A Clarification on the Division of Consulting Psychology's
Activities in Developing Practice Guidelines
APA Division 13 Education and Training Committee Member
APA 13 President
APA Division 13 Education and Training Committee Chair
In a recent issue of TIP (volume 37, number 3), we were delighted to
read of Angelo DeNisi's concerns about the perils of psychologists
assuming organizational consulting roles for which they were improperly trained
or undertrained. However, this same article described Division 13 of APA (the
Division of Consulting Psychology) in a manner that concerned us greatly. As
members of both SIOP and Division 13, we are writing this article to more
accurately describe the activities of Division 13 related to practice
guidelines; in the process, we hope to clear up some of these misunderstandings,
and also to facilitate on-going dialogues between these two divisions regarding
professional practice in the area of organizational consultation.
About the Division of Consulting Psychologists (Division 13)
For SIOP members who may not be familiar with Division 13 of APA (the
Division of Consulting Psychology, or D13), a brief introduction may be helpful.
D13 was originally established within the American Psychological Association to
address the concern that there were no explicit qualifications or guidelines
established for psychologists working as examiners and/or psychological experts.
This need to clarify standards, formally identified in the mid-1910s, resurfaced
several times throughout the 20th century in response to changes in
psychologists' roles in assessment, consultation, and intervention, always with
the same goals: to protect the public as well as to maintain the highest
professional standards for psychologists.
Currently, D13 has a membership of approximately 1,200 psychologists.
Although its membership includes many psychologists with clinical and counseling
backgrounds, approximately 22% of its members graduated from I-O or
organizational programs, according to a survey reported in 1997. The typical D13
member is 43 years of age, and has practiced applied psychological roles in
organizational settings for over a decade. Approximately 80% of D13's members
belong to more than one division; of those, the greatest number (23%) also
belong to SIOP. D13 publishes a newsletter (The Update) and a
peer-reviewed journal (Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research)
(CPJ) in conjunction with the Educational Publishing Foundation of APA.
Professional Roles of Division 13 Members
In general, D13 members practice most frequently in areas in which
interpersonal processes and psychological development are the focal concerns. A
survey of D13 members found individual psychological assessment to be the most
frequently cited organizational consulting role, followed by individual process
consultation, general problem solving, and organizational development (Robinson
Kurpius et al., 1995). Roles most closely associated with specialized I-O
training (e.g. test construction and validation) were infrequently endorsed by
D13 members as part of their professional roles. This profile of D13 members and
their practices reveals three important points: first, D13 members, including
those who are not I-O psychologists, have a long history of practicing in
organizational consulting roles; second, that most D13 members have many years'
postdoctoral experience; third, except for occasional special applications of
individual assessment, most of the work of D13 members falls outside of the
jurisdiction of required professional licensure.
Division 13's Concern about Organizational Consulting
In his column, Dr. DeNisi stated that D13 is developing guidelines for
executive coaching. He was quoting from a source which (unbeknownst to him)
contained inaccurate information. Although D13 is involved in drafting
practice guidelines, these guidelines are neither specific to executive
coaching, nor do they advocate for clinical or counseling degrees (or against
I-O degrees) as preparation for organizational consulting.
The motivations behind D13's decision to pursue the development of practice
guidelines is perhaps most clearly illustrated by several articles recently
published in CPJ. Two articles, one by Garman and Hellkamp (1998) and the
other by Lowman (1998), describe the application of psychological principles to
working with organizations as a domain larger than any one doctoral program
currently being offered. I-O psychologists, for all their training in
organizational psychology and assessment, do not always receive the level of
course work necessary to be optimally effective in individual change roles such
as process consultation or executive coaching. Similarly, clinical and
counseling psychologists, for all their training in individual assessment and
facilitating individual change, do not typically receive adequate preparation to
work effectively on many of the human resource issues I-O psychologists are well
prepared for, including job analysis, test validation, compensation design, and
In short, graduates of any doctoral degree will likely need additional
training before practicing effectively in some areas of psychological
consultation. Currently, there are no universally accepted guidelines for
pursuing such training. This leaves training decisions entirely up to the
individual practitioner, which works well in some ways but falls short in
others. In particular, consumers of our services have no way of distinguishing
psychologists who have been adequately prepared for these roles from those who
are not fully prepared.
Division 13's Current Position on Licensure
The issue of licensure, also mentioned in Dr. DeNisi's column, is a
complicated one, for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, consumers of our
services often cannot and do not differentiate between various types of
psychologists; what one psychologist does well or poorly affects our entire
profession. Clinical psychology is currently a licensable profession, and while
D13 does not view clinical licensure as in any way proof of competency to
practice organizational consultation, we share Dr. DeNisi's concern about the
public's potential confusion regarding licensure.
In summary, D13's concerns regarding psychological consultation to
organizations is in the interest of protecting the public as well as the
reputation of our profession. Our experiences with both divisions lead us to
believe that D13's interests parallel those of SIOP in many ways.
How Division 13 and SIOP Can (And Should) Work Together
Rather than attempting to exclude SIOP from these discussions, we share Dr.
DeNisi's desire to have SIOP members involved. Although there are aspects of
D13's and SIOP's interests and professional practices that are distinct, the two
divisions share at least two goals in common: helping organizations achieve the
fullest potential of their investments in people, and establishing ourselves as
highly competent providers within our areas of practice. We believe it will
serve the interests of both divisions better to join in establishing any
practice guidelines that would affect psychologists working in organizational
Division 13 shares SIOP's concerns about the dangers of psychologists
practicing outside their expertise, dangers both for the individual practitioner
and for the profession consumers inevitably associate them with. What the field
needs are better means for judging whether any given professional,
regardless of whether they possess I-O, clinical, business, or other
backgrounds, is fit to practice in a given area of expertise. It is our hope
that both divisions can work together in this regard.
DeNisi, A. (2000). A message from your president. The
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 37(3), 7-10.
Garman, A. N., & Hellkamp, D. T. (1998). Graduate training and consulting
psychology: A content analysis of doctoral-level programs. Consulting
Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 50, 207-217.
Lowman, R. L. (1998). New directions for graduate training in consulting
psychology. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 50, 263-270.
O'Roark, A. M. (1999). A history of Division 13 initiatives on education and
training in consulting psychology. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice
and Research, 51, 218-225.
Robinson Kurpius, S. E., Fuqua, D. R., Gibson, G., Kurpius, D. J., &
Froehle, T. C. (1995). An occupational analysis of consulting psychology:
Results of a national survey. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and
Research, 47, 75-88.
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