NCSPP Training Model

The NCSPP Model of Training Overview

by Philinda Hutchings, Ph.D., ABPP

The NCSPP Model of Training has been developed by the delegates of member schools and programs in a number of conferences and meetings. This brief summary of the model serves as an introduction to the rich and comprehensive descriptions found by following the links below.

The NCSPP Model of Training is designed to prepare students for careers in practice of professional psychology, and to base their practice on science. NCSPP member schools use a variety of models described as Practitioner-Scholar, Scholar-Practitioner, Local Clinical Scientist, Practitioner, and Practitioner-Scientist, among others. The NCSPP model and core curriculum originally identified six core competency areas: Relationship, Assessment, Intervention, Research & Evaluation, Consultation & Education, and Management & Supervision. A seventh competency, Diversity, was added in 2002. Ethics and Advocacy are identified as core values that cut across and apply to all of the core competencies.

History of the NCSPP Model

by James Dobbins, Ph.D., ABPP

The professional psychology movement has a long and interesting history, the roots of which can be traced as far back as 1896 when the first university clinic was opened at the University of Pennsylvania ( In 1963 APA established a committee on the scientific and professional aims of psychology that lead to the recommendation for a two-track graduate educational system, one for research (Ph.D. degree) and another for professional practice (Psy.D. degree). The first practitioner program was started in 1968 by the late Donald Peterson.

A pivotal point in the establishment of professional training occurred in 1973 when APA sponsored the Vail Conference on Professional Education and Training in Psychology. At that conference, the Psy.D. degree was endorsed as the recommended terminal degree for education and training in professional practice.

The National Council of Schools of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) was established in 1976 as the lead advocate for practitioner training among psychology training councils. The central purpose of the NCSPP is the development and implementation of the highest quality practitioner training in professional psychology. The member graduate programs award one or more degrees in a variety of applied psychology disciplines including clinical, school, counseling, and organizational psychology. Although the Psy.D. was the degree designated to symbolize practitioner training, after much debate, the membership saw the wisdom in also accepting the traditional Ph.D., Boulder Model of training (scientist-practitioner). In addition to the Boulder model, various innovative forms of practitioner training were developed that diversified the nature of training provided under the practitioner training banner. Thus, some member schools still use a Boulder model where empirical research and theory development and testing are dominant competencies, but in which all of the other NCSPP competencies, which are core to the learning experience, are also included.

The NCSPP Practitioner model means that critical thinking is to be taught through the application of service delivery informed by the consumption and application of research. Several models evolved from these early experimental training models including Practitioner, Scholar practitioner, and Local Clinical Scientist. In a few cases, the traditional Scientist Practitioner program model was retained. Key to the evolution of the practitioner approach to training is the fact that all of the experimental models evolved to become widely accepted and successful within the accreditation process.

There is probably no single variable in that success that was more important than was the adoption of the NCSP P Core Curriculum as a unifying philosophy for all of the different training approaches. Core competencies became the organizing element of the curricula in all schools and at the same time, operationalized practitioner training as competency-based training. The logic applied to this perspective was that the Boulder research engine approach needed to be replaced for practitioners by functional competencies that are measurable and graduated in complexity as the student matriculates through the curriculum and postdoctoral experiences. The competency-based approach helped the professional schools to view psychology as a field of practice that involved a broad definition of health for people and organizations. This perspective has in turn lead to important innovations in practice, education, and training for NCSPP and the entire field of psychology.

The Peterson, et al. (1994) article on the NCSPP Education and Training Model stands as the NCSPP signature document that defines the competency-based training approach. It essentially indicates that the competencies are universally embraced be member schools, but with varying degrees for each of the prescribed competencies in the model. This document is a must read for all faculty, students, and administrators who desire or need to understand the NCSPP competency-based approach to training. NCSPP member schools use the core competencies as their starting point for defining their models. As such, each program tailors its curriculum to fit its educational goals and philosophy. Each program defines its model based on how much or how little each of the Core Competencies is used to structure the curriculum and other learning activities.

The NCSPP training perspective looks at functional capacities in eight functional domains. There is an expectation that all member programs subscribe to the NCSPP “meta model” of competencies as a matter of identification with practitioner-based training. This perspective has also greatly impacted the field beyond NCSPP, largely led by people like Russell Bent, George Stricker, and Joanne Callan who advocated for the use of outcome-based accreditation models to accredit all graduate programs. Almost all of the applied and research training councils have now adopted a graduated competencies model to conceptualize and measure effectiveness in their education and training, including Boulder model programs (CCTC, 2006 Benchmarks).


Founded in 1976, NCSPP is an organization composed of delegates from programs and schools of professional psychology.