Fall 2021: Clinician Perspective

15 Jan 2022 11:55 AM | Jessica Hamilton (Administrator)

Clinician Perspective

Seeking Licensure in Academic Settings:
Questions to Ask & Tips to Consider

Amy Sewart, PhD

California State University, Dominguez Hills

Nearly all states require postdoctoral hours for licensure, with the number of hours required varying by state. Gaining these postdoctoral hours can be particularly challenging for individuals who choose to go into academic settings. For example, those going into an academic postdoctoral position may not be advised by a licensed psychologist who can supervise these hours. Similarly challenging, individuals going straight into faculty positions from predoctoral internships do not – in general – have opportunities to gain hours for licensure built into their role and may find a lack of available colleagues to provide supervisory experiences. Roadblocks like these can make the process of gaining necessary supervised hours particularly difficult for those choosing these career paths. If you are applying to academic positions and have a goal of gaining licensure, or perhaps find yourself in one of these settings already and struggling to get your necessary hours, my hope is that this brief article can provide some guidance. Below are some questions to consider during your journey of becoming licensed, along with some related tips.

What counts as hours for postdoctoral licensure in your state/province? Does this position provide opportunities to gain postdoctoral hours for licensure?

Most states require 1,500 – 2,000 hours of postdoctoral “supervised professional experience” (SPE) for licensure. One thing to keep in mind is that the activities that count as SPE are defined state-by-state. In some jurisdictions, your clinical research may count as SPE – which is great if you plan to go into an academic setting – in others, it may not. If you intend to become licensed in a specific state, see how they define SPE so you can get a better sense of what activities you need to be engaged in to make getting your license achievable.

If you are applying to academic postdoctoral fellowships, is your potential advisor licensed, and are they willing to supervise you? If you are applying directly to faculty positions, can someone else in the Department or University supervise your hours?

Ideally, your postdoc advisor or a senior faculty member will be able to serve as your supervisor for your postdoctoral hours. If your academic advisor or another department member cannot serve as your supervisor, see if anyone at your institution – even someone outside of your department – meets your state’s supervisory requirements. After you’ve located this person, inquire if they would be willing to serve as your supervisor for your SPE. Ideally, this supervision experience will provide professional development opportunities, like learning a new intervention, and not solely serve as a means to accrue hours. Pitch this arrangement as a mutually beneficial experience and share what skills and strengths you can offer to your potential supervisor.

If your potential advisor is not licensed or no one is available to supervise you, are you able to gain hours as a Psychological Assistant/Associate in a private practice setting?

If you can’t locate anyone at your institution to supervise your clinical hours, consider private practice as a potential pathway to licensure. Under the supervision of a licensed professional, it’s possible to accrue supervised professional experience as a psychological assistant/associate on a part-time basis (title varies by state). Rather than cold-emailing local practitioners, you may want to reach out to mentors or former supervisors to inquire if they have any colleagues in your area they can connect you with that may be willing to take you on as a supervisee.  

Can you use professional development funds towards licensure costs?

If you are on a training grant or have faculty start-up funds, you may be eligible to use these funds to pay for elements of your licensing process. If you are in the process of negotiating your start-up costs, include the costs associated with licensure during your negotiation process. When negotiating my start-up costs, I included EPPP and state-specific law preparation packages, the cost of taking each examination, and fees paid to the licensing board.

Do you have licensed colleagues employed in similar settings you can consult with? 

If you are not part of a formal postdoctoral training program, it’s possible those in your position may not be provided with guidance on how to gain licensure. Consulting with licensed colleagues employed in similar settings as yours and receiving support through the licensing process can be invaluable.

If you have any further questions about gaining hours, please feel free to reach out to me at asewart@csudh.edu. I am happy to share my personal experience of accruing hours while at a teaching-focused institution.