Improving Public Health Through Accreditation

-To help training programs meet the highest standards of a Clinical Science model
-To integrate the science and practice of psychology
-To practice and disseminate the most effective mental health treatments
-To expand the scientific basis for understanding and treating mental illness

The Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that provides rigorous, objective, and empirically based accreditation of Ph.D. programs that adhere to a clinical science training model — one that supports and expands the scientific foundation for mental health care and increases the quality and quantity of clinical scientists contributing to all aspects of public health.  

PCSAS is now in its eleventh year of accrediting Ph.D programs in Clinical Psychology that adhere to a ‘clinical science’ training model. We have made enormous progress in those eleven years. Here are some updates from just the last few months: 

Over 30 percent of the U.S. population now live in states that recognize PCSAS when Arizona became the newest state to recognize PCSAS for licensing with legislation passed this spring. Arizona joins a growling list of states that includes California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Delaware, and New Mexico; 

The Minnesota Psychology Licensing Board voted 9-0 to recognize PCSAS, which starts the process to recognize PCSAS graduates for licensing there; 

The U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) now recognizes PCSAS. PCSAS graduates are welcome as members of the PHS Commissioned Corps, the branch of the nation’s uniformed services headed by the Surgeon General;

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) just revised its policy to allow PCSAS programs to apply for their Graduate Psychology Education and Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training programs.  

For a status report on other PCSAS issues, see PCSAS by the Numbers.

NEW: PCSAS Newsletter – created, peer-reviewed and edited by PCSAS Graduate Students:

Volume 1, Issue 1Special Issue on DiversityVolume 1, Issue 2

Volume 2, Issue 1; Volume 2, Issue 2

The Story Behind PCSAS

The origins of PCSAS are rooted in a 1992 Summit Meeting on the Future of Accreditation that brought together 140 leading scholars in psychological science who were chairs of of Psychology Departments or Directors of Clinical Training in Psychology. 

Three key partners sponsored the Summit, all with serious concerns about psychology’s then-sole accreditation system – the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the $2.6B federal agency within the National Institutes of Health that funds the major portion of psychology’s mental health training; the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP), the umbrella group for 250 Chairs of Psychology Departments; and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the 35,000-member international organization dedicated to advancing the science of psychology.  

Consensus emerged from the Summit on “the need for urgent reform of the [then-sole] accreditation system in psychology.”

Following years of unsuccessful efforts to achieve reform within the prevailing accreditation system, the specifics of PCSAS began to emerge in 1995. PCSAS was formally established as an independent entity in 2007 by the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science, which also grew from the Summit. . 

Since its inception, PCSAS has accredited 44 programs in the United States and Canada, with many others in various stages of the application process (see Accredited Programs).

By almost all measures, these programs are among the most highly regarded in the field. For example, all 20 programs listed as the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report are PCSAS accredited, with forty-one PCSAS programs in the U.S. are listed among the top 50. (U.S. News only ranks U.S. programs.) All 44 PCSAS programs are ranked highly by the National Academies of Sciences, higher than non-PCSAS programs by both their graduates’ scores on state licensing exams and their students’ placements in internships, and by the publication records of their faculties.

Once established, PCSAS sought national evaluation and received formal recognition as soon as it was eligible from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 

  • CHEA is the body of 3,000 colleges and universities that serves as the gold standard for evaluating accreditors as the “primary national voice for quality assurance to the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Education, the general public, opinion leaders, students, and families.” CHEA’s sole purpose is quality assurance of higher education. In this role, CHEA provides a “seal of approval” (top of page) for meeting standards that are indicators of quality. “CHEA recognition affirms that the standards, structures and practices of accrediting organizations promote academic quality, improvement, accountability and needed flexibility and innovation in the institutions they accredit.”
Contact information for PCSAS:
Alan G. Kraut, Executive Director
Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS)
1800 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 402
Washington, DC  20036-1218  USA
(301) 455-8046

Want to Know More? 

For more detailed information about PCSAS’s Purpose, Organization, Policies, and Procedures, read the POPP Manual, a link to which also can be found at at the top of the Publications & Links page of this website.