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PCSAS was established as an independent entity by the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science (APCS-the Academy). Founded in 1995, the Academy now has over 80 member programs, all of which are doctoral training programs in clinical and health psychology or psychology internship programs. Academy members share a primary commitment to the education and training of psychological clinical scientists.

Because all Academy programs are committed to advancing psychological clinical science, they soon reached consensus on the importance of creating PCSAS as an accreditation system to promote high-quality science-centered doctoral education and training. The system is intended not only to foster excellence in the doctoral training of clinical psychologists, but also to enhance the knowledge base for disseminating and delivering the safest, most cost-effective mental and behavioral health services to the public.

More specifically, PCSAS was created in reaction to an accreditation system developed in the 1940s that many saw as too rigid and too rooted in a bygone time of clinical psychology. The goal was to inject a new system with a modern perspective that, first, took account of the exciting recent developments in psychological science – in clinical science, cognitive science, neuroscience, social science, etc. – and, second, encouraged an approach that recognized and helped advance training practices to produce even more innovative developments in psychological science.

The idea of creating an accreditation system targeted on doctoral education and training in psychological clinical science had been discussed for many years–at least since 1992, when the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the $1.8 bill federal agency that funds a major portion of psychology’s mental health training; the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the 35,000 member organization supporting the science of psychology; and the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP), the umbrella group for some 500 Chairs of Psychology Departments sponsored a Summit on the Future of AccreditationThat 3-day meeting brought together 140 delegates who were Chairs of Psychology Departments or Directors of Clinical Training. Agreement emerged from the Summit on “the need for urgent reform of the [then-sole] accreditation system in psychology.”

The idea for the Academy also came out of the Summit and the birth of PCSAS took place at a special meeting on accreditation organized by the Academy Executive Committee in January 2006. The meeting culminated in the decision to develop a new accreditation system–a decision subsequently ratified by Academy members at their annual meeting in May 2006. At the next annual meeting, in May 2007, a formal draft proposal for such a system was presented to members, and in October 2007, the APCS membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of launching the proposed system.

The Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System, Inc. (PCSAS) was incorporated officially in Delaware on December 27, 2007. The PCSAS Board of Directors held its first meeting by phone in February 2008, and met in person in May 2008, at which time the Board elected officers, selected an Executive Director, and established the agenda for the coming year.

Although PCSAS was founded by APCS, the Association for Psychological Science (APS) has played an important supportive role in its creation and development. APS is an organization devoted to advancing psychological science, so its values and interests are congruent with those of PCSAS. During the 1990s, APS provided critical support for the establishment of APCS, and was a key player in exploring alternatives to the existing accreditation system. More recently, APS was a staunch supporter of the Academy’s efforts to create PCSAS. APS exerts no control over PCSAS, but it has been, and will continue to be, a source of encouragement and support.

PCSAS pursued official recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and was deemed eligible to apply by CHEA’s Board of Directors in May 2011.  At its September 2012 meeting, the CHEA Board approved its Committee on Recognition’s recommendation, and granted full CHEA recognition to PCSAS.  CHEA’s recognition was continued after an interim review in the fall of 2015 and 2018. And, in 2022, after a reaffirmation review, CHEA extended PCSAS accreditation for another seven years.

In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, by far the largest trainer and employer of psychologists in the world, revised federal regulations to recognize PCSAS, making the students and graduates of PCSAS programs eligible for VA internships and staff positions.

PCSAS also is working to establish collaborative relationships with–and recognition by–other relevant entities, including formal recognition by the U.S. Public Health Service, the Department of Defense and ongoing relationships with other federal institutions (e.g., Congress, NIMH, NIDA, NIAAA, OBSSR, SAMSHA); state and provincial licensing boards (where as of mid-2021, states representing more than 30 percent of the U.S. population recognize PCSAS graduates for licensing); mental health professionals and groups; and consumers.