Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shrinking the Shrinks

From the Random Samples section of the Oct. 2 Science Magazine (I was not successful in spotting the report mentioned on the APS website):
Many training programs for clinical psychologists in the United States should be scrapped, an organization of psychologists says. In a report to be released this month, the Association for Psychological Science (APS) calls for more scientific rigor in psychotherapy. "Clinical psychology resembles medicine at a point in its history when practitioners were operating in a largely prescientific manner," it says. Therapists' "lack of adequate science training ... leads them to value personal clinical experience over research evidence." The report lambastes the American Psychological Association (APA)—which comprises mainly clinical psychologists—for lax accreditation standards and proposes a new mechanism for certifying Ph.D. training programs.

Psychologist Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University in Atlanta praises the report, saying, "Far too many practitioners are administering unsubstantiated or untested intervention." But he worries that its proposals would freeze out Psy.D. programs, nonresearch degrees begun in the 1970s, which now turn out about half of the nation's clinical psychologists.

Jeffrey Zeig, a clinical psychologist and director of the Milton H. Erikson Foundation in Phoenix, says psychotherapy is much too diverse to be constrained by APS definitions. "There are more than 1,000,000 therapists in the U.S., and only a fraction" have Ph.D.s, says Zeig, who predicts the report "will have as much effect as a breeze has on a leaf."

But report co-author Timothy Baker of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison predicts that it "will ultimately reshape clinical psychology just as the [1910] Flexner Report reshaped medicine," leading to the closure of almost half the nation's medical schools.

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