Preparing psychology's next generation

APAPO has teamed up with the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology and APA Div. 42 to address the need for business skills development

by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

November 20, 2008 — Identifying a fundamental gap in psychologist training, representatives of the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO), National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) and APA Div. 42 (Independent Practice) worked together to create a model syllabus on practice management (35 KB).

"While graduate programs may have coursework in supervision and professional issues, very few teach the business skills psychologists need to thrive in today's marketplace," said David Ballard, PsyD, MBA, APA's Assistant Executive Director for Corporate Relations and Business Strategy, APAPO's representative on the joint project. "Our hope is that the inclusion of business of practice topics in the graduate school curriculum will better prepare early career psychologists to practice in the real world, thereby enhancing their ability to provide valuable psychological services and earn a decent living," he said.

With "management and supervision" as one of its core competencies, NCSPP decided to work with the APAPO and Division 42 to develop a model course for practice management. "The idea was that this course would focus on practice management issues that practitioners wish they had learned while they were in school, prior to entering the workforce," says Lavita Nadkarni, PhD, chair of NCSPP's Education and Pedagogy Committee.

"Division 42 jumped at the chance to be a part of a project that equips practitioners with doable steps to enhance their practices and skill base," said Jana Martin, PhD, Division 42 President. "Our members have been requesting support with business of practice issues, and this course meets a real need," Dr. Martin said.

The Project's model syllabus covers topics under several headings:

  • Business of practice, for example: billing and reimbursement, business strategy, HIPAA compliance 

  • Marketing strategies, for example: understanding market trends, developing referral streams, community outreach 

  • Career opportunities, for example: understanding the healthcare system, practice growth and diversification, preparing for leadership and administrative positions 

  • Personal, for example: professional affiliations, self-care strategies, establishing and maintaining proper boundaries. 

  • Legal/ethical, for example: licensure, insurance issues, ethical decision making.

In addition, the syllabus lists required and supplemental readings, as well as Web resources.

The project members recommend that the contents of this syllabus be required at some point in the graduate school curriculum. "While the task force was unanimous in its recognition of the importance of such a course for all NCSPP programs and graduate students, we felt that each program should retain the right to offer the course in whatever fashion best fit its model of education and training," says Dr. Nadkarni.

Options include offering the class as an overview course during students' first year, as an advanced-level applied course, as a regular colloquium for all years or as seminars available to students and alumni.

"It's exciting to see the practice community working together and taking concrete steps to address the dearth of education and training in this area," said Dr. Ballard. "It's high time we started providing the next generation of psychologists with the skills they need to perform at their best."