Response to the Internship Crisis

Purpose

The following statement is the view of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) on the current doctoral internship crisis. This statement focuses on doctoral training in psychology that prepares individuals to serve as health service psychologists and does not apply to students who seek other paths.

APAGS Policy

APAGS believes that all emerging psychologists deserve quality, respectful and complete training. The internship crisis affects consumers of psychological services and is a membership, workforce, and health service provider issue that affects all of APA. APAGS believes the internship crisis will need multi-level and multi-systemic changes at the student, doctoral program and internship program levels. APAGS strives for an APA-accredited internship for each student from an APA-accredited doctoral program. Based on these values, APAGS will continue to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders and develop a systematic framework to identify short- and long-term goals with regard to the internship crisis.

Full Response

APAGS believes that all emerging psychologists deserve quality, respectful and complete training.
Emerging health service psychologists include all current and future graduate students in clinical, counseling, school and combined/integrated American Psychological Association (APA) or Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)-accredited graduate programs. APAGS affirms that a doctoral degree from an APA- or CPA-accredited graduate program and the completion of an APA- or CPA-accredited doctoral internship is the minimal standard of entry into health service psychology. Respectful internship sites pay emerging health services psychologists a reasonable stipend, provide benefits, and set manageable working hours for interns. As the consumers of graduate education, doctoral students need clear, correct and easy access to outcome data in order to be fully informed about their doctoral and internship programs. Thus, truth in advertising is vitally important for both prospective and enrolled doctoral students. Complete training prepares emerging health service psychologists with the necessary competencies to enter into a competitive health care workforce. APAGS believes that these qualities of training are essential for students. A consistent standard of accredited training at all stages of doctoral education, similar to other health service fields, ensures a standard of training for students, preserves the integrity of the field and protects consumers of psychological services.
The internship crisis affects consumers of psychological services and is a membership, workforce, and health service provider issue that affects all of APA.

Consumers of psychological services, especially those in underserved areas, are likely to suffer without a workforce of competent, well-trained health service psychologists. The creation of additional internship positions may allow consumers greater access to care. Building a workforce will require an up-to-date, data-driven understanding of the needs for psychological services. This analysis should include information about the types of services needed, the individuals utilizing such services, and the settings where services are delivered. Currently, it is unclear if the number of training programs and internships is adequate to keep pace with the demand for psychologists in health service fields or if these programs are producing too many psychologists. A comprehensive workforce analysis is urgently needed to clarify the current and projected needs for psychologists.

Additionally, the internship crisis encourages some emerging professionals to take non-accredited internship training positions in order to fulfill the requirements for a doctoral degree in a timely manner. However, for many of these emerging professionals, completing an internship that is not APA- or CPA-accredited can result in future limitations in employment opportunities and licensure. This is one of many reasons the present internship match process causes emotional and financial strain that compromises the well-being of emerging health service psychologists. Given the unprecedented disparity between the number of students applying and the number of internship positions available, the crisis strains doctoral training programs which must help students prepare for a match process that continues to worsen each year. Finally, the internship crisis affects internship training sites which must review an escalating number of qualified applicants for a handful of positions.

APAGS believes the internship crisis will need multi-level and multi-systemic changes at the student, doctoral program, and internship program levels.
Issues of both internship supply and demand need to be addressed to end the crisis. APAGS expects and supports the following measures, among others, to meet internship supply:
  • Increasing funding resources, including federal funding, for psychology graduate students;
  • Facilitating the accreditation process for internship programs through mechanisms such as contingent accreditation; and
  • Supporting state and federal policies that would incentivize training sites to create and expand the number of available internships.

APAGS expects and supports the following strategies, among others, to meet internship demand:

  • Encouraging continued collaboration among all stakeholders, and adherence to the proposed actions identified in the 2008 Internship Imbalance meeting and subsequent agreements;
  • Equipping applicants to doctoral programs with the knowledge and skills needed to evaluate the viability of specific programs to meet their professional goals;
  • Using program match rates to internships as essential factors in determining accreditation decisions; and
  • Expecting self-correction from doctoral training programs which have internship match rates below those established to be acceptable by the training community.
APAGS strives for an APA-accredited internship for each student from an APA-accredited doctoral program.
APAGS believes that doctoral students who attend APA- or CPA-accredited programs should be able to obtain an APA- or CPA-accredited doctoral internship. Accreditation is a standard that not only protects students from exploitation through national standards, but also assures quality through a peer-reviewed system. APAGS supports the work of all relevant stakeholders in encouraging existing internship sites to become APA- or CPA-accredited. The APA internship accreditation process should be made more attainable and accessible to interested internship sites without sacrificing quality. APAGS encourages the training community to establish new funding sources to support internship training sites in the process of becoming accredited. Moreover, APAGS supports the creation of additional sites to stabilize the imbalance of APA- and CPA-accredited internships and students from accredited programs. These endeavors should be balanced by responsible admissions strategies from doctoral programs.
Based on these values, APAGS will continue to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders and develop a systematic framework to identify short- and long-term goals with regard to the internship crisis.

Ending the crisis will require continued commitment from all important stakeholders, including the American Psychological Association (APA), the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), APAGS, the APA Commission on Accreditation (CoA), the APA Board of Educational Affairs (BEA), the member councils represented on the Council of Chairs of Training Councils (CCTC), the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), state and provincial psychological associations, doctoral programs, internship programs, current and future intern applicants and individuals seeking admission to graduate programs.

As a stakeholder, APAGS will contribute solutions to ending the crisis including, but not limited to, the following items:

  • Collaboration with relevant stakeholders through liaisons, joint meetings, summits and online dialogue;
  • Provide information and salient updates about the internship crisis to graduate students;
  • Communicating the concerns of the graduate student community to all stakeholders;
  • Building awareness about the internship crisis and its implications among undergraduate psychology students and others who are considering applying to doctoral programs; and
  • Advocating for sustainable long-term solutions to the internship crisis.