Licensing as a Psychologist

Requirements for Licensing as a Psychologist

For a psychologist to be licensed, the individual must complete three thousand hours of supervised professional experience and successfully complete two licensing examinations. These are the same requirements for the Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Up to one thousand and five hundred of these hours may be accomplished before the individual is awarded the doctoral degree, but at least one thousand and five hundred hours must be completed after the doctoral degree. Note the language: up to 1,500 hours may be accrued while you are a student, but at least 1,500 must be accomplished after you have graduated from the graduate school with a doctorate in hand.

The process of licensure is complicated and the potential licensee frankly has to accept, up front, that there are a number of balls one has to keep in the air at the same time. The Laws and Regulations of the Board of Psychology are updated regularly. New course requirements may be added between the time you graduate and the time you are ready to license.

The Professional School of Psychology is on a modified quarter system. The Board of Psychology stipulates that supervised professional experience cannot begin to be accrued until a doctoral student has 72 quarter units of graduate psychology, that is, masters and doctoral units totaling 72 units. Typically, this means that the student is fairly advanced in their studies. An accepted generalization is that most students will learn more within a practical supervised clinical experience than within school per se. For that reason, many students seek out clinical experience even before the experience can be counted towards the three thousand hour requirement.

Supervised Internship

One of the requirements of the doctoral program at the Professional School of Psychology is the accumulation of 1,500 hours of supervised professional experience. This requirement is designed to fit hand in glove with the requirements of the Board of Psychology. An Internship Contract Form must be completed by the intern and signed by the agency and/or psychologist through whom the experience will be accrued, and by the PSP Director of Field Placement, before the professional experience begins. The School needs to ensure that your projected professional experience is of the type deemed acceptable by the curriculum design.

A central issue in the accumulation of supervised professional experience is the setting in which the experience takes place. Different settings have different rules that affect how and when a student (or a post-doctoral pre-licensee) accumulates hours.

The Board of Psychology defines supervised professional experience (SPE) as “an organized program that consists of a planned, structured and administered sequence of professionally supervised comprehensive clinical training experiences. SPE shall have a logical training sequence that builds upon the skills and competencies of trainees to prepare them for the independent practice of psychology once they become licensed. SPE shall include the socialization into the profession of psychology and shall be augmented by integration modalities including mentoring, didactic exposure, role-modeling, enactment, observational/vicarious learning, and consultative guidance. SPE shall include activities which address the integration of psychological concepts and current and evolving scientific knowledge, principles, and theories to the professional delivery of psychological services to the consumer public.”

Qualified Internship Settings

There are four environments in which a pre-doctoral student may accrue SPE, but only after the 72 quarter units of graduate coursework in psychology, not including the thesis, internship or dissertation:

  1. In a formal internship placement pursuant to section 2911 of the code and registration with the Board is not required;
  2. As an employee of an exempt setting pursuant to section 2910 of the code and registration with the Board is not required;
  3. As a psychological assistant pursuant to section 2913 of the code and registration with the Board prior to commencement is required;
  4. Pursuant to a Department of Mental Health Waiver (5751.2 of the Welfare and Institutions Code) for which registration with the Board is not required.

A ‘formal internship’ as used by the Board means a placement (a site at which supervised professional experience is accomplished) which is in one of three settings:

  1. A placement which is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), typically restricted to students who are attending APA-approved institutions;
  2. A placement which meets the membership requirements of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (AAPIC);
  3. A placement which is a member or meets the requirements of the California Psychology Internship Council (CAPIC).

An ‘exempt setting’ as used by the Board is a state, county, or city agency, OR a mental health clinic associated with an approved or accredited graduate school of psychology. The Andrews-Preston Clinic at PSP is an exempt setting.

Documenting the Clinical Hours

The student who is involved with a ‘formal internship’ or with an ‘exempt setting’ does not need to register with the Board before beginning SPE, but all students should carefully document their hours, on a weekly basis, with approvals noted and signed by supervisors. At PSP, we recommend use of a form developed by CAPIC called the Weekly Log Form. At the end of your time with a formal internship or exempt setting, you would guide your supervisors to complete a Verification of Experience Form which, along with the Weekly Log Forms, will demonstrate that you have accumulated a number of hours of SPE. Students are urged to take control of this process – regulations change from time to time, and it is often the case that your supervisor(s) will be less aware of the current regulations than you will be. Be sure to check the licensed status of supervisors to ensure that they are license-capable of providing SPE, and that they are current with their own license throughout the period of time in which they provide supervision.

Many students pursue the third environment to accumulate SPE, that is, as a ‘psychological assistant’ working under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist. Any licensed clinical psychologist may have up to three psychological assistants at one time, and each psychological assistant must either be an employee of the psychologist, or an employee of a setting at which the psychologist is employed.

The potential psychological assistant must arrange for the Registration to be a Psychological Assistant Form to be completed by all relevant parties. The Form requires a LiveScan (fingerprint check), sections to be filled out and signed by the supervising psychologist, and a letter of confirmation from the School registrar that you have either achieved a master of arts in psychology, candidacy in the doctoral program, or a doctorate. The work to be accomplished may follow the form of work outline on the CAPIC Weekly Log Form. The Registration packet must be delivered to the Board of Psychology. Subsequent to delivery, the Board notifies both the psychologist supervisor and psychological assistant, typically at first by e-mail, of approval.

