Speaking of Education

The midwinter meetings of the doctoral psychology education and training organizations have consistently inspired me. At this writing I have already participated in meetings of the National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional Psychology (NCSPP) and the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP). Coming soon are meetings of the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs (CDSPP), the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs (CCPTP) and the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP).

Over the years, APA has provided support to these organizations through funding specific events and provision of staff resources. These annual meetings are especially important to psychology's development as they promote in-depth discussions among leaders within these diverse communities. They serve as mechanisms for self-study of training models and processes, and as a forum for debate of critical issues. They provide professional development opportunities for program leaders and become a source of collegial support for those who, in their own institutions, are in singular leadership roles.

These meetings also provide opportunities to advance agendas important to psychology. For example, at the recent CUDCP meeting a "Diversifying Clinical Psychology" reception was held in which minority undergraduate students met one-on-one with program directors to discuss opportunities for graduate training. Recruitment of minorities into clinical psychology is a high priority for this organization, and we were pleased to be a sponsor of this event (look for an article on it in the April Monitor).

Another agenda is to promote advocacy for federal funding for professional education and training. A concurrent event with the NCSPP meeting was a dinner for Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) during which we had the opportunity to discuss the Graduate Psychology Education program and psychology's needs for federal funding. Without our recently established Education Advocacy Trust (see October Monitor), I would not have been able to participate as I did.

These meetings also underscore the critical role our program directors have as stewards of professional psychology through their education and training programs. While I believe these events have always promoted leadership within the various communities, leadership was chosen as the major theme of the recent NCSPP meeting. In preparing my comments for that event, I reflected in more depth on how we address leadership in graduate education in psychology.

How should we address leadership in graduate education and training?

An oversimplified distinction between graduate and undergraduate education is as follows: undergraduate education produces an informed citizenry while graduate education produces leaders in various fields. A leader is commonly defined as one who guides or has influence on others: Isn't that the goal of psychologists who produce new knowledge, teach the next generation or provide services? Obviously there are multiple layers of leadership in psychology, but I would assert that every educator and supervisor has a leadership role, although we often do not articulate it well nor discuss its implications with our students.

How are we training psychology students to become leaders? Graduate programs in business explicitly address leadership issues-not surprisingly from a knowledge base created by psychological science, as leadership has been one of our most-researched topics. Leadership involves a complex, bidirectional process dependent upon contextual conditions within which groups and individuals develop over time. Our students need to understand this process, consider the associated ethical issues, understand the effects of power on leaders and learn how to manage their own power. To promote more attention to leadership, I offer the following as a starting point for self-assessment.

  • What form of leadership do I model, and in what situations? How might this influence students and colleagues?

  • What behaviors indicate that I model appropriate ethical conduct in leadership?

  • What am I doing to promote a culture of leadership in the classroom, in research supervision, in clinical supervision, in informal meetings with students, in faculty meetings?

  • What do I do to clearly articulate leadership issues?

  • What might I be doing to stifle leadership development among students and my fellow colleagues?

  • What could I do to support leadership development in students and my colleagues?

  • In what ways might I enhance my own leadership skills?

Training in supervision or management is not the same as training in leadership. To fulfill our potential as individual psychologists and as a discipline, we need to focus more explicitly on leadership issues in graduate education. In actuality, we do provide leadership training via role modeling. Can we take it to the next level?

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