Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

On the Decline of Projective Techniques in Professional Psychology Training

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

On the Decline of Projective Techniques in Professional Psychology Training

Article excerpt

With the advent of the new millennium, survey findings confirmed a high degree of educational emphasis with projective techniques in both clinical/professional psychology programs and internship settings (Belter & Piotrowski, 2001; Childs & Eyde, 2002; Meyer et al., 2001; Mihura & Weinle, 2002). However, more recent survey data, on the extent of training emphasis in assessment in graduate professional training programs, point to a precipitous decline in instruction with projective techniques within the last 5 years (Neukrug et al., 2013). In fact, Ready and Veague (2014), in a survey of APA-accredited programs regarding training in assessment, found that no projective methods were ranked in the top 10 most popular tests. These findings clearly indicate a very recent de-emphasis in graduate-level instruction with projective techniques. At the same time, extensive review of studies of applied settings indicate that projective techniques continue to be relied upon and considered a valuable clinical tool by practicing psychologists. For example, Piotrowski (2015), in an analysis of 28 survey-based studies worldwide, reported that at least one projective test was noted among the top 5 tests used in practice in 50% of these reports. Additionally, the Rorschach, H-F-Ds, sentence completion methods, and the TAT were ranked among the top 15 tests in all but 3 of these 28 studies. Despite these disparate findings of training versus practice settings, bibliometric analysis of the recent psychological literature (conducted in the database PsycINFO) reveals a total of 2,943 references on projective techniques, including 1,746 articles in academic and professional journals (from 2008-2012). Thus, what could account for this apparent moribund state with regard to the rapid decline in educational emphasis with projective assessment in clinical/professional training programs? This commentary aims to discuss several pedagogic, editorial preference, critical review, and professional practice factors that can be attributed to the diminutive status of projective techniques in professional graduate-level instruction.

Managed Care Policy

By the mid-1990s, changes in mental health care policies had a profound impact on professional psychology practice (Phelps et al., 1998). The untoward effect was that reimbursement and time constraints significantly impacted the extent and availability of psychological testing, particularly reliance on traditional assessment batteries (Wood et al., 2002). Research has shown a stark shift in focus on 'brief and short-form testing instruments, with a concomitant decrease in the clinical use of projective techniques (Piotrowski, 1999; Stedman et al., 2001). Most projective tests are individually administered and, moreover, protocol scoring, interpretation, and assessment report integration can be rather time-consuming for the clinician. Thus, faculty members responsible for clinical training in assessment have gradually shifted away from tests that do not meet a time-sensitive threshold in practice. With the exception of specialty-based practice such as forensic assessment (Weiner & Otto, 2013), restrictive mental health administrative policies have limited authorized clinical use of projective assessment over the past 20 years.

Professional Psychology Curriculum

At the turn of the century, studies of APA-accredited professional doctoral training programs revealed that projective testing was a major required clinical competency, although training emphasis in this area was expected to decline in the near future (Belter & Piotrowski, 2001; Cashel, 2002; Handler & Smith, 2013). At the same time, attitudes toward projective tests by directors of internship training were relatively positive and opportunities for advanced training on select projective tests was an expected function of the internship experience (Piotrowski & Belter, 1999; Stedman et al., 2002). …

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