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The Licensing of I-O Psychologists

Bill Macey

 Last February, the APA Council of Representatives received a report from its Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure in Psychology (Commission). Subsequently, APA Council asked SIOP and other divisions for comment on the draft. SIOPs commentary and official response is provided on the pages that follow. This response was crafted by a task force led by Mort McPhail and Laura Koppes and subsequently discussed and approved by the SIOP Executive Committee. Because of the serious implications of licensing issues for many SIOP members, we felt that it is essential for you to understand the why behind SIOPs response.

Some Background

Historically (prior to 1996), SIOP took the position that I-O psychologists should not have to be licensed. However, because of concern over state practice lawswhich technically restricted the practice of I-O psychology to licensed psychologistsa special task force was convened by SIOP in 1993 to reexamine SIOPs policy on licensure. The task force report and recommendation was subsequently approved at a meeting of the membership at the annual Conference in 1996. This policy states,

SIOP recognizes that some states require that certain areas of I-O practice be licensed. SIOP members should be allowed to be licensed in these states if they desire, and SIOP should provide guidance to state licensing boards on how to evaluate the education and training of an I-O psychologist.

More Recently: The Commission Report

The environment has changed. Specifically, the APA Commission Report included two key recommendations thatif adopted by individual stateswould have significant impact on the eligibility of I-O psychologists for licensure. These recommendations, expressed here in abbreviated form, stipulate requirements for licensure including (a) a doctoral degree from an APA- or CPA-accredited program in psychology; or ASPPB designation; and (b) the equivalent of 2 years of supervised professional experience, one of which would be in an APA- or CPA-accredited predoctoral internship. Clearly, such requirements would effectively ban those trained in I-O programs from licensure, and therefore, from practice. More directly to the point, I-O psychologists who practice in areas covered by laws and are not licensed do so in violation of those laws and of the APA ethical standards. Additionally, we would no longer be able to call ourselves psychologists. Importantly, some states have already included provisions in either their legislation or regulations that effectively prohibit I-O psychologists from being licensed. One state has even initiated regulations that would restrict the use of various tests to licensed psychologists while at the same time legislating licensure in a way that would exclude I-O psychologists.

It is important to see these recommendations in the context in which clinical and counseling psychologists work. In particular, given the impact of managed care and the movement to obtain hospital admission and prescription privileges, there is a need felt within APA to tighten licensure requirements to be on a par with other health care providers. APAs response to this need makes perfect sense given that the purpose of licensure from a legal perspective is to protect the health and safety of the public.

Of course, I-O psychologists dont provide health care services. That may not matter as licensing boards face the practical burden of applying enforceable standards. By following APA standards, the state licensing boards have a clear and unambiguous standard by which to develop and propose their own regulations. In other words, the APA standards provide a practical solution to a difficult problem. Importantly, while this may take a very long time to unfold (say, decades), the long-term impact on our profession is not one that we can safely ignore.

The SIOP Response to APA

The 2001 SIOP Task Force and Executive Committee considered multiple alternatives as to how to respond. After considerable deliberation, the option adopted by SIOP is that the commissions recommendations be amended so that (a) APA divisions representing a substantive area of psychology (e.g., I-O) be recognized as a source of designation; and (b) in areas of psychology for which accredited internships are neither required nor available, 2 years of appropriate supervised experience will be regarded as an acceptable substitute. Of course, licensure granted on such terms would never qualify a psychologist to provide therapeutic services or engage in other mental health care practice. Importantly, the choice to not respond was considered and rejected as a viable alternative since it would effectively define I-O as outside the boundaries of professional psychology. Other options were considered excessively onerous, resulting in a lack of control, or requiring resources beyond SIOPs capability to provide.

We are well aware of the concerns that some SIOP members may have. For example, on the surface, our recommendations may appear to suggest that SIOP serve as an accrediting body, defining very specific graduate program requirements. Although all the details have not been worked out, SIOP is not advocating anything like the current APA accreditation process and is not in any way dictating how individual graduate programs should meet programmatic standards. Rather, the emphasis here is clearly on designation. Such a process might incorporate elements similar to those used in the ASPPB designation process. In such a model, a program would have to meet a specific set of criteria, such as curriculum components and/or other specifically identifiable elements. However, from this perspective, programs would be permitted maximum flexibility in meeting competency-based requirements. This is not to say that the process would not have its demands. Clearly, the licensure process must be a rigorous one in order to be acceptable to APA. However, this position is the least onerous of those available.

