American Psychological Association Addresses Internship Crisis

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This year there has been an ongoing discussion in The American Psychological Association about a lack of internship opportunities for doctoral students in APA programs who in their fourth year are applying for the clinical programs. In March, Dr. Melba J.T. Vasquez, APA President, noted that the profession faces a complex problem in creating more internship opportunities so that all students may obtain the placement necessary for graduation and licensure.

In further discussions, Dr. Greg Keilin, match coordinator for the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, noted that unplaced students felt that their chosen profession had let them down because of the lack of positions available. An absence of a hoped-for position effectively derails a graduate student’s professional plans, at least for a year and possibly longer if they do not obtain an internship position the next year.

In a letter recently published in the APA Monitor, Joseph H. McCoy, Ph.D. stated: “We should not feel helpless but should contact our professional organizations and let our voices be heard…APPIC should refuse to place students from programs who do not have affiliated programs that provide the same number of internships that they place, or APPIC will only place as many students from a program equal to the number of internship positions the program has created.”

Dr. McCoy noted that this problem is now one that is measured in decades rather than years: “There is no excuse for the current imbalance. It is both unethical and immoral as we as a profession have allowed this to go on since 1994 when the first two years of a small imbalance began, and since 1996 when it began spiraling out of control.”

One can appreciate the worries of the students and those of Dr. McCoy, articulated so well above, and these concerns are in line with expectations of quality for consumers of psychological services. The 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience required for licensure as a psychologist in many states is a rigorous requirement that helps to ensure a level of quality and depth in care and treatment.

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