Psychology boards to add new EPPP-2 exam

red checkmark by piotr siedlecki via publicdomainpictures.netThe Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has announced the development of the EPPP-2 (or EPPP Step 2), a new licensing exam for Psychologists. States would adopt it as an addition to, and not a replacement for, the current EPPP. Even though the test is in the early stages of development, it’s already controversial.

The intent of the new test appears good. The ASPPB and its member boards want to test new psychologists on not just their knowledge, which the current EPPP covers, but also their skills. Measuring competency is difficult but important. It certainly is consistent with licensing boards’ mission to protect the public from incompetent practitioners.

According to the ASPPB, the EPPP-2 will be a computer-based test that will assess competency through “‘innovative item types’ such as the use of vignettes, avatars, multiple-choice items, and items with multiple correct responses.” There is some precedent for this kind of skills assessment, though the American Medical Association has now passed a resolution calling for their Step 2 Clinical Skills exams to be abolished. (Clinical skills for physicians are assessed in the educational process. The Step 2 tests were considered expensive and redundant. Some Psychologists are arguing that their skills are also better assessed during their education.)

There has already been a fair amount of pushback against the new psychology test. ASPPB released a FAQ page earlier this month to answer some of the questions they have been getting. However, since the EPPP-2 is still in development, many of their answers are necessarily incomplete.

The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) and the Committee on Early Career Psychologists sent a joint letter to the APA in June criticizing the EPPP-2 plan. Among their concerns was the cost. The current EPPP costs almost $700 in most locations, and it is likely that the EPPP-2 would be similarly expensive. (Interestingly, the ASPPB cited cost as one reason why the EPPP and EPPP-2 could not be combined into a single test.) The joint letter also expressed concerns about test development and sequencing. Placing another hurdle at the end of an already-long licensure process will only further delay many psychologists’ ability to begin paying down their educational debt. And early career psychologists owe a lot of money. New graduates enter the field with an average of more than $100,000 in debt.

In general, license exams do not serve their public protection intent. The EPPP-2 appears to be a well-intended effort to ensure clinical competence among new Psychologists. However, it is not yet clear whether the EPPP-2 will effectively measure anything other than a person’s ability to pass the EPPP-2.

Implementation of the new exam is not going to be immediate. The ASPPB is currently engaged in an occupational analysis to define the skills that the EPPP-2 should assess. Then they will work on developing mechanisms to test those skills. They have committed to making the EPPP-2 a valid and reliable measure, and the controversy around the test may actually help them achieve that. It will require that they produce and disseminate a significant amount of supporting data. It is perhaps early to criticize a test that has not yet been written, but skepticism here is healthy. And it’s likely to be ultimately helpful.

A therapists’ union is not the answer

USCurrency_Federal_ReserveFirst thing, to be clear: I am pro-union. If there is any possible way that employees at your workplace can unionize, you probably should. Union workers have significantly better pay and working conditions than their non-union counterparts, and the notion that union dues will outweigh the gains you make as part of a union is typically false. Unions are good.

Psychotherapists often decry the current state of the field. Education and training costs continue to rise. Reimbursement rates are not rising. Salaries aren’t keeping up with inflation. The list goes on. (I discuss each of these issues at some length in Saving Psychotherapy.) It makes sense to wonder why there isn’t something like a therapists’ union to protect the interests of psychotherapy professionals.

However, the idea that a union of therapists will fix the problems in the field is largely wrong. A union for psychotherapists is not the solution we’re looking for. Here’s why.

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Professional associations’ responses to Orlando mass shooting

Photo courtesy Orlando PDThe aftermath of a tragedy is perhaps when the public needs professional associations in mental health the most. These groups can speak from their collective knowledge and wisdom about how to best cope with the trauma and find meaningful ways to contribute. Here are the major US mental health professional associations’ responses to this week’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where 49 were killed and 53 others wounded.

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MFTs lose diagnosis fight at Texas Supreme Court

TexasTen days ago, the Texas Supreme Court refused a petition for rehearing from marriage and family therapists (MFTs) seeking to preserve their ability to independently diagnose mental illness. The refusal brings at least a temporary close to a years-long fight between MFTs and the Texas Medical Association, with TMA winning. It could impact other master’s-level professionals not just in Texas but around the country.

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Updated: The ACA should move its 2017 conference out of Tennessee

Updated May 10, 2016: They’re moving the conference. A written statement from President Thelma Duffey is here, and a video from CEO Richard Yep further explaining the decision is here.
Updated April 29, 2016: The ACA has released a statement on HB1840 and asking for patience as their leadership weighs its options for the 2017 conference. The full statement is available here.
Updated April 28, 2016: Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the “religious freedom” bill allowing counselors to freely discriminate, and directly contradicting the ACA Code of Ethics. The ACA should move the conference. My original post, published April 21 under the headline “What should the ACA do about its 2017 conference?” follows. -bc

Tennessee capitol - public domain image via Wikimedia CommonsThe American Counseling Association has been vocal in its opposition to pending legislation in Tennessee that would allow counselors to turn clients away based on any personal belief, even if the refusal to treat is discriminatory in nature. They have said that the bill directly contradicts the ACA Code of Ethics and must be vetoed by the Governor.

If the bill passes, however, it puts the ACA in a quandary: Their 2017 conference — for which registration is currently open — is scheduled to be held in Nashville.

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