Changes are coming to the licensing process: In 2019, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) plans to launch a new licensing exam.
Last year, ASPPB’s board voted to add a second step to the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which state and provincial psychology boards use to make licensing decisions. While the original exam tests knowledge, the EPPP Step 2 will test whether candidates have the skills needed to work independently.
“Adding this exam provides a standardized way of measuring future psychologists’ professional skills,” says ASPPB Chief Executive Officer Stephen T. DeMers, EdD, noting the wide variation among training programs and approaches to clinical supervision. “To ensure public protection, which is the responsibility of licensing boards, we felt the need to have a standardized measure of minimal competencies in professional skills.”
Many have questioned what has prompted ASPPB to create Step 2, says DeMers, noting that there has been no increase in complaints about unskilled psychologists. Instead, he says, the exam is the next step in the competency movement that psychology — as well as other health care professions — has been participating in for the last 15 to 20 years. “What’s driving this is a change in the landscape of health care regulation and the health care marketplace, where payers and government officials are demanding that the profession have credibility through competency assessment,” DeMers says.
The move toward assessing competency makes sense, says Derek C. Phillips, PsyD, a neuropsychology fellow at Psychological and Neurobehavioral Services, PA, in Lakeland, Florida. It could indeed increase credibility and the quality of services, he says. But, he adds, many early-career psychologists “feel it imposes an additional roadblock to a process that already has a lot of roadblocks.”
Time and money are the primary concerns, says Jennifer M. Doran, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System. “It will not only increase the time it takes to get a license and begin working, but also substantially increase the cost to trainees,” Doran says. “People are saying, ‘We’re all for competency, but this is not the way to do it.’” Instead, Doran and others suggest shifting responsibility for assessing content knowledge to graduate programs. “Let them do your content knowledge assessment and then take one postgraduation exam that’s more competency-focused,” she suggests.
That kind of feedback is making a difference, says DeMers, noting that it “has changed the dialogue.” ASPPB’s board is now considering the idea of changing its policy and allowing people to take the first EPPP before they receive their doctoral degrees, a move that would speed up the process. Doing so could also save money by eliminating the argument for a postdoctoral year. “The new test will allow licensing boards to be assured that people are ready for practice,” DeMers says.
None of this will happen quickly, he adds, noting that once the exam has been created ASPPB will still have to work with boards to get local regulations or legislation changed to require Step 2 for licensure. That means there’s plenty of time to share your opinion:
- Work through APA. Get involved in APA and the APA Practice Organization and share your thoughts with the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice and the board of directors, urges Phillips. APA can then share that feedback with ASPPB for it to use in shaping its own decisions.
- Work with your state psychological association. “Licensing boards ultimately need to support any changes,” says Doran, who encourages early-career psychologists to help their state associations put pressure on their state boards.
- Contact ASPPB directly. ASPPB’s Step 2 website invites feedback. You can also contact DeMers or Chief Operating Officer Carol Webb, PhD.
Says Phillips, “I definitely encourage early-career psychologists to make their voices heard, not to merely hope for a good outcome.”
Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article included incorrect quotations.