How do those who train doctoral psychologists prepare students of professional psychology while at the same time shape the profession of the future?

How do faculty modify training to fit the needs of future graduates?

And how do these concerns fit into our present models of training?

These were some of the questions asked in a first-time combined meeting of the doctoral psychology training councils in Miami Beach, Jan. 28­29. The conference, "Creating our future: doctoral level education of clinical, counseling and school psychologists" brought together four training groups: the Council of Counseling Psychology Programs, the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs, the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology and the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology. Participants also included representatives from the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers.

The groups came together to clarify their similarities and differences and to plan and advocate for the doctoral-level education of psychologists in the 21st century. APA's Board of Educational Affairs and the APA Insurance Trust provided a crucial role as sponsors of the conference.

Why was such a meeting so important? As we know, professional psychology is continuing to evolve. Today's market trends, dictated by managed care, have reduced the demand for solo practice psychotherapists. Newer markets, such as psychologists in primary-care settings, may well be on the brink of emerging. Training programs must provide the skills necessary for the emerging ma rket, while at the same time maintaining a high standard of training based upon an expressed model or philosophy. However, faculty noted that this is no easy task in an age of reduced budgets for higher education, and in programs that are already course-intensive and practicum-laden and take as long as six years to complete.

Measuring where we are

The need for measurable outcomes within and outside training programs has become a crucial issue in recent years. Some conference participants noted that we have little empirical evidence that our graduate training programs are effective. They also noted that evaluating program outcomes in a service-driven environment is different from outcome evaluation in an education-driven environment. The topic of service-driven outcomes was addressed by Thomas Borkovec, who emphasized that all of health care is becoming outcome based, and that doctoral psychologists may be uniquely prepared to respond to this market demand based on the training they receive. Conference attendees agreed that a closer investigation of job placement and function of graduates would facilitate the assessment of program success as well as help monitor market trends.

Attendees expressed surprise that there appeared to be more differences within the four training councils than among councils. For example, although there was substantial diversity in the degree to which science and practice were emphasized in different programs, many of the differences fell more along training model/training philosophy lines than specific training council lines. Current training models include scientist-practitioner (the most common training model in APA-accredited programs), practitioner-scholar and clinical scientist. The philosophy of training often leads to different curricula, emphases and outcomes for student graduates. However, even within the most commonly articulated training model, scientist-practitioners are still debating the appropriate integration of science and practice. A major focus of discussion throughout the meeting was the extent to which programs train students to become competent service deliverers versus emphasizing the ultimate goal of contributing to the knowledge that underlies clinical work.

Future steps

Participants noted that a next step would be to use the collective influence of the four groups to change the educational structure for doctoral psychology training. They recommended holding periodic joint meetings of the councils' executive boards to develop a proposal for action. Also, the Council of Chairs of Training Councils is represented by these groups and meets twice per year, working closely with APA's Board of Educational Affairs to institute change when needed. Finally, each of the training councils will have representatives to the APA Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure in Psychology approved by the Council of Representatives, and whose express purpose is to "develop recommendations that both modify the sequence and content of psychological education, training, and licensure and ensure the quality of psychology education and the marketplace viability of psychology doctoral graduates." (See cover story.)

Further Reading

Beverly E. Thorn, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, is chair of the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology and of the Council of Chairs of Training Councils.