Assessment competency: What is it, who has it, and how do we move the needle for masters level providers in psych science?

Over the last few years I’ve started to delve into competency research, particularly around psychological assessment. In brief, research over the last two decades has clearly detailed that students do not have a sufficient amount of training in psychological assessment to effectively and efficiently conduct the higher-order conceptual tasks associated with diagnosis and behavior prediction via a finalized integrative report. A recent predoctoral internship match survey also highlights this insufficient training with the median number of assessment hours is 100 while the median number of therapy hours is over 600.

My work has also shown how poorly perceived competence is related to performance-based competence (Ingram et al., 2019, 2020), and how prediction of wanting to engage in assessment is a function of perceived competency (Preprint: Bergquist et al., 2019). Some pre-doctoral training programs dont even expect this core competency (Ingram et al., 2021). Research on developing competency in assessment also lags far behind psychotherapy training, with substantially less research. The research creates a cohesive message: doctoral psychologists are not sufficiently trained in this core component of our identity and professional practice.

At the same time, APA is adapting the times and pushing an accredited masters program framework in health psychology (some states have LPA licenses, but not specific accreditation standards of psychology on which to rely). This is a good move by APA and helps them ensure clinical psychological practice has a foothold in the discussion of what constitutes good treatment. We need this seat at the table – this is the newest iteration of the old battle that led to psychologists being able to do therapy, much to the resistance of psychiatrists at the time.

The problem is “if doctoral psychologists are not competent at the end of their program, how can masters level folks do the same?”. This is a big problem and a major question. Recently a set of proposed guidance was released and public comments were allowed. The purpose of this guidance was to setup the scope of practice for these providers. I had the opportunity to help prepare a set of shared comments from APA Division 12 (Clinical Psychology)’s section for Assessment Psychology. These (Click to download a draft of the document and HERE for the final version) are some takeaways about how to make sure assessment conducted by the MA provider is good practice not just practice from my perspective/contribution to the document.

  • Restrict scope of practice within psychological assessment
  • Ensure strong conceptual understanding of diagnostic, psychometric, and socio-cultural theory necessary to effectively produce integrative interpretations
  • Specify the type of training sequence required similar to the explicitness of doctoral program requirement
  • Require specific training, including supervised applied practica
  • Expand research on training and competency development in assessment

Published by Dr. Ingram's Psychology Research Lab

I'm an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Texas Tech University and an active researcher of psychological assessment, veterans, and treatment engagement. I am also in private practice here in Lubbock Texas.

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