Home » The PCSAS Accreditation Process » PCSAS Standards for Accreditation

PCSAS Standards for Accreditation

General Accreditation Standards: The Review Committee (RC) evaluates applications from programs that explicitly claim to fit within the narrowly defined scope of PCSAS accreditation and to satisfy PCSAS’s standards. Accordingly, the RC’s task essentially is one of evaluating each program’s integrity and quality. Applying the principle of “truth in advertising” as its benchmark, the RC rigorously examines the evidence from each program’s application materials and its site visit report to assess how well the program lives up to its claims and to PCSAS’s standards. The RC makes qualitative evaluations of each program in:

  1. Conceptual foundations: To be eligible for review, each applicant program necessarily will have endorsed the epistemology, mission, goals, and domain that define PCSAS accreditation. A hallmark of PCSAS accreditation is its flexibility; programs are given leeway to develop their own distinctive and innovative approaches to translating these abstract principles into practical, effective, real-world doctoral programs, because PCSAS believes that the field and the public benefit from variation in how clinical science training is accomplished. This variability may reflect not only local resources and opportunities, but also efforts to move the field forward with well-conceived training innovations.  A second hallmark of PCSAS accreditation is the integrated and bidirectionally influential nature of training experiences in research and application. Research (e.g., the problems studied, the measures selected) should be informed by experience gleaned from clinical settings, and clinical application should be informed by research findings (e.g., the treatments selected, the mediators and moderators that should be considered, the importance of evaluation of outcomes and mediating processes). A third hallmark is a demonstrated commitment to Diversity (broadly construed), Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice (DEIJ) in both the research and application areas; the infusion of DEIJ into both domains is critical given marked and pervasive diversity-related disparities in mental health, physical health, and well-being. 
  2. Design and resources: The RC examines the quality, logic, soundness, and coherence of each program’s overall operation: its stability; educational plan and pedagogical approach; content and curriculum; administration; and availability and use of resources. The RC evaluates how effectively the program’s design and resources are channeled toward realizing the program’s goals.
  3. Quality of the science training: The RC evaluates the overall quality of the scientific content, methods, and products of the program’s doctoral training and education (i.e., how well the program embodies and promotes the very best, cutting-edge science of the discipline).
  4. Quality of the application training: The Review Committee evaluates the extent to which clinical training is based on science/application integration that prepares program graduates to function as independent providers of clinical services and assume responsibility for patient care by making clinical decisions based on the best available scientific evidence.
  5. Quality improvement: The Review Committee examines the program’s investment in continuous quality improvement to determine: on-going critical self-examination; openness to feedback; flexibility and innovation; monitoring of program results; and engagement in strategic planning as the field changes in response to the dynamic mental health care environment. The Review Committee expects each program to monitor its design, operations, and outcomes, and to use these data to pursue excellence and strategically plan for the future.
  6. Curriculum and related program responsibilities: PCSAS accreditation requires that training programs demonstrate that their students have the necessary breadth and depth of knowledge and training experiences to engage in high-quality clinical science scholarship and clinical applications. Programs must clearly articulate their training goals; present a coherent training plan by which students will obtain the necessary breadth and depth of knowledge and experience (e.g., courses, workshops, practica, laboratory rotations); and describe the ways that they ensure that students have achieved these goals. In addition, programs must ensure that ethical standards and concern for diversity are reflected in training for scholarship and clinical application as well as in program characteristics and policies (see below).
    • Ethics. PCSAS accreditation requires that programs provide training in relevant codes of ethical behavior and legal and regulatory requirements for scholarship, research, and clinical application, including those nationally recognized professional ethics codes pertinent to psychological clinical science. Clinical science training programs must ensure that ethical standards are integrated into all major aspects of clinical science training, including didactic experiences, applied training, and research. Such integration should promote the production and application of clinical science that is fair and compassionate, reflecting the fundamental principle of beneficence by promoting the well-being of clients, research participants, and colleagues.
    • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice. PCSAS accreditation requires that programs demonstrate a commitment to the integration of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice into all aspects of the program. Programs must attend to the demonstrable role played in mental and physical health by dimensions of human diversity, including but not limited to race, color, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, marital status, national origin, ability status, beliefs, religion, physical appearance, and culture, as well as how these identities and others may intersect. Programmatic activity should acknowledge and reflect how dimensions of diversity have historically and persistently been shown to meet with prejudicial, stigmatizing, and discriminatory experiences that result in negative health impacts and disparities.  Programs should promote the principles of social justice by recognizing and attending to the broader social, economic, and political forces and structures that contribute to health and mental health disparities. The specific mechanisms by which programs meet these requirements may vary, but the values of DEIJ should be incorporated into the scholarly content of instruction and program requirements (e.g., research and application training; required coursework/experiences, presentations, and milestones, etc.); recruitment and retention of faculty and students; client populations; and the inclusiveness of the climate and student well-being within the program.
  7. Outcomes: The RC’s evaluations place the greatest weight on each program’s record of success: To what extent do the activities and accomplishments of a program’s faculty, students, and graduates – especially its graduates from the last ten years – exemplify the kinds of outcomes one expects of programs that successfully educate high-quality psychological clinical scientists? Included here are graduates’ ongoing contributions to clinical science in terms of new research and broad dissemination of science-based practice.

For each applicant program, the RC examines, integrates, and evaluates all the evidence across these areas and on the basis of its judgment about conformance to these criteria decides whether the program deserves to be awarded the distinctive recognition of PCSAS accreditation.