Changing state laws will be a long-term process. APA has described the process of modifying licensure laws in the 50 states (and Canadian provinces, U.S. territories, etc.) as a 20-year lobbying effort. SIOP does not envision developing structures for designating or recognizing I-O programs without a long and careful examination of all of the stakeholders interests and concerns. Our task at the present time is to make certain that the door is left open for I-O psychologists to participate in deciding who can sit for licensure as an I-O psychologist.

Finally, it is important to note that this is only SIOPs response; there is no assurance whatsoever that APA will accept it. That said, this is not the only way that SIOP can respond. However, we believe that it is better for us to be heard now as part of the APA process than to remain silent and protest later.


The task of putting together SIOPs response was a challenging one and accomplished with extraordinary professionalism under highly demanding time constraints. Special thanks go to Mort McPhail and Laura Koppes who cochaired the task force. Able support and advice was provided by Greg Gourmanous, Rich Klimoski, Kevin Murphy, Mickey Quinones, and Ann Marie Ryan. The eventual outcome may not be determined for years, but I have no doubt that in the end we will all owe them much more than a simple thanks for this truly significant contribution to our profession.

SIOPs Response to the Commission on Education and
Training Leading to Licensure


September 10, 2001


Mr. Robert Walsh

Education Directorate

American Psychological Association

750 First St. NE

Washington, D.C. 20002-4242


Re: Division 14 Response to the Report and Recommendations of the Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure


Dear Mr. Walsh:

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Division 14 of APA, has reviewed the Commissions report and recommendations for changing APAs policy regarding minimum requirements for licensure. Our Society is gravely concerned about the direction that the Commission has taken in this matter. If the recommendations are adopted and implemented as proposed, members of Division 14 would be effectively denied opportunity to be licensed as psychologists.

  • Despite language in the Model Licensing Act and in the legislation and regulations of many jurisdictions, which defines the practice of psychology in ways that clearly and unambiguously include many of the activities performed by industrial and organizational psychologists;
  • Despite attempts by some licensing boards to restrict to licensed psychologists certain activities (such as the use of psychological tests) that are undoubtedly within the purview of I-O psychologists;
  • Despite the fact that there is precedent in a number of jurisdictions for the effective common licensure of clinical/counseling and I-O practitioners with appropriate rules and procedures to encompass the full range of our profession;
  • Despite the fact that I-O psychologists have an excellent history of ethical, competent practice without the imposition of APA accreditation of either graduate programs or supervised experience;

the Commissions proposal would preclude us from being identified as psychologists or practicing in our areas of competence. This outcome is clearly unacceptable.

It is our judgment that the Commissions proposals as drafted are unnecessarily restrictive, exclusive, and burdensome and that they fail to recognize the diversity of models for training and practice in psychology, while providing little in terms of benefit to the profession of psychology as a whole. APAs accreditation criteria for programs and internships, while adequately serving the needs of clinical and counseling psychology, are inadequate and inappropriate for the evaluation of graduate education and training in I-O psychology.

Accordingly, we will present to the APA Council formal amendments to the Commissions proposals that incorporate language to allow additional avenues for licensure beyond those provided by APA accreditation or ASPPB designation. Specifically, we will offer the following amended proposals for the Councils consideration (amendments noted in italics):

1. A doctoral degree from an APA- or CPA-accredited program in psychology. In areas of psychology for which accreditation in the programs substantive area is not available, the program will be required to be designated as a doctoral program in psychology by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, the National Register of Health Providers in Psychology, or the division of APA representing that substantive area.

2. The equivalent of 2 years of organized, sequential, supervised professional experience, one year of which is an APA- or CPA-accredited predoctoral internship, or one that meets APPIC membership criteria, or, for school psychologists, a predoctoral internship based in a school setting which meets CDSPP Doctoral Level Internship Guidelines. The other year of experience also may be completed prior to receiving the doctoral degree. In areas of psychology for which accredited internships are neither required nor available (e.g., Industrial-Organizational psychology, psychometrics and test development, human factors, consumer psychology, educational psychology, sports psychology, and social psychology), 2 years of appropriate supervised professional experience will meet this requirement. Consistent with APAs Ethical Standards, licensure granted on the basis of supervised experience outside of formal internships does not qualify a psychologist to perform therapeutic or other mental health care practice.

In summary, we believe the Commissions proposal is unacceptable in its present form and offer amendments as presented above to address our concerns. If you would like to discuss these amendments, please feel free to contact Dr. Richard Klimoski, who served as a member of the Commission representing Division 14, or contact me directly.



William H. Macey, PhD

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (APA Division 14)


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