Necessity and Urgency of Increasing Graduate Training in Chinese Clinical and Counseling Psychology
There have been several articles published in English describing the development of clinical and counseling psychology in China (e.g., Chang, 2005; Hou, 2007; Qian & Chen, 1998; Qian, Smith, Chen, & Xia, 2001). The authors consistently argue that one of the greatest needs in further developing the discipline is increasing graduate education for practitioners. Although in the past three decades, there has been significant development in the number of graduate training programs in applied or professional psychology, it is still far from sufficient to meet the mental health care needs of China, and graduate training has yet to become the main path of training for the next generation of mental health practitioners (Chang, 2005; Duan et al., 2014; Hou, 2007; Liu, 2013).
China faces the problem of not having clear and reasonable entry criteria for becoming a mental health provider or counselor. Many scholars argue that a minimum educational degree should be required for clinical and counseling practice (Chen, Qian, Zhang, & Zhang, 2010), but this is not a reality. According to a survey conducted in 2008, less than 50% of practitioners, who received certification that permits practice of mental health counseling, have a master’s level or higher education background (Qin et al., 2008). Liu (2013) found only 32% of the 1193 surveyed practitioners had a graduate degree.
At the present time, the threshold of academic qualification for becoming a practitioner in China is quite low. The only requirement for anyone who wants to practice counseling is to pass an examination and obtain a certificate issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Prior to the examination, the person only needs to complete a three months of training in basic psychological and counseling knowledge.
Scholars have expressed serious concerns that lack of adequate training makes the practitioners prone to clinical errors that may lead to harm, and increasing graduate training is an important and urgent solution. At this time the number of graduate training programs in clinical and counseling psychology is extremely limited, with fewer than 100 active master’s level training programs and no more than 10 doctoral programs (all PhD).
In addition to quantity, the quality of the existing graduate training programs is an area of concern. Even for those with a postgraduate diploma, there is no guarantee that they have received sufficient training in clinical work to become competent clinicians. Not all trainers (faculty or supervisors) have appropriate credentials and clinical experience from formal, professionally accredited training institutions (Hou & Zhang, 2007). When the trainers’ qualifications are in doubt, it is hard to ensure that the trainees acquire sufficient competency for clinical practice.
Furthermore, even some of the universities that have faculty with appropriate credentials have insufficient clinical training resources. Most high-level colleges and universities in China focus on quality research and paper publishing, and often neglect the need for solid clinical training for professional disciplines. According to a survey concerning how Chinese colleges foster the clinical competence of clinical and counseling psychology students, a lack of internship and practical training was identified as a severe and prevalent problem (Chen, Zhao, Gao, & Qian, 2009).
Even with less than adequate clinical training resources, however, many colleges and universities still keep the admission level up. Some programs are not even able to offer the basic core courses in clinical and counseling psychology, not to mention needed clinical training resources.
To address the urgent issues related to mental health provider training, a historical and important meeting was held in Wuhan on June 13th and 14th, 2016, to discuss how to enhance the quality and quantity of masters’ education in order to promote the professionalization of clinical and counseling psychology practice in China. The meeting was hosted by Chinese National Applied Psychology Graduate Education Steering Committee, which is authorized and charged by Chinese Ministry of Education to promote the construction of applied psychology as a discipline, help to build the educational criteria of the discipline, and organize teachers’ training, academic seminars, and information communication.
At this meeting, all participants who represented higher education systems in most of the provinces reached a consensus that in order to enhance the professionalization of clinical and counseling practice in mainland China, the most effective route is strengthening graduate education. With a shared vision, all representatives came to an agreement (the “Wuhan Declaration”) on how to enhance the quantity and quality of graduate training in clinical and counseling psychology.
Text of the Wuhan Declaration
We, participants of the 2016 National Seminar on Chinese Applied Psychology Graduate Education in Wuhan, China on June 13th and 14th, 2016, make it known to the public and the leading bodies of higher education in China that we believe that either the quantity or quality of existing postgraduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology in China is insufficient at this time to meet the mental health care needs of Chinese citizens. We believe that the following steps toward improvement are necessary and urgent.
