In 2004, the United States had 85,000 psychologists trained at the doctoral level, the standard educational path for practice as an independent clinical psychologist.18 To become a licensed clinical psychologist, graduates of doctoral programs also must complete supervised postdoctoral training (Olvey and Hogg, 2002).
Clinically oriented graduate programs are organized and accredited in three categories: clinical psychologist preparation, counseling, and school psychologist preparation. Psychologists can remain generalists or develop an area of expertise within these broad categories. Most relevant to the provision of psychosocial health services to medically ill patients and their families is the specialty of clinical health psychology, discussed in more detail below. Other relevant specialties include neuropsychology, rehabilitation psychology, and pediatric psychology. Just over 5,000 members of the American Psychological Association (APA) list a medically related interest area.19
Clinical health psychology has been a major area of growth, and part of the psychology discipline’s organized effort to broaden its scope from a mental health to a health profession. It was formally recognized by APA as a specialty in the professional practice of psychology in 1997. There are 68 doctoral programs across clinical, counseling, and school psychology with an emphasis in health or medically related areas (APA, 2006b). There are 201 predoctoral internships with a major rotation in health psychology and 381 with a minor rotation, plus an additional 51 postdoctoral fellowships that incorporate training on this topic (http://www.appic.org/directory/).
Accreditation Accreditation of educational programs for psychologists is managed by the APA’s Committee on Accreditation. The aim is to ensure that each program has “… clearly defined and appropriate objectives and maintains conditions under which their achievement can reasonably be expected. It encourages improvement through continuous self-study and review” (http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/). Accreditation is offered for doctoral programs, pre- and postdoctoral internships, and specialty postdoctoral internships. The latter are limited in number and include a focus on clinical child psychology (3), clinical health psychology (5), clinical neuropsychology (11), and rehabilitation psychology (1). (Doctoral accreditation encompasses master’s-level training, but accreditation is not
18Individuals with a master’s degree in psychology also can practice under the direction of a doctoral-prepared psychologist, or independently as school psychologists or counselors (APA, 2003; Duffy et al., 2004).
19Personal communication, Cynthia Belar, PhD, Executive Director for Education, American Psychological Association, October 18, 2006.