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Historical Background for the Council of Specialties
Interorganizational Council for Accreditation of Postdoctoral Programs in Psychology (IOC)

The IOC was in existence from January 1992 to September 1997. During this time it wrote accreditation guidelines for postdoctoral training programs in professional psychology. In the later years of its work, the council collaborated directly with the Committee on Accreditation in establishing the current guidelines, a self-study document, mechanisms for postdoctoral accreditation, and mechanisms for the selection of site visitors and reviewers.

Historical Context

For many years, only the general practice specialties of clinical, counseling, industrial/organizational, and school psychology were recognized by APA. About 12 years ago, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) began to recognize other areas in professional psychology as specialties. Diplomas were issued in areas of practice in which an organizational group demonstrated that their specialty represented a unique body of knowledge and practice, applied for Board status, and was accepted by ABPP.


Interorganizational Council for Accreditation of Postdoctoral Programs in Psychology

It is widely held that doctoral education in psychology should be broadly founded on scientific discipline and professional applications. The Final Report of the Task Force on Scope and Criteria for Accreditation, April 1989 (of the APA Education and Training Committee) proposed that two initiatives be taken:


  1. APA sponsor a national conference on postdoctoral training and education

  2. APA prompt the formation of an interorganizational committee to recognize professional specialties in psychology.


The Joint Council on Professional Education in Psychology (August, 1990) recommended that specialization in psychology be at the postdoctoral level and accreditation be made available through such education and training. In September 1991, American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) sponsored a conference on Accreditation of Postdoctoral Programs in Professional Psychology in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which recommended that an Interorganizational Council be formed for the accreditation of postdoctoral training programs.


Following these recommendations, in January of 1992, the Interorganizational Council for Accreditation of Postdoctoral Programs in Psychology (IOC) was established to promote excellence in postdoctoral education and training of professional psychologists. The initial task of this council was to develop a process and structure to generate quality standards for the evaluation and accreditation of postdoctoral programs. The membership of the IOC consisted of the organizations involved with accreditation, credentialing, and licensing in psychology:


  • APA, Association of Predoctoral, Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC)

  • Association of State and Providential Psychology Boards (ASPPB)

  • National Register (NR)

  • Canadian National Register (CNR)

  • Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)


(with two votes each) plus a representative of the postdoctoral training association in each specialty or in the absence of such an association, then a representative from the appropriate ABPP-recognized specialty board (with one vote each).


Meeting two to three times per year, the IOC developed postdoctoral accreditation standards. It was hoped that this would prompt APA to develop postdoctoral accreditation mechanisms housed within the existing APA accreditation structure. After initial discussions, the IOC broadened its focus on specialty areas to include postdoctoral training programs in general areas of professional psychology. Past recommendations on education and training were reviewed as well as the recommendations of the two national conferences on postdoctoral education and training held concurrently with the operation of the IOC (the APPIC-sponsored National Conference on Postdoctoral Fellowship Training in Applied Psychology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 1992; and the APA-sponsored National Conference on Postdoctoral Education and Training in Psychology, Norman, Oklahoma, January 1994). At each level of work in the IOC, attention was given to whether the resulting standards and procedures presented problems for any specialty. Therefore, specialty representatives had the opportunity to request modifications in the documents as they were formulated.


Two changes within APA had a major impact on development of specialties: 1) the Committee on Accreditation (CoA) began to focus on postdoctoral training and 2) APA established a mechanism for the recognition of specialties.


Committee on Accreditation

Once the CoA began to focus on postdoctoral training, the IOC and CoA collaborated and a liaison from the CoA attended IOC meetings. The IOC believed that, if possible, the mechanisms for postdoctoral accreditation should be housed within the CoA. To speed the work, a joint task force was established, consisting of members of each organization. The effort resulted in the development of accreditation criteria and procedures for general postdoctoral programs, a self-study document, and criteria to select site visitors and psychologists to join with CoA panel members to review these programs. At all times the CoA maintained its independence and considered the work of the IOC and other sources as it developed its own criteria and procedures and sent this material for public review.


Because specialties have additional unique criteria for accreditation, the mechanisms developed to accredit general psychology postdoctoral programs were not sufficient to evaluate specialty programs. A number of alternate mechanisms for accomplishing these tasks were considered by the IOC, CoA, and the Joint IOC/CoA Task Force.


