The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is a nonprofit graduate psychology school committed to providing students with the highest level of professional psychology education to prepare them for lifelong careers in the fields of psychology and related behavioral sciences.
TCSPP is a member of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The doctoral clinical psychology program at the Chicago campus is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Q. What is APA program accreditation?
A. According to APA’s Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation, APA program accreditation is both a status and a process. As a status it represents that a clinical doctoral program has formally met quality standards articulated by APA’s Commission on Accreditation (CoA). As a process it represents to the larger psychology and academic community that the program has agreed to engage in a self-study to evaluate its standing against the standards outlined by the CoA and has opened its doors to external peer review as a means to engender persistent program improvement.
Q. Must all clinical psychology programs seek APA accreditation?
A. No. APA program accreditation is a voluntary process, meaning an institution offering a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology chooses whether or not to apply, and when to apply for accreditation.
Q. What programs are eligible for APA program accreditation?
A. According to the APA Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation, doctoral programs in clinical psychology, counseling, school psychology, or a combination of two or three of these areas. Internship and postdoctoral training programs are also eligible; however, master’s and bachelor’s programs in psychology are not eligible for APA program accreditation.
Q. What is the difference between APA program accreditation and regional accreditation?
A. The APA’s CoA is a specialized/professional accreditor, meaning that APA accreditation only extends to specific doctoral graduate programs, pre-doctoral internships, and postdoctoral residencies in professional psychology. The accredited status of one specific program does not extend to other programs in the same department or institution.
Regional accreditation covers entire institutions. TCSPP is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting bodies in the United States. Each is authorized to accredit institutions in specific states, divided by geographic region. APA-accredited doctoral graduate programs must be housed in an institution that has regional accreditation; however, an institution may hold regional accreditation and not have any APA-accredited programs.
Q. How does a clinical doctoral program prepare for APA accreditation?
The process of collecting data for a self-study can take many years. Those data include, but are not limited to: incoming student GPAs, current student performance across the entire program, core faculty credentials, student retention, coursework outcomes, practicum and internship placements and performance, and proper institutional resources to achieve training goals. The process also includes input and review by APA consultants. Once the self-study is submitted, it undergoes an initial review to ensure internal consistency and that all sections are completed appropriately. CoA only reviews self-studies three times a year. The document is then forwarded to a committee for a full review and determination if a site visit to the campus where the program is held is warranted. The committee may also ask questions for the program to answer prior to scheduling the site visit.
After the visit, the site visit team may have some additional questions for the program to answer, and, following receipt of answers to those questions, the team submits a report to the CoA. The report is made available to the campus leadership team for review and comment. After this process is completed, the program is placed on the CoA’s next program review agenda.
Q. How long does the APA program accreditation process take upon the submission of the self-study?
A. According to APA’s Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation, it can take 18 months or more from the time a program submits a self-study until the CoA reaches a decision. The CoA awards accreditation to those programs judged to be in accordance with the Guidelines and Principles (G&P) for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology. The official date of accreditation is then retroactive to the date of the site visit.
Q. Can APA program accreditation be denied?
The CoA can also deny accreditation to applicant programs if the program does not meet the G&P, but would give a deferral if they thought the program was not entirely in accord to give the program a chance to make adjustments before a denial of accreditation. There is no guarantee that an applicant program will obtain accredited status. This means that as a student, there is risk involved in entering a program that is not yet APA accredited.
Q. When did TCSPP’s Los Angeles Campus begin the process of seeking APA accreditation for its clinical doctoral program?
A. TCSPP began on its path toward accreditation even before its first students enrolled in the clinical doctoral program in 2008, when the Los Angeles Campus opened. Once the class was enrolled, the clinical doctoral program began collecting the necessary data for the preparation of the self-study. The program initiated an attrition study, reviewed GPA trends, set administrative standards, and monitored dissertation quality.
Q. Are clinical doctoral students enrolled in the program involved in the preparation of the self-study?
A. Yes. For a period of time, students assist with this process. The team meets regularly to review their progress toward the submission of the self-study. Part of the responsibility of the student representatives is to continuously update their peers on TCSPP’s progress toward APA program accreditation.
Q. Is APA program accreditation guaranteed?
A. No. Accreditation of a clinical doctoral graduate program can never be guaranteed and there are no shortcuts. As outlined above, there is a rigorous accreditation process that must be followed.
Q. Where do we stand today in the APA program accreditation process at the Los Angeles Campus?
A. TCSPP has been working with its Los Angeles Campus Clinical Psychology Department and accreditation consultants to prepare for the self-study, which includes documentation of outcomes that supports the achievement of competencies required of students and the program. According to the APA Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation, a program must show all outcomes until the point of the student’s graduation date in order to be eligible to formally apply and move to the next phase.
Q. Why doesn’t the clinical doctoral program in Los Angeles have the same APA accreditation as the clinical doctoral program in Chicago?
A. Accreditation by APA is not awarded by schools or campuses, but rather by program. For example, TCSPP’s Chicago Campus went through a similar process when they sought APA accreditation for its clinical program in the 1980s. Whereas the program was founded in 1979, APA program accreditation was realized in October 1987. The clinical doctoral program at the Los Angeles Campus was founded four years ago, in fall 2008.
Q. How does TCSPP communicate the APA program accreditation process to prospective students at the Los Angeles Campus?
A. During the admissions process, at enrollment and during new student orientation, prospective students who are enrolling in the clinical doctoral psychology program at the Los Angeles Campus are informed that TCSPP is actively engaged in pursuing APA program accreditation. Once enrolled in the program, every effort is made to continually inform and update students of where TCSPP stands in this process. For instance, information sessions, department meetings, and brown bag lunches are held at least three times a year on the APA program accreditation process.
Q. What options to graduates of non-APA accredited programs have in the job market?
A. Whether or not the clinical doctoral program is APA accredited, a clinical doctoral psychology graduate from a regionally accredited institution can pursue a professional career as licensed clinical psychologists in California. Graduates can apply to sit for the national licensure examination, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), as well as the State examination, the California Psychology Supplemental Examination (CPSE). A graduate is also able to apply for licensure throughout the country, subject to individual state requirements and completion of any state-required post-doctoral residency requirements. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to the campus. You may want to visit the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards website for more information.
Q. Are there other programs at the Los Angeles Campus that are seeking APA program accreditation?
A. The clinical doctoral program at the Los Angeles Campus is the only program at that campus that is actively seeking APA program accreditation.
Q. Is the Washington, D.C.’s Campus clinical psychology doctoral program going to pursue APA accreditation?
A. Yes. Like Los Angeles and Chicago before it, Washington, D.C. clinical doctoral program is collecting data for the preparation of a self-study to pursue APA program accreditation.