OVERVIEW OF PCSASThe power of any accrediting body is derived from the trust and authority granted to it by those seeking its imprimatur. PCSAS also has sought external evaluation and approval by applying for recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a prestigious non-governmental body that evaluates accreditation entities. CHEA is well suited to support accreditation systems, such as PCSAS, that emphasize training outcomes as their chief evaluation criteria and that promote the rigorous integration of science and practice. In September 2012, PCSAS was awarded CHEA recognition for a period of up to ten years.
The two hallmarks of PCSAS accreditation are: (a) an emphasis on proximal and distal outcome evidence to evaluate a program's quality and success; and (b) flexibility in evaluating how programs structure their training to produce psychological scientists who effectively integrate research and application, the core PCSAS training objective. The flexibility hallmark does not mean a compromise of standards; 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 pedagogical approach rests with the applicant program. However, just as grant review panels typically find, when evaluating diverse grant proposals, we expect to find that the most successful accreditation applications have certain key characteristics in common--namely, clearly articulated goals, coherent plans for achieving the goals, and records of achievement that augur well for continued success.
Psychological clinical science is an applied science. As such, it 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's focus on promoting training that integrates research and application is predicated on the assumption that public health will be served best by training clinical psychologists as scientists who will use their knowledge and skills to advance basic knowledge as well as to develop and evaluate more cost-effective interventions, assessments, and prevention strategies. PCSAS-accredited programs will 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--i.e., who delivers what services to whom--should be decided based on the best scientific evidence available. Clinical psychologists trained as scientists in PCSAS-accredited programs should be qualified to play leading roles in designing, building, overseeing, and evaluating the science-driven health-care system of tomorrow.
PCSAS serves the public interest by awarding its accreditation "brand" to high-quality science-centered clinical programs that provide their graduates with the essential skills and knowledge to be productive and competent psychological scientists. The PCSAS accreditation imprimatur is intended to provide prospective students, health-care consumers, policy makers, and the public at large with the information they need to discriminate among the diverse and often confusing array of clinical psychology and other mental health programs, graduates, and services.
PCSAS accredits only doctoral training programs that grant Ph.D. degrees and are housed in non-profit, research-intensive universities. PCSAS accreditation is not appropriate for, nor is it intended for, programs with a chief mission of training psychologists for specialized careers in applied clinical work. To be accredited by PCSAS, a doctoral program must demonstrate that it provides students with high quality science-centered education and training in research and application, and that it has established a record of producing graduates who have demonstrated that they are competent (1) to conduct research relevant to the assessment, prevention, treatment, and understanding of health and mental health disorders; and (2) to use science methods and evidence 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: 10/10/2012