The National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) is an organization of 91 doctoral professional schools of clinical psychology. Each year, NCSPP poses a set of questions for APA Presidential candidates to answer as they wish. Your responses will be forwarded to our membership and on occasion, we endorse a candidate who we feel is consonance with the interests of NCSPP and our model of education and training (see Peterson, Peterson, Abrams and Striker, 1997).
1. How does your candidacy support programs that adhere to the NCSPP training model (Peterson, Peterson, Abrams and Striker, 1997)?
Practice needs electronic tools and financial support to address the massive need for care that exists in our country, while simultaneously engaging in prevention efforts upstream. There is room for our integrated care efforts in medical clinics and schools, as well as more traditional independent and co-located practice. The pandemic has revealed the critical need for psychology and the dearth of qualified providers. Inclusion of our master’s level colleagues trained in psychology will increase our membership and potentially provide an increase in funding for our organization. I believe a range of levels of “helpers,” from the paraprofessional to the doctoral level psychologist, is needed. The highly trained doctoral psychologist should supervise and provide mentorship to these teams of helpers. We need to defend the doctoral standard for entry into practice as a psychologist. Simultaneously, we need to establish evidence for improved efficacy in treatment by psychologists to defend the doctoral standard.
It is important that our students and colleagues truly appreciate the wide range of the applications of psychology and their contributions to APA's mission. There are innovative roles for psychologists that do provide opportunities for advancement professionally and financially. It would be important to bridge psychology with business and health psychology to elevate the critical importance of the field of applied psychology. In our educational system, our academic departments would benefit from increased awareness of applied psychology and its relevance to larger systems change.
Psychology would not exist without our scientific base on which we rely for the underpinnings of what is meaningful and important in our work as psychologists. We need to assure that our scientists have the financial support they need to conduct their critically important research. Psychologists possess a large social-behavioral knowledge base with a foundation on research in science. Science is foundational in practice, education, and improving the public welfare. Scientific study of human behavior plays a central role in the most challenging issues in society. As stated in the APA strategic plan, the application of psychological science can foster the advancement of human rights, fairness, and diversity. I understand the critical importance of grant funding for research to advance scientific knowledge and assist with obtaining tenure and promotion. I will advocate to assure adequate federal and state funding for psychological research.
2. What are the most pressing issues in the education of health service psychologists?
As our field changes, the training curriculum needs to be modernized, incorporating important new developments in the field (e.g, artificial intelligence/virtual reality, telehealth, business of practice). This would further the NCSPP vision of competency-based education to better prepare trainees for the challenges of the constantly changing world of healthcare.
It has been my experience that the doctoral programs are often not modernized to appreciate the training needs of health service psychologists (e.g., content of didactic coursework, practicum placements). Those who are training may not be working in the field and aware of “hot issues” on the ground. We need to more closely connect practice with education and science, so that our training really meets the needs of health service psychologists. Telehealth has opened a window of opportunity for clients to be readily treated, which has benefitted many, including the underserved and those living in rural areas. PsyPact offers the possibility of more easily practicing across state lines. I believe we need to continue to make the case for adequate funding to deliver high quality services provided by psychologists in healthcare settings in rural and underserved areas.
It is important to recognize the reality of how health services are paid and how this impacts service delivery. As health service psychologists, we need to understand managed care, the marketplace, business of practice, accountable care organizations, value-based payment, quality improvement, and the relationship of these types of health care payment issues to our work as psychologists. Making sure our early career psychologists are prepared to handle these realities should be an important part of their education.
3. NCSPP is committed to developing psychology as a socially responsible science that has a “central role in improving our society.” What do you think should be the focus of APA's advocacy efforts in education and practice as a way of aligning with NCSPP’s commitment? How have you been active in advocacy for education and training of health service psychologists?
Having taught and supervised students and trainees in health service psychology, I am hopeful about the future of our field, but protecting that future will take work. We need to ensure that APA leads our field in terms of educational standards, guidance, and opportunities that effectively prepare our next generation for the challenges ahead. I am dedicated to uniting, protecting, and advocating for the needs of psychology and psychologists. We need to come together as an organization to advance our priorities and defend and protect our people. We should help psychologists obtain necessary resources to develop to their full potential. We need a comprehensive approach to lifelong learning incorporated into our field of psychology.
APA is strategically positioned to advocate to remove barriers to equitable health care for all people. I believe integrated care in medical, school, and community settings provides a mechanism for health and mental health equity. As a Federal Advocacy Coordinator, I have trained for over 15 years to be able to effectively utilize my advocacy skills. Advocacy is critically important to our success. In addition to our internal “locking arms,” we need to look externally for partners for the advancement of health psychology. It is vital that we network, unite, and enhance opportunities for each other moving into the future, partnering with organizations outside of APA to accomplish the mission of our strategic plan.
I have trained clinical psychology doctoral students for their practicum in both a private non-profit psychiatric hospital setting and an integrated specialty clinic for pediatric obesity, both part of a medical center. I believe it is critical that we advocate at the national and state level for support for the needs of psychology education and training (e.g., assuring adequate federal, state, and local funding). The connection between grant funding and promotion and tenure for professors of psychology will be attended to through federal, state, and local advocacy, connecting efforts in education to science and practice. Without adequate grant funding, many of our academic psychologists will struggle to advance and be promoted. In our role as teachers of psychology, we touch so many people and have such a critical opportunity to truly help society. The highly qualified psychologists training our students need to be well-paid to provide this essential training. As APA President, I will be committed to protecting, preserving, and enhancing psychology education, believing sharing our psychology provides the keys to health and happiness for people in the world in which we live.
