Feature

This fall, the Arizona Psychological Association (AzPA) is launching a consortium to address a now-familiar "Catch-22" that psychology graduate students face: They need internships and postdoctoral residencies to become licensed, but the opportunities to get that experience can be scarce, especially if a student needs to stay in a particular area.

The association's newly established Arizona Psychology Training Consortium seeks to pump up the number of internships and residencies through an alliance among Arizona's academic institutions, new and existing training sites and volunteer psychologists. By pulling these key stakeholders together, AzPA is the first state psychological association to found its own organization to create, administer and oversee training opportunities.

The state's psychologists are not only hoping that the Arizona Psychology Training Consortium will help more students find good training experiences, but that the internships and postdoctoral programs provided through the consortium will be among the most dynamic and unique experiences available to future psychologists.

To accomplish that, the consortium's organizers have put a few new twists into the idea of a training consortium. For one thing, the consortium has been established as a nonprofit subsidiary of AzPA governed by a Board of Directors that reports directly to the association. While the two organizations keep separate books, the consortium works closely with AzPA to ensure the training experiences it provides not only meet state and national licensure standards but also reflect the state of the art in the field.

"The state psychological association is an ideal place for a consortium," explains AzPA President Andy Hogg, PhD, "because the state psychological association brings together students, practitioners, the regulatory community and the academic community. It's essentially the nexus point for state psychological issues."

How it works

The consortium takes advantage of that nexus point: Instead of joining several training sites together to share interns and residents who rotate every few months, the Arizona consortium joins three groups to provide students with yearlong experiences:

  • Academic affiliates. Any regionally accredited clinical, counseling or school psychology programs can join the consortium. Students from Arizona doctoral programs receive a selection preference when they apply to the consortium.

  • Training site affiliates. The consortium's training sites include private practices, community organizations and institutions interested in providing quality training.

  • Consortium faculty. In addition to providing training at internship or residency sites, the consortium uses volunteer psychologists to provide supplemental training to all consortium students two days a month. Any qualified psychologist can volunteer to train students in areas such as assessment, ethics, diversity or clinical intervention.

The training seminars assemble all of the consortium's interns and postdocs at a different site each month to give students a glimpse of the many different environments psychologists work in. At these seminars, students also have the chance to network with psychologists and their peers.

"There's nothing like field trips to give people an idea of what psychologists do," explains Hogg. "What we want to do during those days is provide intensive training. Every month they'll be exposed to new supervisors to do case consultations at these other sites."

The consortium has already had 50 Arizona psychologists express interest in teaching at the two-day training sessions. Faculty members from three Arizona universities have also signed on to provide training in areas such as doing research, integrating theory with practice and finishing the dissertation.

"At the end of the year, they're going to be exposed to the best psychologists in the state of Arizona, have visited several different treatment settings and have had some fun," adds Hogg.

Finding the answer

Since Arizona passed its psychology licensure law requiring 1,500 hours of postdoctoral supervision to become a licensed psychologist in 1991, few postdoctoral opportunities have been created in Arizona, leaving many students scrambling to gain the necessary supervision. The reason, says consortium organizer David Yandell, PhD, comes down to cost. Insurance companies seldom reimburse agencies for postdoctoral residents' services; practitioners and small organizations cannot afford the liability of supervising unlicensed psychologists, nor can they afford the costs of gaining accreditation. And even though there aren't enough training opportunities right now, the demand for those positions is expected to grow in the coming years.

Concerned with the increasing disparity between the supply and demand for training, AzPA formed a committee in 1995 to examine possible solutions to the "postdoc trap." Two possibilities--changing the state licensure law or lobbying managed care for reimbursement for residents' work--were ruled unlikely solutions. Instead, the committee opted to consult with the state's Board of Psychologist Examiners to construct a consortium.

"The consortium shows that the Arizona Psychological Association understands the dilemma that both supervisors and students face," says Cindy Olvey, a doctoral student at the Arizona School of Professional Psychology who's active in AzPA governance. "They're finding innovative ways to open additional internship sites and removing barriers at the same time."

One of the biggest barriers to providing supervision is liability, says Beth Keen, PhD, a consortium board member who will be one of the group's first supervisors.

"If I took on a supervisee under my own liability, that's a tremendous risk to take," she explains. "But the consortium allows the supervisors involved to share the liability, which gives us a much greater sense of confidence."

"The consortium would also grant some protection from liability by providing education to supervisors on what the current standard of practice is in supervision," adds Yandell, who serves on the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners.

The consortium plans to apply for membership in the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), and eventually for accreditation by APA. If granted, that would be a plus for consortium members because many small organizations don't meet the requirements for APA or APPIC, such as employing several interns or postdocs at the same time. However, by combining their training resources through the consortium, they should meet those requirements just by being an affiliated site.

A future model

The consortium's first class of trainees--four interns and three postdocs--began receiving supervision at 10 training sites in August. Since this is the first year, organizers aren't expecting a completely smooth ride. However, they hope the preliminary legwork will pay off.

"We're doing this very carefully and we hope correctly--from the bottom up," says Dianne Fitzgerald-Verbonitz, AzPA's executive director.

AzPA has been sure to consult with nonprofit experts on the ins and outs of setting up a subsidiary as well as the state's Board of Psychologist Examiners to make sure the program will meet Arizona's licensure requirements.

"We're hoping that our model is going to be so successful that other state psychological associations will follow our strategy and increase the number of internships and residencies in the country," says Hogg.

Further Reading

For more information, contact the Arizona Psychological Association at (480) 675-9477; e-mail: azpa@qwest.net; Web site: www.azpa.org.