In This Issue

Council of Representatives Report

Concerns expressed over terminal degree options.

By Peter M. Oppenheimer, PhD

2017-07-focus-oppenheimerFor more than half a century, APA has been struggling with how to address the education and work status of people with terminal master's degrees in psychology. What are appropriate skills and roles for people with this level of training? Should there be educational standards, and accreditation for master's programs. Should these people be certified or licensed? If so what should be their scope of practice and should they be supervised? If the standard for entry into independent practice as a psychologist is a doctoral degree what would be the implications for doctoral practice and the profession of psychology if APA were to endorse licensure for people with master's degrees? Despite a number of efforts, these issues remain unresolved.

Master's degree programs graduate a significant number of terminal graduates each year. It is in the interest of the members of APA and people who earn master's degrees for APA to develop clear policies on these matters. The Div. 31 Board's concern is that APA address this in a way that is comprehensive and inclusive of ALL interested constituencies. Further, these issues have significant professional guild implications that are the responsibility of the APAPO that must also be considered in the.

Last December, the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) held a summit with sponsorship funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) on this issue. The summit has again raised this issue in the APA community. The Council leadership team is looking to put this issue before the Council in August. The Board of Div. 31 is concerned that this report not frame Council's discussion and considerations.

Below is the text of a letter sent by the Boards of Divs. 31, 39 and 42 expressing concern about how APA and APAPO can best address these concerns. We are communicating with APA, division and STPA governance about this. We are looking to share this with SPTA and APA members, too. Please share this with your colleagues.

June 6, 2017

Antonio Puente, PhD
APA President

Jean Lau Chin, EdD
Chair, APA Council Leadership Team

Kathleen Brown, PhD
Chair, CAPP and APAPO

Dear Drs. Puente, Chin and Brown:

The Board of Directors of Divisions 31, 39 and 42 would like to share our concerns related to the Minority Fellowship Program's Summit on Master's Training in Psychological Practice and the recommendations included in the Summit Report.

The stated purpose of the Summit on Master's Training in Psychological Practice “was to explore whether the APA should embrace the training of psychological practitioners at the master's level. Discussions primarily centered on identifying key considerations of this issue, potential solutions and their impacts, areas of consensus, and concerns.” This statement reflects bias in the way the meeting was organized, the agenda was formulated, the participants were selected, and the predestined findings and recommendations of the summit. The participants were primarily supporters of master's level training; they controlled the direction of the proceedings and the recommendations. The report from the summit did not reflect the concerns of participants who did not fully embrace the recommendations, nor were their concerns acknowledged in the report.

The agenda of the summit neglected professional guild issues. The summit did not consider the impact of its recommendations upon the current membership of the APA and the APAPO, and the impact it could have on psychology as a doctoral profession. The document does not address how the proposed policy would impact APA and APAPO priorities such as including psychologists in the Medicare definition of physicians. The report mentions a purported need to address the increased mental and behavioral health needs of underserved populations, but does not establish the basis for this assertion. The report does not consider how the existing APA membership could meet those needs and the barriers that exist to doing so. The recommendation of the report to support licensing people with master's degrees to perform psychological services is incongruent with long-standing APA policy.

The release of the report and its subsequent leaking outside of APA is the source of additional concern. The report was written and released in such a way that two outside groups (the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and the National Board for Certified Counselors) promptly citied it as APA policy in service of their associations' agendas. Those letters necessitated that Dr. Evans issue a letter clarifying that the report is not APA policy. The report has not been reviewed or vetted by APA governance groups or the APAPO, nor has it been endorsed by the Council of Representatives as association policy. Our membership has not had an opportunity to review or comment on the report.

We recognize that this report reflects the interests of a constituency within the association, but it does not represent the interest of a majority of the association's membership. We are concerned that many current long-standing members of the APAPO and the APA will view adopting the recommendation to credential people with master's degrees in psychology to be clearly detrimental to their interests, and they will reject the APAPO and APA in significant numbers. Considering how members reacted to the Practice Assessment Settlement and the Independent Report, this could be devastating to the APAPO and APA.

We share concerns that people in many communities may not have access to appropriate behavioral health services and medical services. We recognize that this is a very complex issue, and that it should be addressed in a comprehensive manner. We also share concerns that there will not be enough properly trained behavioral healthcare service professionals to meet the needs of the nation in the future, but the reasons for this are also complex and should be addressed in a comprehensive manner as well. We feel that professional psychology can and should have a leading role in meeting these needs, and that this can be accomplished in a manner that respects the interests of the entire professional psychology community. Creating a new class of lesser-trained service providers does not address the basic problem of how behavioral health and behavioral healthcare professionals are disrespected and under-resourced in our national healthcare system.

Given the interest in master's education and credentialing that exists within our association we recommend that APA undertake a comprehensive and thoughtful consideration of the issue. This process must include input from all interested constituencies within the APA and consideration of the professional guild issues that are the responsibility of the APAPO. The Report of the Minority Fellowship Program Summit is appropriately only one document in this process. It would be grossly inappropriate to use this document to define or frame the process. In addressing this issue, the entire APA community needs to determine what we consider to be the issues that need to be addressed, and we need to work together to resolve them. We should start with the question “what does APA need to consider” not “should APA endorse the MA level practitioner in psychology.”


Board of Directors of Divs. 31, 39 and 42

c/o Connie Paul, PhD
Executive Director, APA Div. 31
5154 Stage Road Suite 102
Memphis TN 38134


Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD
CEO and Executive Vice President

Jaime L. Diaz-Granados, PhD
Executive Director, Education Directorate

Clinton W. Anderson, PhD
Interim Executive Director, Public Interest Directorate

Ian D. King, MBA
Executive Director, Membership

Howard Kurtzman, PhD
Acting Executive Director, Science Directorate

Katherine C. Nordal, PhD
Executive Director, Practice Directorate