Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): APA Accreditation

Q:        What is APA program accreditation?

A:        According to the American Psychological Association (APA) Commission on Accreditation (CoA), APA program accreditation is both a status and a process. As a status it represents that a clinical doctoral program has formally met quality standards articulated by APA’s Commission on Accreditation (CoA). As a process it represents to the larger psychology and academic community that the program has agreed to engage in a self-study to evaluate its standing against the standards outlined by the CoA and has opened its doors to external peer review as a means to engender persistent program improvement.

Q:        Is the Doctor of Clinical Psychology Program of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) APA Accredited?

A:        No. The Doctor of Clinical Psychology Program of TCSPP at XULA is not APA Accredited. However, the curriculum prepares graduates to sit for the psychologist licensing exam administered by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

Q:        Must all clinical psychology programs seek APA accreditation?

A:        No. APA program accreditation is a voluntary process, meaning an institution offering a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology chooses whether or not to apply, and when to apply for accreditation.

Q:        What is the difference between APA program accreditation and regional accreditation?

A:        The APA’s CoA is a specialized/professional accreditor, meaning that APA accreditation only extends to specific doctoral graduate programs, pre-doctoral internships, and postdoctoral residencies in professional psychology. The accredited status of one specific program does not extend to other programs in the same department or institution.

Regional accreditation covers entire institutions. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), one of six regional accrediting bodies in the United States. Each is authorized to accredit institutions in specific states, divided by geographic region. APA-accredited doctoral graduate programs must be housed in an institution that has regional accreditation; however, an institution may hold regional accreditation and not have any APA-accredited programs.

Q:        What programs are eligible for APA program accreditation?

A:        According to the APA Commission on Accreditation, doctoral programs in clinical psychology, counseling, school psychology, or a combination of two or three of these areas are eligible for program accreditation. Internship and postdoctoral training programs are also eligible; however, master’s and bachelor’s programs in psychology are not eligible for APA program accreditation. Again, every program must apply separately.

Q:        How does a clinical psychology doctoral program prepare for APA accreditation?

A:        Each program applies separately by location. The process begins with the collection of data for a “self-study." A self-study is a process that is prepared by the program faculty and includes comprehensive information about the program stipulated by CoA. This process can take many years and covers information such as:

  • Training goals, objectives and practices
  • Student, faculty and financial resources
  • Program policies and procedures
  • Competencies students are expected to obtain
  • Actual outcome data that demonstrates the achievement of these competencies.

Other data required are: incoming student GPAs, current student performance across the entire program, faculty credentials, student retention, coursework outcomes, practicum and internship placements and performance, and proper institutional resources to achieve training goals. The self-study process may also include input and review by consultants knowledgeable about the APA self-study and accreditation process.

Q:        Can APA program accreditation be denied?

A:        The CoA can deny accreditation to applicant programs if the program does not meet the G&P, but may give a deferral if the CoA determines that the program may be able to make adjustments. There is no guarantee that an applicant program will obtain accredited status. This means that as a student, there is risk involved in entering a program that is not yet APA accredited.

Q:        Is APA program accreditation guaranteed?

A:        No. Accreditation of a clinical doctoral graduate program can never be guaranteed and there are no shortcuts. As outlined above, there is a rigorous accreditation process that must be followed.

Q:        Why doesn’t the TCSPP clinical psychology doctoral program at XULA have the same APA accreditation as the clinical psychology doctoral program in Chicago?

A:        Accreditation by the APA’s CoA is not awarded to a school or campus, but rather a program. Each program presents its own self-study and is reviewed separately. The Chicago School’s (TCSPP) Chicago Campus Clinical Psychology program went through a similar process when it sought initial APA accreditation in the 1980s. That program was founded in 1979, and APA program accreditation was granted in October 1987. Subsequently, the program has been reaccredited following the CoA timeline and process.

Q:        How long does the APA program accreditation process take upon submission of the self-study?

A:        According to the CoA, it can take 18 months or more from the time a program submits a self-study until the CoA reaches a decision. Once the self-study is submitted, it undergoes an initial review by CoA to ensure internal consistency and that all sections are completed appropriately. CoA reviews self-studies three times a year. The document is then forwarded to a committee for a full review and determination if a site visit to the campus where the program is held is warranted. The committee may also ask questions for the program to answer prior to scheduling the program site visit.  

After the visit, the site visit team may have some additional questions for the program to answer, and, following receipt of answers to those questions, the team submits a report to the CoA. The report is made available to the campus leadership team for review and comment. After this process is completed, the program is placed on the CoA’s next program review agenda.

The CoA awards accreditation to those programs judged to be in accordance with the Guidelines and Principles (G&P) for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology. The official date of accreditation is then retroactive to the date of the site visit.

Q:        Is the Doctor of Clinical Psychology Program of TCSPP at XULA currently able to pursue APA program accreditation?

A:        No. In order to consider programs for accreditation, the APA Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation expects that the program has an identifiable body of students at different levels of matriculation, as well as other standards. The Program is not be able to demonstrate this standard at this time, and therefore is not yet able to pursue APA accreditation.

Q:        Will the Doctor of Clinical Psychology Program of TCSPP at XULA pursue APA accreditation?

A:        TCSPP initiates the path toward accreditation even before its first students enroll in the Clinical Psy.D. program. After classes are initially enrolled, program administrators begin collecting and studying necessary data for the preparation of the self-study, including attrition and GPA trends. It will also set administrative standards, monitor dissertation quality, and engage in a host of other preparatory work.

Determination of when to make the application to APA will be at the sole discretion of TCSPP, however TCSPP will make a reasonable effort to apply for such accreditation once the Program is eligible to do so. If TCSPP determines that it will pursue APA accreditation, it will keep both current and prospective students informed that TCSPP is actively engaged in pursuing APA accreditation for the Doctor of Clinical Psychology Program of TCSPP at XULA, and every effort will be made to continually inform and update students of where TCSPP stands in this process. For instance, information sessions, department meetings, and brown bag lunches are held at least three times a year on the APA program accreditation process.