Clinical Psychology Education and Training: Commentary on Kenkel et Al. and Linden et Al
Arnett, John L., Canadian Psychology
Despite general acceptance of clinical psychology as a broadly based health-care discipline, many graduate programs in clinical psychology have been slow to change from their continued primary focus on mental health education and training. The two papers in this Special Section clearly articulate the compelling rationale for clinical psychology's full participation in all aspects of health, and provide a variety of creative ideas and initiatives regarding current and future educational reform. Interestingly, neither paper focused on the considerable research literature that already exists on graduate education reform and hence I have briefly outlined some of this work here. After reading the papers in this Special Section, I found myself agreeing with much of what was said and disagreeing strongly with some ideas. I also found myself sensitized to the notion that as educational reform proceeds, psychologists need to be vigilant to ensure that they maintain their own unique identity without drifting toward adopting key aspects of the identities of other professions.
The papers by Kenkel, DeLeon, Mandell, and Steep (this issue) and by Linden, Moseley, and Erskine (this issue) serve as excellent examples of the creative thinking that is required to modernize and update the education and training of clinical psychologists and the graduate education curriculum. Pretending that all is well and continuing to largely ignore the need to reform graduate education and training is no longer an option if psychology is to maintain public support over the long term.
Kenkel et al. and Linden et al. both acknowledge that clinical psychology is transitioning from being a largely mental health profession to a broader health discipline that encompasses both mental and physical health. These authors also understand that this is not an easy transition for many psychologists. However, the silver lining in this scenario is that in order to fully accomplish the shift, psychologists will need to collaborate much more with other health professionals and this will greatly enhance their involvement in multidisciplinary education, training, and research. This will serve psychology well in the future.
Kenkel et al. and Linden et al. are in good company with respect to arguing for the need for change in psychology graduate education. Indeed, considerable thought and work on educational reform has already been done by distinguished psychologists. Irwin Altman (1996) noted that historically the academic community has generally met the needs of society while at the same time appropriately protecting its academic freedom and independence. However, Altman also pointed out that curriculum revision has been more difficult over the last few decades, and cited the work of Boyer and Hechinger (1981) who observed that the academic community devotes too little attention to the needs of the community and to making curricula adjustments in order to address the needs of society. The clear implication is that, at its own peril, the academic community neglects educational reform aimed at meeting society's needs.
Today, chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes (which are in substantial measure related to lifestyle factors and are, thus, in many instances preventable) lead to premature death and disability as well as poor quality of life for many Canadians. Yet clinical psychology graduate students in most accredited Canadian training programs are not typically required to learn about psychology's potential contributions to both the prevention and management of these and other general health problems. Indeed, the level of expertise required to properly educate and train psychology students in these areas likely does not currently exist in most psychology graduate schools in Canada. Thus significant collaboration with other university departments and community agencies is required if psychology graduate students are to be systematically and comprehensively educated and trained in these areas. …