Changes to I/O Licensing in California

I/O License

The other day I got an e-mail from Leaetta Hough, the current President of the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP). It was, in fact, an e-mail sent to all SIOP members addressing some changes to the California licensure requirements for I/O Psychologists. Also included was a copy of the letter Dr. Hough had sent to Jacqueline Horn, President of the California Board of Psychology. Essentially, Dr. Hough was raising complaints about changes to the licensure requirements that were unfair to I/O psychologists.
Here, here’s a few chunks from the letter:

Our review of California’s new written test for licensure indicates that it focuses narrowly on clinical skills, and thereby raises barriers that adversely impact I/O psychologists and other non-Health Service Provider candidates. We are concerned that the new California exam will fail to assess adequately I/O candidates’ education and training in specialties relevant to their practice, yet require them and other non-health service providers (non-HSPs) to demonstrate competence in areas outside of their training, expertise, and intended area of practice. This will impose an unfair burden on them in their efforts to obtain licensure and does not ensure the competent practice of psychology in non-clinical areas.

In the past, the California Board of Psychology has recognized that the practice of psychology includes others in addition to clinicians. It has provided alternate supervision structures by having a separate, specialty-relevant oral exam (when that was required), and, following licensure, by exempting non-HSPs from specific CE courses that are not relevant to their area of practice. The recent actions of the Board with regard to the restructuring of the licensing examination depart from that tradition and have created a licensing procedure that unfairly discriminates against non-HSPs. In its current form the examination process raises serious professional, ethical, and legal concerns.

Now, I won’t claim to completely understand the dilemmas relevant to this. This is mainly because it’s a non-issue for me –I can do all the work I want to do without going through some arduous licensing process that’s practically impossible for non-clinicians anyway. I just can’t call myself “Jamie Madigan, Super Psychologist” and be legal/ethical about it.
Sure, by the letter of the law I (and everyone else practicing I/O psychology outside of one or two states) should be licensed even for the work we do engage in, but that law seems to be treated like jaywalking or speeding. Everybody breaks it but it’s not a big deal until somebody gets hurt, which isn’t often. And it’s not like our work involves making recommendations that will cause physical or mental damage to our clients. So why do we need to be licensed any more than other people involved in academics or business?
So in effect, what Hough is complaining about is a bad situation getting slightly worse. Or, if you prefer, replace “bad” and “worse” with “irrelevant” and “more irrelevant.” I’d get much more value out of becoming “Professional in HR Certified” from an organization like SHRM than I would getting licensed as a psychologist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she and the rest of the SIOP Executive Committee are playing the watchdog here lest things get progressively worse. And I agree that I/O psychology is substantively different from clinical psychology and that the licensure requirements should reflect these differences. But I just can’t get that fired up about it because it just doesn’t seem to matter.
But like I said, I don’t pretend to possess a full knowledge of the issues at stake. Perhaps someone with a more complete and/or bigger picture can chime in. The SIOP website also has a pretty nice resource on licensure, too.

3 Comments on “Changes to I/O Licensing in California”

  1. Scott says:

    Hi Jaime – Just thought I’d take a moment and respond to your brief posting regarding the licensing issue. I applaud you for posting your opinion that the licensing of I/O psychologists, for the most part, shouldn’t really matter since we are not performing work related to mental health. That said, however, I do disagree to a certain extent. To me there are two important parts to the licensing issue for I/O psychologists:
    1. To have areas of psychology not related to mental health (i.e., “non-clinical” areas) stop being treated like second-rate professionals.
    2. To help protect our field from having unqualified professionals enter it and do unintentional damage.
    In regards to #1, it makes absolutely no sense that, in order for me to demonstrate professional competence (and call myself “a psychologist”), I need to take a test that has very little to do with my training or what I do professionally on a day-to-day basis. Isn’t the whole point of demonstrating competence in a given area to take some sort of exam which is actually related to the area in question? That’s why I don’t understand SIOP’s position toward licensing. I understand the point that only qualified people call themselves “psychologists”, however, it’s HOW those people qualify themselves that doesn’t make sense to me. If someone is able to pass a test that is primarily clinical, how does that prove that they are competent in I/O?
    I see #2 as an important issue as well. I completed my doctoral internship in another state and cannot believe how many people I encountered with clinical backgrounds who attempted to perform I/O work (and quite poorly might I add). These indivdiuals seemed to have absolutely no thoughts of the harm they are doing to indivdiuals, the organizational clients they serve, or the field of I/O in general. This is the primary reason that I feel that a licensing test specific to I/O is critical to our field – to help reduce the number of clinicians who are trying to perform I/O work. As someone formally trained in I/O, I am not allowed to open a clinical practice without the proper training. A clinician shouldn’t be allowed to open an “I/O practice” either.
    In relation to your original post, the portion at which I disagree is that the general idea or concept of licensing/certification/qualifying in general does indeed matter to help further advance the professional integrity of our field. It’s the way in which the current licensing laws exist that make it seem like a non-issue.

  2. Jamie says:

    Good comments, Scott, thanks! I don’t really disagree with anything that you wrote –I would welcome an appropriate test to measure an I/O psychologist’s qualifications in order to grant him/her licensure in that area. I think the current licensure tests are meaningless because they measure too much of the wrong things.
    I guess my overall point is that it’s the kind of catch 22 where few companies require licensing matter because it’s irrelevant, but it’s remaining irrelevant because nobody is really requiring it. There seems to be a kind of equilibrium at work.
    I’d also guess that a lot of people think that the “M.A.” or “Ph.D.” after their name is qualification enough, though I’ve see enough variation in the ability of folks with those degrees not to buy into that.

  3. anti-APA says:

    LOVE IT! Current licensure exams are irrelevant for I/O psychologists. If state BOPs want to require non-clinicians to be licensed in order to practice, then specific exams (based on the sub-discipline’s competencies) need to be created.
    A non-licensed PSYCHOLOGIST (as verified on my doctoral diploma)