Dear Dr. Hwang:
“Do you believe that most psychologists stay current with research?”
Great question! Ethical guidelines assume that psychologists continue a professional career engaged in life long learning, hopefully exposing oneself to new research, theories and progressively developed ideas.
According to the, Minnesota Board of Psychology, licensed psychologists must take classes and attend workshops to maintain their professional license. In Minnesota, licensed psychologists are required to apply for re-licensure every two years on June 30th. Ethically, consumers should be able to assume that professional psychologists are both competent and engaged in continued educational experiences. To what degree do psychologists stay connected to important content, or maintain competency is anyone’s guess?
While classes offer grades and consequently credits earned, certified clock hours do not hold professionals to a rubric of standardized outcomes. Professionals attend workshops on specific topics/areas of interest related to licensing, but psychologists are not evaluated or examined in ways that informs the general public (or the board) that they are continuing to meet specific standards of practice.
Once a psychologist becomes licensed, renewal is possible by submitting paperwork, which reveals that a required number of hours immersed in education are met. Hours attending classes are assumed to measure competence. Yet, no real competency measures are utilized. However, if a practitioner is in violation of ethics, which was previously reported and documented, consumers can obtain some of this information.
Your question is important. Too often professionals do not continue a process of continual and increased learning within practice. It’s the difference between effective treatment and positive therapy versus ineffective conduct. It’s the difference between practitioners that help to heal versus therapists that create a great deal of harm.
As a consumer, you can call the, Board of Psychology to check and see if an individual has a record of violation(s). You can also look on line and see if there are any rating scales from previous clients who have experienced services from an individual therapist. Review a person’s records, history and experience. Interview therapists before you make a firm decision. And always, trust yourself. If it’s not a good match and you feel the person isn’t professional, consult with the board, friends, supportive others and/or other psychologists.
I would like to believe that professionals in health and human services engage in a broad range of ongoing learning opportunities. Part of maintaining an ethical compass, is staying current with what’s unfolding in the field.
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology.
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