Queen’s doctorate degree holder denied entry to College of Psychologists of Ontario

Developmental psychology program failed to meet accreditation requirements

The Department of Psychology located in Humphrey Hall.

In a Sept. 20 ruling, the Ontario Health Professions Appeal and Review Board denied an appeal from an unsuccessful applicant to the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO). Despite graduating with a doctoral degree from Queen’s, the applicant was denied registration to become a psychologist in the province.

According to the board’s decision, the applicant dubbed “L.M.” obtained his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in psychology from Queen’s in 2000. He went on to receive his masters degree in psychology from Queen’s in 2003, and completed his doctorate (PhD) in developmental psychology at Queen’s in 2010.

In 2015, L.M. applied for a certificate of registration permitting supervised practice as a psychologist to the CPO. On top of including supplementary information and assessments, his application indicated his various degrees and 17 years of research experience in his field.

Upon reviewing the application, the College noted the applicant didn’t appear to be a part of a Canadian Psychology Association (CPA) accredited clinical psychology doctoral program at Queen’s. A representative at the University confirmed with the College that L.M’s degree in developmental psychology wasn’t accredited through the CPA and didn’t include a formal internship.

As a result, L.M.’s application was referred to the College’s Registration Committee to determine whether the panel believed his program was equivalent to a CPA accredited program. In April 2016, the Committee ruled the applicant wasn’t eligible for registration as his program wasn’t deemed equivalent to a CPA accredited doctoral program.

L.M. subsequently appealed the result to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board. The Board wrote in their ruling, “[t]here is no dispute that the Applicant’s doctoral program was not within the CPA accreditation stream. Accordingly, the Board must consider whether it is equivalent to standards of the CPA under section 12 (1)1ii of the Regulation.”

The Board went on to explain the criteria required for the College to consider a program “equivalent” to a CPA accredited program. Among other things, the program must require candidates demonstrate competency in five core content areas: biological bases of behaviour; cognitive affective bases of behaviour; social bases of behaviour; psychology of the individual; and historical and scientific foundations of psychology. Both the Board and the College found the Queen’s developmental psychology program didn’t meet this requirement.

Furthermore, the Board’s ruling said the CPA accredited programs have practicum training of “at least 600 hours, of which at least 300 hours are devoted to direct, face to face patient/client contact, and at least 150 hours consist of supervision.” CPA accreditation also requires a pre-doctoral internship of at least 1500 hours. This must be “approved by the program and completed after the practicum training and before the doctoral degree is conferred.” 

The Board said the Queen’s developmental psychology program didn’t require practicum training or a pre-doctoral internship.

“While the Applicant has substantial supervised experience over the years, and while he is prepared to augment his doctorate with additional supervision, the regulatory provision requires equivalency of a doctoral program,” the Board wrote. “As the Applicant has not been able to link supervised practice experience and pre-doctoral internship activity to his doctoral program, it is not possible to include such elements as part of his doctoral program in an equivalency assessment.”

The Board further wrote that if the Applicant had been able to demonstrate their extensive experience under the supervision of registered psychologists had somehow been recognized within his doctoral degree program as equivalent to a practicum and internship, then the Applicant might have satisfactorily shown that he qualified under the current regulatory standards.

“It is regrettable that an individual who holds verifiable qualifications in psychology — including a doctoral degree, extensive experiential qualification in supervised settings, and significant contributions to the domestic and international communities in psychology — cannot qualify under the Regulation to become registered as a psychologist with the College,” the Board concluded.

The Health Professions Appeal and Review Board and the College of Psychologists of Ontario both told The Journal they’re unable to comment further on the individual details of the case. However, Registrar and Executive Director Rick Morris noted the College makes their requirements public on their website.

Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology at Queen’s, told The Journal via email that the CPA accredits the University’s clinical psychology program alone.

“The Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science, Developmental, and, Social-Personality Programs are not designed to prepare individuals to become a registered clinical psychologist nor are these programs accredited,” Craig wrote. “If students are interested in becoming a practicing registered psychologist, they need to apply to the Clinical Program at Queen’s.  That program will provide research and clinical skills, as well as practice required to become registered as a clinical psychologist.”

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