northwest Territories the only jurisdictions without a doctoral standard.