Regulation and Accreditation in Professional Psychology: Facilitators? Safeguards? Threats?

By Edwards, Henry P. | Canadian Psychology, January 1994 | Go to article overview
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Regulation and Accreditation in Professional Psychology: Facilitators? Safeguards? Threats?


Edwards, Henry P., Canadian Psychology


During the past 25 years, I have been involved in accreditation and regulatory issues from several perspectives including those of psychology professor, university administrator, accreditation site visitor, member of a psychology regulatory board, and participant in associations of psychologists. The following remarks are intended to be personal rather than scholarly, and to stimulate dialogue and debate rather than to propose unique solutions to the issues raised. They are an attempt to elucidate my viewpoint that regulation and accreditation in professional psychology, when correctly understood and implemented with sensitivity, are complementary to each other and beneficial to the psychology profession.

The Regulation of Professional Psychology

According to standard dictionary definitions, regulation means control (Sykes, 1976). To regulate the psychology profession, therefore, means to control title and/or practice within parameters laid down by provincial or state law.

In Canada and the United States, the practice of psychology is regulated by regulatory boards (cf. ASPPB, 1993), which are mandated to implement and administer the relevant Acts of their provincial or state legislatures. Boards may be appointed or elected, and often include both psychologists and lay members.

The key purposes of regulation in psychology by provincial or state boards typically include:

1. Protection of the public served by psychologists from incompetent or unethical practitioners;

2. Determination of entry requirements for registration or licensure of individual psychologists;

3. Development, adoption, monitoring and enforcement of ethics and professional conduct standards to be observed by registered or licensed psychologists;

4. Periodic review of registrants' or licensees' competence to continue to practice as psychologists;

5. Complaint and discipline procedures and enforcement, both with reference to the professional work of registered or licensed psychologists, and to the work of non - psychologists presenting themselves to their clients as psychologists;

6. Informing the public about the regulation of psychology; and

7. Periodic review and updating of the standards and procedures according to which the profession is regulated by the board.

In other words, regulatory boards exist for the protection of the public served by psychologists. To the extent that they succeed inthis task, as a by - product they enhance the status and facilitate the continuing evolution of psychology as a profession.

The Accreditation of Professional Psychol - ogy Programs Accreditation of psychology programs (cf. CPA, 1991; APA, 1986) refers to a process whereby a nongovernmental association of psychologists:

1. Establishes a set of criteria by which to define and describe high quality doctoral or internship programs;

2. Promotes its accreditation model and criteria as exemplars of high quality education and training, and encourages programs to evolve toward full compliance with the criteria by means of self - study;

3. Sets up procedures for the review of programs which, on a voluntary basis, seek formal recognition as programs that meet the accreditation criteria;

4. Publicly announces which programs have been granted accreditation to the psychology community, the academic community and students or prospective students; and

5. Periodically reviews and updates the accreditation criteria and procedures.

In Canada and the United States, accreditation is voluntary, self - regulating, and traditionally restricted to professional education and training programs. When implemented collegially and objectively, it provides valuable information about the nature and quality of education and training programs, and it contributes to the evolution of doctoral and internship programs in professional psychology by its ongoing insistence on self - assessment followed by external peer review.

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