Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Specialty Designation in Psychology: Developing a Canadian Model

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Specialty Designation in Psychology: Developing a Canadian Model

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and the Council of Provincial Associations of Psychologists (CPAP) created a Task Force to study the issue of specialty designation in Canada. As part of fulfilling its mandate, the Task Force surveyed Canadian psychologists and reviewed the status and history of specialty designation in other countries. Based on that data, the Task Force concluded that it was timely for Canadian psychology to implement a specialty designation system. The present paper outlines the rationale for the development of a Canadian specialty designation system.

In 1986 the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and the Council of Provincial Associations of Psychologists (CPAP) established a Task Force on Specialty Designation (CPA, 1984a). The Task Force had as its mandate both the study of specialty designation and the feasibility and desirability for establishing a specialty designation system in Canada. The present paper outlines the rationale for specialty designation, its history, and the main findings and conclusions of the Task Force report (Service, Sabourin, Catano, Day, Hayes, & MacDonald, 1989).

The discipline of psychology has grown considerably over the years following the Second World War (Thorngate, 1990). The proliferation of education and training programmes, the dramatic increase in the number of psychologists, and the expansion of the number and variety of work settings has led to the creation of new "specialty" areas in psychology. New applications of psychological knowledge stimulate further theoretical and technological advances leading to the gradual evolution of new branches of expertise which eventually become recognized as "specialty" areas. There continues to be a steady pressure within psychology to recognize and differentiate specialties ranges from individual psychologists describing their area of expertise to various national and international training, research, and credentialing programmes recognizing "specialties".

Current International Practice

The common use of the resulting specialty descriptors argues for greater attention in deciding whether specialty designation should be pursued in Canada. Psychologists in other countries have also wrestled with issues related to specialty designation. Their experiences may have special relevance to the Canadian situation. The status of specialty designation in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, countries having some parallel in legal and political institutions with Canada, follows.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Although the American Psychological Association (APA) has not yet formally recognized specialties in psychology, interest in specialization has been, and continues to be, strong. For example, accreditation criteria for university training programmes in clinical psychology (APA Committee on Training in Clinical Psychology, 1947), standards for practicum training in clinical psychology (APA Committee on Training in Clinical Psychology, 1950) and standards for counselling psychology (APA Committee on Counsellor Training, Division of Counselling and Guidance, 1952) have long been established. APA further refined the process by developing one set of standards for all doctoral level training programmes and internships in professional psychology (APA, 1979), as well as guidelines for the provision of psychological services in the areas of industrial/organizational, clinical, counselling, and school psychology (APA, 1981, 1987). Therefore, it can be argued that APA has given de facto recognition of specialty status to at least these four areas.

APA's Board of Professional Affairs' Subcommittee on Specialization has attempted to develop an acceptable model to outline specific criteria which must be satisfied before any area of the discipline could be given official designation as a proficiency or specialty (Sales, Bricklin, & Hall, 1983, 1984a, 1984b). The model is described in more detail later. …

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