Science plays a part in all clinical training programs, but it is preeminent in PCSAS programs — in research training, in clinical training and, importantly, in their integration. This commitment to a scientific perspective in all aspects of clinical psychology plus growing concerns that the nation’s pressing mental health needs are too often not being met, gave rise to PCSAS as an accreditation system designed to promote science-centered doctoral training. The creation of PCSAS rests on the desire to spark training innovations that will lessen the burden of mental illness. PCSAS fosters clinical scientists who will improve public health by disseminating existing knowledge of what mental health treatments work and for whom, increasing access to and delivering evidence-based clinical services, and expanding scientific knowledge in clinical psychology through their research.
PCSAS-accredited programs must show a commitment to high-quality research training. PCSAS accredited programs must subscribe to an empirical epistemology and a scientific model–that is, an educational and clinical training model in which the advancement of knowledge and its application to problems are driven by research evidence, and in which research and application are integrated and reciprocally informing. These commitments are embodied in the PCSAS Accreditation Standards.
PCSAS-accredited programs must show a commitment to high-quality clinical training. Indeed, questions are sometimes raised about the role that training for clinical practice plays in PCSAS accreditation. As indicated throughout the PCSAS Accreditation Standards, PCSAS accreditation requires that all graduates must be able to function effectively and independently as clinical psychologists. We would not accredit a program that could not demonstrate this to our satisfaction. That is, a program must convince us that all students show mastery of evidence-based assessments and evidence-based treatments, and that the scientific principles and processes on which these are established. Clinical training experiences that typically are offered within the program (e.g., early assessment and therapy training) and supervisor evaluations for advanced practical experiences that are often offered outside the program, and by seasoned clinicians in real-world settings are carefully evaluated. PCSAS requires internships for all students.
As to objective indicators of the effectiveness of this training, we are proud that PCSAS students as a whole score better on state licensing exams and are matched in internship placements at a higher rate than non-PCSAS students. Importantly, PCSAS graduates also make significant contributions to applied clinical science as evidenced by high levels of application-related publications in the scientific literature, serving as educators and trainers for future generations of clinical psychologists, assuming leadership roles in service delivery service organizations, and advancing treatment and assessment development, evaluation, and dissemination. PCSAS graduates do practice. In a recent comprehensive analysis of over ten years of PCSAS graduates, we found that 73% report engaging in clinical service delivery in their current positions.
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