1. Graduate education should be required for practicing mental health clinicians, including counselors or clinical and counseling psychologists.
All participants agree and emphasize that graduate education should be the main path for clinical and counseling psychology practitioner training. This requirement is necessary in order to ensure practitioners are competent in providing the public professional and quality mental health services.
2. Clinical and counseling psychology should be recognized as an independent specialty area in psychology.
All participants agree that clinical and counseling psychology may be categorized as under applied psychology, but applied psychology as a name of the discipline doesn’t reflect the nature of clinical and counseling psychology. It is noted that due to insufficient emphasis on discipline specialty, criterion and training requirement for clinical and counseling psychology has been treated haphazardly.
Therefore, the participants recommend: 1) under the leadership of National Applied Psychology Graduate Education Steering Committee, a special professional task force be formed to develop a “clinical and counseling psychology post graduate program training guideline”, stipulating the basic standard of master degree programs. The guideline should be distributed to all colleges and universities that have or intent to have such graduate training programs; 2) facilitating the separation of clinical and counseling psychology from Applied Psychology, and recognizing clinical and counseling psychology as an independent secondary subject.
3. Training goals and training models in clinical and counseling psychology should be specified and implemented.
All participants agree that at the present time, most existing master degree training programs in clinical and counseling psychology experience confusion in terms of training goals and training models. This problem is expressed in two ways. Some universities with good training staff and facilities are often one-sided in pursuit of academic research and publication that leads to systematic bias disadvantaging the faculty staffing, performance evaluation, curriculum development, and training activities in the field of clinical and counseling psychology.
Scientific research is emphasized and clinical training devalued. Another expression of the problem is that those universities that do not have adequate training staff and facilities would experience a lack of clear training objectives, have confusion regarding appropriate curriculum, and lack crucial training processes. These two conditions both lead to lack of clinical competence when students leave the programs and face the real-life clinical situations.
The participants recommend: 1) allow two types of master training models in clinical and counseling psychology, with one being focused on producing practitioners with scientific literacy and the other training practitioners with professional literacy. 2) Clinical and counseling psychology professional graduate degree programs should be built in accordance with the required competencies for clinical and counseling practitioners in mainland China and engage corresponding training processes.
4. Human resource for training staff is to be improved.
All participants recognize that both the quantity and quality of clinical and counseling psychology faculty members are insufficient.
The participants recommend to: 1) strengthen on-job training; 2) expand the clinical and counseling psychology PhD program enrollment to train more qualified faculty and staff for the future; 3) invite overseas professionals to do teaching in selected subject areas; 4) employ outstanding practitioners to teach clinical courses in graduate programs.
All participants agree that the need to strengthen on-job training is the most urgent task at the present. They suggest, under the leadership of Chinese National Applied Psychology Graduate Education Steering Committee, that a “promotion of special clinical and counseling psychology faculties training program” task force be formed. Meanwhile those universities or institutions with resources be encouraged to offer on-job training programs.
5. Clinical internship and practicum training are necessary components of training.
All participants agree that clinical training in clinical and counseling psychology graduate programs such as including practicum, internship, and supervision need to be strengthened. The clinical training should be clear in goals and processes, and be reflected in program design, curriculum, and clinical training and outcome assessments.
All participants expect that under the leadership of the Chinese National Applied Psychology Graduate Education Steering Committee, “The Guideline of Counseling Psychology Graduate Student (Master Level) Training Program Design” will be implemented to accelerate the development of Chinese clinical and counseling psychology and enhance the training culture and conditions, reducing the gap between developed countries and China in the field of clinical and counseling psychology, as well as cultivate more competent professionals with international and native cultural perspectives.
This declaration was issued on 14th June 2016 by all the participants who attended the 2016 National Seminar on Chinese Applied Psychology Graduate Education
Cite This Article
Lin, X., Jiang, G., & Duan, C. (2016). Necessity and urgency of increasing graduate training in Chinese clinical and counseling psychology: Wuhan declaration. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 51(4), 26-29.
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