Accreditation Discussions at the 2012 APA Convention

At the invitation of Division 39, several interested parties met in our hospitality suite in Orlando to discuss the challenges they had faced or were currently facing in obtaining APA accreditation for their graduate programs. An announcement of this initiative had been put on the psychodynamic researchers listserv and sent to other heads of psychoanalytically friendly programs. The invitation reached mostly Directors of Clinical Training in academia, but the discussion made it clear that psychologists running internship programs are facing similar challenges and might profit from talking together.

Those present included Bill MacGillivray; Matthew Bennett (Pacifica Institute, Carpenteria, CA); Barry Dauphin (University of Detroit Mercy); David Downing (University of Indianapolis); Robert Hatcher and Elliot Jurist (CUNY); and Richard Ruth (George Washington University). Ken Levy (Penn State) attended via Skype. Cheryll Rothery (Chestnut Hill) came later. Numerous other parties (Jim Hansell of GWU, Bryant Welch of CIIS in San Francisco, David Rupert of the Danielson Institute, Stanley Messer of Rutgers GSAPP; and Diana Diamond of CUNY sent regrets and requested feedback.

Jill Bellinson greeted the group and told us about a late-breaking poster on demonstrated bias against psychodynamic psychology, by Alex Kava and Pamela Mulder of Marshall University.

In the wide-ranging conversation that followed, however, there was no general feeling that psychoanalytically oriented programs are facing explicit discrimination. There was some agreement that the areas emphasized by psychodynamic programs (e.g., self-reflection, listening, focus on individuality and context) are not a good “fit” with the areas assessed in the accreditation process. All agreed it was immensely time-consuming and frustrating.

Topics covered included
  • A general exasperation with a “bean-counting mentality” and reports of getting excessive grief along the lines of “You did not enter your data in the right format.”
  • Frustrations at being evaluated based on internship match rate at a time when the availability of internships has plummeted.
  • A general feeling that although programs were asked to describe their training model (e.g., scientist-practitioner or practitioner-scholar) and explain how they implement it and how they measure their success in doing so, some programs – especially those not based on the Boulder model - felt they were being held to a model that did not match their mission. One participant observed that pluralism of training is in great jeopardy.
  • Reports that site visitors seemed to ignore changes made in response to their prior criticisms; reports of dismissive comments and a “prosecutorial feel” to the process; one person had been told repeatedly that his Jungian-oriented program is only a “specialty program.”
  • Frustration that “accreditors talk to us in a foreign language that we don’t understand,” a comment by Ken Levy.
Things we learned
  • A lot of the exasperating aspects of accreditation stem not from APA but from the Department of Education. This federal emphasis on what is quantifiable and measurable is similar to recent developments in “accountability” measures demanded of educators generally.
  • Programs that do not do well tend not to involve the whole faculty in the process.
  • Directors of Clinical Training and program administrators need to check the CoA web site regularly because implementation regulations keep changing.
  • It is important for people involved in accreditation to go to site preparation workshops.
Recommendations that came out of the conversation
  • We should reach out to humanistic programs and to internship directors to build a support network to address these issues. We should be in touch on this topic with Divisions 29, 32, and possibly 28, and with Arthur Bohart, who has expertise in the area.
  • We need to urge Division 39 members to volunteer to be trained as site visitors.
  • It may be valuable to get CoA trainers to come to the Spring Meeting and train a group there, perhaps as a pre-conference workshop. Someone from the division should call the head of APA Accreditation and ask about this possibility.
  • It may be valuable to have a panel on the topic at the Spring Meeting.
  • Graduate programs are encouraged to get a consultant to do a mock site visit.
  • Copies of self-studies could profitably be shared among programs.
We should do a survey of Directors of Clinical Training, with as wide a network as possible, of people’s experiences with accreditation.