OVERVIEW OF PCSASThe power of any accrediting body is derived from the trust and authority granted to it by those seeking its imprimatur. Each of the initial 32 programs to have gained PCSAS approval is recognized as a top clinical psychology program in the United States or Canada. By many measures, these programs are among the most highly regarded in the field. For example, all 31 U.S. programs are listed among the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report. (U.S. News ranks only U.S. programs.) Similarly, all 32 programs are ranked highly by the National Academies of Sciences by their graduates' scores on state licensing exams and by the publication records of their faculties.
PCSAS also has sought external evaluation and approval by now being recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the prestigious quasi-governmental body founded by over 3,000 universities that is well-known for evaluation of accreditation entities ("a primary national voice for quality assurance to the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Education, the general public, opinion leaders, students, families"). CHEA's sole purpose is quality assurance of higher education through accreditation. In this role, CHEA provides a "seal of approval" for meeting standards that are indicators of quality to government.
The two hallmarks of PCSAS accreditation are: (a) an emphasis on outcome evidence to evaluate a program's quality and success; and (b) flexibility in evaluating how programs structure their training to produce clinical scientists. The flexibility hallmark does not mean a compromise of standards, nor does it mean that "anything goes." Rather, it reflects a recognition that different programs may employ different pedagogical strategies and methods to achieve positive results. The burden of proof regarding the success of a program's approach rests with the applicant program. However, successful accreditation applications have certain key characteristics in common--namely, clearly articulated goals, coherent plans for achieving the goals, providing significant clinical (i.e., practicum; internship) and research experiences and records of achievement that augur well for continued success.
Psychological clinical science is an applied science. Psychological Clinical Science is concerned with generating new knowledge regarding the nature of psychological problems, and with translating that knowledge into applications that improve the human condition. PCSAS programs place an emphasis on this kind of science, centered on the production and dissemination of new knowledge. Importantly, this goal does not obviate the need for excellent applied training. Excellent applied training and preparation for license eligibility are critical parts of clinical science training.
We believe that public health is best served by training clinical psychologists who will use their knowledge and skills to advance basic knowledge as well as to develop, deliver, and evaluate more cost-effective interventions, assessments, and prevention strategies. PCSAS-accredited programs prepare their graduates to assume independent responsibility for ensuring the delivery of mental and behavioral health care of the highest quality--whether the graduates themselves are delivering the care or are overseeing its delivery by others.
The structure of tomorrow's health care system should be determined based on the best scientific evidence available. Clinical psychologists trained as clinical scientists in PCSAS programs will be qualified to play leading roles in this future -- designing, building, overseeing, delivering, and evaluating the science-driven health-care system of tomorrow.
PCSAS accredits only doctoral training programs that grant Ph.D. degrees and are housed in non-profit, research-intensive, accredited universities. To be accredited by PCSAS, a doctoral program must demonstrate that it provides students with high quality science-centered education and training in both research and application, and that it has established a record of producing graduates who have demonstrated they are competent: (a) to conduct research relevant to the assessment, prevention, treatment, and understanding of health and mental health disorders; and (b) to apply clinical science to design, develop, select, evaluate, deliver, supervise, and disseminate empirically based assessments, interventions, and prevention strategies.
This commitment to integrative training in research and application must be evident and coherent in the program's curriculum and operation, apparent in the accomplishments of its faculty and graduates, and explicit in its documents, public disclosures, and web site.
Last update: 03/21/2017