More excellent work from TTU Clinical Psych student Becca Bergquist was just accepted to the Journal of Clinical Psychology! Long story short, we were curious if our national sample of clinical/counseling students could give us a better sense of the factors influencing if they plan to incorporate assessment into their careers (as a major component of psychologist professional identity).
Developing long-term professional practice goals is a critical step not only for trainees, but also for designing effective educational approaches to guide competent psychological assessment practice. Thus, understanding factors that shape decisions to engage in this domain of competence are needed, and must include evaluations of self-reported and actual competency as distinct constructs.
Survey invitations were sent to training director(s) (TD) at APA-accredited HSP programs that include substantive training in Clinical or Counseling psychology (including those listed as having combined-type programs). Programs were considered for inclusion if they were located within the United States and listed as accredited on the APA website in January of 2019 (APA, 2018). Our final sample (n = 414; see Table 1) of trainee respondents (PhD = 64%; PsyD = 35.3%) were on average of 27.8 years old (SD = 3.5) and identified as female (79.5%) and white (82.4%). Most trainees were enrolled in a Clinical training program (77.8%) rather than Counseling (17.6%) or a combined type (4.6%) program. This recruitment means that we are talking about PRE-COVID understandings of assessment, with no tele-assessment emphasis.
The findings from this study have four distinct and important themes which warrant additional consideration: (a) students’ intention to utilize assessments in their future careers is incrementally predicted by self-reported competence beyond program characteristics, respondent demographics, and career setting aspirations, (b) self-reported competency plays a larger role than performance-based competency when assessing trainees’ career intentions to involve assessment, (c) graduate training and practice experiences in assessment were insignificant predictors of trainees’ intentions after accounting for the other predictors within the model and, (d) self-reported and performance-based competence influences trainees’ perception of and engagement in training experiences.
Findings suggest that a focus on self-awareness and self-knowledge in competency development (Kaslow et al., 2018) would benefit from ensuring trainee perceptions of their competency align with benchmarked progression. Trainees with high assessment competence (both self-reported and performance-based) reported significantly more hands-on instrument use than their peers with lower assessment competencies. This pattern of findings suggests that efforts to foster assessment competence may be shaped by coursework and practicum training. Thus, efforts to increase exposure and training with assessments may result in greater competence and career engagement. While the aforementioned training components seem to be promising targets for increasing trainee assessment capability, implementing and evaluating these efforts cannot be done without modifying existing training frameworks. Indeed, research generally suggests that traditionally-defined assessment competence, which stems from knowledge and skills obtained during graduate coursework and clinical practicum, does not contribute meaningfully to perceptions of professional competence in practicing psychologists (Neimeyer et al., 2012b).