Note that all supervising psychologists must have completed an authorized, six-hour course in supervision, prior to the commencement of the supervision. A six-hour course in supervision must be completed every two years. Note that a supervising psychologist may not charge for supervision.

Accumulating Hours for Licensing

A maximum of forty-four (44) hours per week may be credited toward meeting the SPE requirement – this number includes the required 10% supervision. That is, any person accruing SPE shall receive one hour of supervision for every ten hours of approved service delivery. At least one hour per week shall be face-to-face, direct, individual supervision with the primary supervisor. The primary supervisor shall be employed by the same work setting as the trainee and be available to the trainee 100% of the time the trainee is accruing SPE. This availability may be in person, by telephone, by pager or by other appropriate technology. Although all trainees must have at least one hour per week of face-to-face, direct, individual supervision with the primary supervisor, a trainee in a ‘formal internship’ or in an ‘exempt setting’ may have supervision that is delegated to someone else with supervisory training.

For example, you may work at the placement for 20 hours per week. One hour of supervision must be with your primary supervisor, a clinical psychologist, and be face-to-face and individualized. The second hour in the 1:10 ratio could be with a delegated MFT licensed supervisor, and could be in a group supervision setting. You would count 22 hours in that week.

However, a ‘psychological assistant’ working in the third environment, that is, under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist, cannot receive delegated supervision. All of the supervision a psychological assistant receives must come from the psychologist to whom the student trainee is connected.

Note that although a licensed psychologist may have only up to three psychological assistants at any given time, a person who can be a psychological assistant may have more than one supervising psychologist, as long as a separate Registration form packet is submitted for each working relationship.

Also note that the Board has highly specified responsibilities for primary supervisors, including the preparation of a detailed document which is to be given to any person with whom the trainee (under any placement environment) provides clinical service.

This Process is Complicated

The Board of Psychology has personnel who answer the telephone and respond to specific questions. Feel free to call the Board and ask about your particular variation or situation.

While course work at PSP is conveniently on weekend days, clinical doctoral students are urged to remember that the accrual of SPE is an absolute requirement before licensure. If you are a Track I student, you will have to have 30 doctoral units beyond the 42 masters units, in order to begin to accrue SPE. If you were to spend 20 hours per week in an SPE setting, it will take you 75 weeks to get to the 1,500 required by PSP for graduation (assuming you complete all classes, the comprehensive examination, and your dissertation). With doctorate in hand, if you continue at 20 hours per week, it will take you an additional 75 weeks to get to the 3,000 level.

Try to put all this into perspective. If you worked in an SPE placement of one kind or another at the rate of 20 hours per week, in 50 weeks you will have accumulated 1,000 hours. At this rate, it will take you three years to accumulate sufficient SPE to sit for the State licensing examinations. Can you continue to work your full-time job and accomplish 20 hours per week? Can you find a placement that will allow you to undertake 20 hours of SPE per week around your work schedule?

If you think you would like to find a placement where you can undertake 10 hours of SPE per week (on top of your work schedule), then in a 50 week period, you would have accumulated 500 hours, or six years to accumulate 3,000. If you are a person who thinks it might take three years to get your dissertation completed, then this 10 hour per week approach might work well. However, note that the Board has limits to the time period in which qualifying SPE can take place (Section 2914c).

All students at PSP should anticipate lifestyle and/or primary work adjustments to allow for the accumulation of SPE. People enter into and enjoy the coursework phase without due consideration for how they will accomplish the requirements for SPE. It is possible to find a paid internship position, but such positions are far less available than those accessible to persons pursuing a license as a MFT. In addition, certain placement environments are restricted to students who attended, for instance, an APA-approved graduate school. Only accredited graduate schools are allowed to participate in the CAPIC system of placements, though students from non-CAPIC schools may apply to CAPIC sites.

In Summary

Students at PSP should think of the goal of becoming a licensed clinical psychologist holistically – there are many component pieces:

  • PSP Coursework (two-three years)
  • PSP Comprehensive Examination (at or near end of coursework)
  • PSP Dissertation (concurrent with Pre-Doctoral Hours)
  • Supervised Professional Experience
  • 1,500 Hours Pre-Doctoral (minimum of one year)
  • 1,500 Hours Post-Doctoral (minimum of one year)
  • State Licensing Examinations

Eventually, students who seek to be Psychologists must take the current licensing examinations to obtain a State of California license in order to practice. While PSP does not formally endorse their product offerings, most students have reported that the Association for Advanced Training in the Behavioral Sciences, which can be found at, to be extremely helpful in reviewing for the State examinations. The material on this web site is fee based.

The PSP clinical doctoral student should realize the progression through the holistic goal of becoming a licensed clinical psychologist will take 4 to 5 years, assuming a timely completion of the doctoral-level dissertation. Many doctoral students take considerably longer. PSP students should be mindful of the time allowed for program completion provided in their financial contract, and note the post-contract extension fee schedule.