Feature

In 2011, a Texas mental health foundation performed a unique feat: It gave $1.6 million to create three new psychology internship programs across the state in an effort to improve the state's mental health workforce (see "Righting the imbalance," February 2012 Monitor).

Now, the same organization — the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, based at the University of Texas at Austin — is taking another bold step. In early 2013, it will grant $375,000 over two years to help at least four existing internship programs that are members of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) gain full APA accreditation. The programs will spend the first year doing an extensive self-study and, in the following year, APA will either conduct a site visit or recommend additional changes that will help the sites earn accreditation.

Psychology has long been dogged by having too few internship programs to meet student need. In the 2012 internship match, for example, only 71 percent of students were matched at all, and only 53 percent got internships in APA-accredited programs, according to APPIC statistics. Some states — Texas among them — have very limited internship options, creating a situation in which students don't come, stay and add their expertise, adds UT–Austin psychologist and Hogg Foundation Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation Michele Guzmán, PhD, a driving force behind the Texas grants.

The foundation's initiative aims to fix this imbalance by getting more accredited internships in place as quickly as possible, Guzmán says, adding that it's easier to attract interns than practicing psychologists to the state, which has major unmet mental health needs.

"We want to fund well-established internships so that with a little bit of stimulus, they'll be able to rapidly gain accreditation and have the validation the field increasingly requires," Guzmán says. 

In a separate effort, the foundation granted $550,000 in September to create a new internship consortium in El Paso. The consortium will bring together supervisors and interns at the University of Texas at El Paso, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Beaumont Army Medical Center. The initiative will give interns the opportunity to work with two high-need groups: Latinos, who make up 85 percent of El Paso's population, and active duty military personnel and veterans, who face high rates of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, says UT–El Paso Associate Provost John Wiebe, PhD, who wrote the grant proposal.

In all, the three new internship programs funded in 2011 plus the consortium will create 19 new Texas-based internship positions over five years.

The Hogg Foundation's efforts have managed to attract additional funds from private foundations — a potential model for other states, Guzmán adds. The foundation was able to attract the supporters, she says, because it created very specific proposals displaying strong technical knowledge about internships — expertise that other philanthropic organizations lack but might want to support. The Meadows Foundation, a private social services philanthropy, awarded funds to help create more internship positions in the three new internship programs, while the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, another private foundation, gave money to publicize, support and promote the new consortium in El Paso.

The Texas efforts dovetail perfectly with an APA initiative that will provide $3 million in grants over three years to help unaccredited internship programs achieve APA accreditation, notes APA Executive Director for Education Cynthia Belar, PhD. The goal of APA's internship stimulus package is to have all unaccredited psychology internship programs accredited by 2019.

"The Hogg Foundation is doing the same thing on a state level that we're trying to do at the national level," Belar says. "Our hope is that between APA's efforts and those of innovative thinkers like those at the foundation, we'll be able to meet our goal of helping all psychology internships demonstrate that they meet the standards of the profession."


Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N.Y.