The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) announced in March that its board of directors had approved a plan to develop an additional
licensure exam that would complement the existing test. The
new exam, called the EPPP (Examination of Professional
Practice in Psychology) Step 2, would focus on assessing skills,
while the existing EPPP would continue to test knowledge.
The announcement about the EPPP- 2, which may become
a requirement as early as January 2019, is evoking mixed
responses in the psychology community.
“I can definitely support the idea that there is a need to
test skills because there are inconsistencies in training, but
I’m worried that it will be expensive and yet another hoop
that students are going to have to deal with,” says Christine
Jehu, PhD, chair of the American Psychological Association of
Graduate Students (APAGS).
For others, the announcement was primarily welcome and
perhaps long overdue news. “The competency movement has
been going on for 30 years in psychology, and this new test
is very consistent with a number of initiatives APA has been
involved with,” says Catherine Grus, PhD, deputy director of
APA’s Education Directorate.
In 2004, for example, APA formed a task force that studied
then-current practices in competency assessment within
psychology and other health professions. Two years later, the
group released a report recommending that psychology develop
a mechanism to test knowledge, skills and attitudes. The EPPP
tests knowledge, but not skills and attitudes, Grus says.
“There are hundreds of different psychology training
programs and practicum and internship sites, all with different
supervisors and no common standard,” says ASPPB CEO
Stephen DeMers, EdD. “We have to find a way to keep the
process of education credible and the profession relevant.”
While APA accreditation holds schools to a certain standard
of education, relatively few states have licensing laws that
require psychologists to graduate from an accredited school.
Even if all states required graduation from an accredited
program, the field still needs to develop a method of screening
candidates for licensure, DeMers says. “Accreditation evaluates
an entire program, but licensure depends on competency of an
individual,” he says.
A test of skills is also in line with competency testing
models used for other medical professionals such as MDs, says
Eddy Ameen, PhD, director of APA’s Office on Early Career
Psychologists. “Proper competency assessment is an important
part of what it means to be a psychologist. It ensures that all
who treat the public have a minimum universal skill set.”
DeMers hopes that the EPPP Step 2 ultimately will help
psychologists increase their clout when lobbying third-party
payers for reimbursement coverage and government agencies
for federal programs. “I think we lose opportunities in these
areas when we are not demonstrating a maintenance of
competence,” he says. “For that reason, I think this change is
exciting and also necessary.”
The path to a new test
The ASPPB initially explored the idea of developing a skill-based exam in the 1990s when it investigated an approach
A new licensure test is on the horizon.
What is it and why is it necessary?
By Heather Stringer