APA Recognition of Specialties as Related to Postdoctoral Accreditation

APA established a mechanism for the recognition of specialties through the Council for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology (CRSPPP). For legal and logistical reasons, CRSPPP will recognize specialties but not a board, entity, or organization representing that specialty. This creates a problem in the accreditation of specialty postdoctoral training programs because there is no recognized body to speak for that specialty. Also, although CRSPPP recognizes the specialty's standards, these standards may change over the years and CRSPPP only reviews the status of the specialty at set intervals, e.g., every seven years. As will be discussed later, the IOC recommended that a Council of Specialties be established to solve this and other problems in the APA systems.


There was disagreement regarding which organizations would be represented in CRSPPP, both by APA and some of the potential member organizations, so an advisory council that was independent of CRSPPP was formed. This advisory council was called Recognition, Accreditation, and Credentialing Roundtable (RACR). RACR eventually evolved into the Council of Credentialing Organizations in Professional Psychology (CCOPP). The core members of CCOPP are the organizational members of the IOC with CPA and CNR functioning as observers at their own request.


IOC Recommended Mechanisms for Specialty Voice and Specialty Input to the CoA

The procedures for the accreditation of general postdoctoral training programs were established and the CoA trained site visitors to review postdoctoral programs.


Procedures and standards to accredit postdoctoral programs in a specialty were not yet established. Specialty accreditation criteria were to be additive to the general (generic) accreditation criteria. However, the CoA did not have a mechanism to review these additive criteria. Also, the specialties, represented on the IOC, objected to the CoA approving specialty criteria because that could give the CoA control, or veto power, over these criteria.


To facilitate the accreditation of specialty programs the IOC: 1) recommended that each specialty establish a specialty council or consortia that includes representatives from a broad constituency of that specialty (including at least the ABPP Academy, the ABPP Specialty Board, the APA Division(s), and the organization of training and education directors in that specialty at the doctoral, internship, and postdoctoral residency levels; and 2) endorsed the formation of a Council of Specialties to facilitate the accreditation of postdoctoral residency programs in areas of specialization, and to identify representatives of the specialties to serve as previewers and site visitors in the accreditation of postdoctoral psychology residency programs. The IOC recommended the initial charge of this Council of Specialties include the following objectives:


  1. To further develop the template for specialty guidelines for accreditation of postdoctoral education and training programs in professional psychology.

  2. Endorse the specialty specific guidelines developed accordingly by each specialty council.

  3. Communicate these guidelines:

    1. the organizations responsible for accreditation (e.g., APA-CoA/CPA-Panel on Accreditation)

    2. to organizations responsible for recognition of specialties, (e.g., CRSPPP)

    3. to organizations responsible for credentialing psychologists, (e.g., ABPP, NR, CR, ASPPB).

  4. Facilitate the resolution of disputes that may develop about inter-specialty boundaries and that may affect accreditation of postdoctoral specialty programs in professional psychology, recognition of specialties, or certification of specialists.

  5. Serve as an advisory body to CoA for education and training standards and procedures in accreditation of postdoctoral specialty programs in professional psychology


It was suggested that the current specialty representative to the IOC initially serve as the representative to the Council of Specialties. As of September 1997 two organizational meetings of the Council of Specialties have been held and APA, through the Office of Accreditation, and ABPP are likely to provide financial support to assist this organization during its startup period.


Sunsetting of the IOC

The members of the IOC were satisfied with the standards and procedures developed by the CoA and voted to sunset the Council as of the final meeting held in September 1997.



National Conference on Postdoctoral Training sponsored by the American Psychological Association, Norman, OK, January 18-23, 1994


National Conference on Postdoctoral Fellowship Training in Applied Psychology sponsored by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, Ann Arbor, MI, October 27 - November 1, 1992.


National Conference on the Scientist-Practitioner Model in Education and Training of Professional Psychologists sponsored by several organizations, Gainesville, FL, January, 1990.


National Conference on Internship Training in Psychology sponsored by several organizations, Gainesville, FL, March 1987.


[ IOC Article 10/97 | IOC/APA ]

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