4. What actions are needed to promote employment for health service psychologists?
I believe health service psychologists need to be mandated by JCAHO and other accrediting bodies to assure they are included as part of treatment teams. So much of our challenge has to do with money and payment for services rendered. We need to make the case for value added for the role of psychologists. We need to convince federal and state government of the essential nature of services provided by psychologists, so that these are required by our hospital systems and medical clinics. Psychologists may not need to be directly providing the care; however, they would be the logical team leader and supervisor to create, implement, and drive improved population health. Psychologists should the leaders of psychological intervention teams, varying levels of team training, providing appropriate supervision and offering an array of modalities of public intervention. Practicing psychologists need to be integrated in medical clinics, schools, government, places of employment, and traditional practice settings as team leaders, utilizing their skills in consultation, program evaluation, assessment, and research to advance health and well-being around the world. APA could increase access and reduce racial/ethnic disparities by identifying neighborhood clinics, schools, and gathering places where psychologists could lead the provision of psychological services.
5. What should be APA's next steps in addressing diversity, equity and inclusion issues in psychology education and practice?
My desire is to form a large diverse organizational umbrella under which all psychologists bring their unique mixture of race, religion, cultural background, physical difference/disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, political perspective, and theoretical orientation, united by our love of the discipline of psychology and our agreed-upon strategic plan. If APA can get social justice right within our organization, our collective unity, voice, excitement, and energy will provide a model for our nation and world. I emphasize the importance of including all voices under one umbrella, consistent with APA’s vision of a strong, diverse, and unified psychology that enhances knowledge and improves the human condition. Including everyone’s voice prevents perpetuation of discrimination and racism in our organization and allows greater impact on our mission in the world to benefit society and improve lives.
We are currently moving forward with examining our own APA house to determine in what ways we have historically contributed to racism. I believe this is the beginning of important and potentially healing APA work, and I would dedicate myself as President to assisting with this work and challenging oppression and engendering liberation of all people both within and outside of APA. We must use our understanding of humanity and our collective unity as psychologists to address the pain we are witness to each day, resulting from factors like the immigration crises, the COVID pandemic, brutal racism, and the natural and human disasters we are witness to in Haiti and Afghanistan. The racism and coronavirus pandemics have revealed the pain and injustice that exists in the United States. Our field is critically important at this moment in history to both help alleviate the pain and correct the injustice that led to it in the first place.
I plan to extend upon previous presidential initiatives of deep poverty and health equity in connection to rural and underserved communities. I am very concerned about the issue of immigration and the impact of federal and state immigration policies, especially on children. It is important to identify the diverse individuals who have successfully obtained their education and training in psychology and promote them financially as recruiters and mentors of other diverse individuals. I will emphasize the critical importance of identifying scientists of color and promoting them in their careers to assure there is inclusion and diversity in those who study psychological science. Uplifting and supporting the growth of the research pipeline for diverse psychologists, along with elevating the psychological subject matter experts on diversity and health disparity, should be a priority for APA.
I will prioritize the development of educational models, research, and training programs that further the development of our understanding of women’s issues, such as perinatal mood disorders and trauma. As a feminist psychologist and President of APA, I will advocate for a critical analysis of issues of sexism in the science, education, and practice of psychology, which would likely involve both a review of our history and the contemporary state of our discipline.
6. How might APA ensure there are adequate internship and postdoctoral opportunities for students?
APA has attempted to increase the adequacy of the number of internship sites by funding additional internships. I would support continuing such efforts. However, these efforts will likely be most successful if APA engages in these attempts in collaboration with educational institutions, government entities, and private healthcare organizations. This collaboration should involve employer-subsidized learning. APA needs to facilitate deeper partnerships between training and the workplace.
APA could assist by educating the public and these organizations that would benefit from the partnerships regarding the level of training our interns and postdocs possess. It might be useful to develop new language to describe these psychologists in training, to emphasize the incredible skills they bring to these positions.
7. While student loan debt is a higher education problem, not just one for psychology, what ideas/actions might APA have to address this issue?
I am very concerned about graduate student debt. It is critical we address the crippling burden of student debt and I believe that APA can play an important role in addressing the financial viability of our field for the next generation. I have always been a champion for enhancing the role of the doctoral students and early career psychologists in APA governance. I have encouraged the doctoral students I have trained to join APA and participate in leadership and advocacy. I will continue to do so by specifically assuring that there is representation of graduate students and ECPs on presidential initiatives and task forces. APA is in a unique position to partner with institutions of higher learning and practicum sites to develop alternative models of funding education in ways other than on the backs of graduate students. It is time to advocate strongly with government about this issue, adding mechanisms for debt forgiveness, underscoring the negative health implications of crushing student loan debt on the well-being of our early career psychologists. This is the time in our nation’s history we need high quality psychological services. Ensuring our newly licensed psychologists can work without the tremendous burden of financial debt from their education would be one way to incentivize young adults to become health service psychologists, thereby improving the emotional health of our citizens.