President – Fall 2015


James W. Lichtenberg, Ph.D., ABPP

Each year, on the morning of the last day of the annual APA convention, SCP hosts a breakfast for its past presidents.  In addition to those former leaders, also present are the immediate past president, the newly installed president, and our president-elect. The gathering is partly social but largely an opportunity for reflections on SCP and how it’s fared over the past year, discussion of issues it is facing, and “wise counsel” for the new president and president-elect.  This past August during the Past Presidents’ Breakfast I was advised by my presidential predecessors that, “Each year there’s always some ‘crisis’ for the division; you’ll have yours.”

Jim Lichtenberg headshotLast year, during Michael Mobley’s term, we confronted the civil rights and social justice issues ignited by events in Ferguson, MO—although a history events prior to that situation (indeed a long history of social and racial injustice in the US) and subsequent to it compounded the hurt and anger and bewilderment felt within SCP and across the country in response to the events in Ferguson. This was, I think, the “crisis” for Michael and for SCP.  Michael guided us through those difficult times—facilitating difficult and courageous conversations about these events and reactions to them with SCP members and students—importantly including our Executive Board.  Although those social justice issues remain in the forefront for SCP—as they should and as they must.

In July, on the cusp of our transition in leadership, came the release of the of the Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture that was commissioned by the APAaka the Hoffman Report.  The findings in the Hoffman Report and the often very strong feelings and opinions about its content (including psychology’s involvement in crafting methods of “enhanced interrogation,” its interactions with the Department of Defense and CIA, and about individuals [APA leaders] cited in the report) have been jarring.  They have appeared in the press and on various listservs on which many of us are members. The reputation of organized American psychology, as represented by the APA, has been sullied.  For some, being a psychologist or being a member of APA is an embarrassment.  It is understandable that individual members of APA and SCP may ask themselves, “Is this what organized psychology is about? Is this a group with which I want to be affiliated?”  Some may even wonder whether ours is a career worthy of pursuit.

Let me say that among the leadership of SCP, we understand these reactions; they are ones that we have shared with each other. And we continue to pause and reflect on this whole incident (and the dynamics that allowed the situation to happen) as we conduct our own intra-divisional business.  In our reflections and discussions—among ourselves and with other SCP members in APA leadership positions (as members of APA’s Council of Representatives, Board of Directors, and Ethics Committee)—we wrestle with how this how this happened on our watch; and we all deeply regret and are sincerely apologetic for any ways in which we contributed to this situation.

Not all psychologists join APA; not all counseling psychologists who are members of APA join SCP/Div17. But we believe that both APA and SCP are worthy and important professional homes for us as we pursue our careers in the profession.  We want SCP to be a morally and ethically safe professional place for our members, and we continue to strive to keep SCP upright and relevant to our diverse membership.  In this regard, we are especially sensitive to the developing sense of being a professional that characterizes students in the field and early career professionals and to the impact the Hoffman Report may have on those preparing to enter or who are relatively new to the profession.

The Hoffman Report has been a crisis for APA and for SCP.  “Crisis #2” has been building and on our radar for a number of years now, but it has recently come to a head with statement and actions of the American Counseling Association.  The issue—which will not be news to many of us who are faculty in doctoral counseling psychology programs—is the mobilization of a national scale to restrict the licensing of profession counselors (individuals with master’s or doctoral degrees) to those who have graduated from programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP).  That those seeking licensure should be from programs whose quality has been independently reviewed against profession-adopted standards seems a worthy goal and seems difficult to challenge.  Indeed, it is this rationale that supports some states adoption of graduation from an APA accredited program as an education standard for licensure as a psychologist. 

Without delving into detail, the crisis for SCP (and for CCPTP-the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs) is that CACREP accreditation standards—particularly as regards requirements for a program’s “core faculty”—make it exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) for the faculty of accredited doctoral programs in Counseling Psychology to serve as well as the core faculty of a CACREP program.  In turn, this means that those doctoral programs which also offer a masters-degree in professional counseling are unlikely to be able to sponsor a CACREP accredited master’s program and, significantly, are unlikely to be unable to produce graduates who (if the CACREP licensure requirement efforts are successful) would be able to become licensed as professional counselors.  For schools/colleges with doctoral programs that are supported by student enrollments in masters-degree programs, this is more than troublesome.  It does, in fact, threaten those programs…and thus the preparation of future generations of counseling psychologist.

The somewhat awkward position this puts SCP in is that while supporting these doctoral programs by tackling the issue of access to licensure for professional counselors trained within our doctoral programs and by our counseling psychology faculty, we are inevitably arguing for support of the preparation and licensure of masters-level practitioners.  Advancing the cause of masters-degrees in psychology (and in particular, the clinical practice of psychology) and the preparation of masters-level practitioners are not things with which the larger APA has interest and in fact has shown some distain.  Regardless of the fact that masters-level counselors are licensed to practice independently in most (if not all) states, practitioners are “the competition” for doctoral psychologists and so not a group to of particular importance to the APA (or APAPO).

So as a division of the APA, how should SCP approach this?  How we balance commitments to and support of education/training programs and our practitioner members, our concern for access to affordable health care and services for underserved populations, and our loyalties to APA are complex.  What should be SCP’s position with regard to masters-level training and the independent practice of masters-level professional counselors—who just happen to be trained (in many instance) by us? What stand should we take, and how do we as an organization engage politically with regard to the restriction of the licensing of professional counselors to those with degrees from CACREP accredited program.  Should we take a stand, or is it anathema to professional psychology and to SCP?

A number of individuals and groups are involved in discussion on these matter, and as you might expect there is a diversity of perspectives on these issues, how SCP should involve itself in them, and how they play out for our programs and for our profession. 

These two “crisis” issues are of significant concern to SCP and its leaders, and to counseling psychology as a profession.  Your involvement in discussion around and thoughts concerning these issue would be appreciated.


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