Important News for California Psychological Assistants and their Supervisors

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I and a number of other attorneys who work with psychologists in California have noticed a significant trend.  We have become aware of a significant number of Board of Psychology (BOP) denials of supervised professional experience (SPE).

These denials are significant enough in number and scope that it seemed appropriate to author this post to inform the training community of the issue. A large number of psychological assistants (and their supervisors) have been denied SPE hours. This post offers an explanation as to what has happened to many applicants in the hope that others who have yet to apply can avoid the problem that has befallen so many others.

First, an explanation:

Prior to the commencement of supervision a psych assistant and her/his supervisor must sign a supervision agreement detailing the clinical services to be offered and other important information.  The BOP offers a supervision agreement form on its website that captures this information.  Following the completion of supervised experience this form is turned in to the BOP, along with the other required documentation.

Here’s the problem that many are facing:

When applying for licensure some applicants and their supervisors have been unable to locate the form that was signed at the beginning of supervision.  In some cases the form was signed over a year ago and cannot be located.  To remedy this, many applicants have been re-downloading the supervision agreement form from the BOP’s website and filling it in with the same information that was previously filled in; they have tried to re-create the form.  The problem with doing this is that the BOP has made minor changes to the form and is aware that the forms that many applicants are turning in are backdated.  The BOP’s response in many cases has been to deny all hours from supervision agreement forms that are backdated.  In some cases this has meant that over a year’s worth of supervised experience is lost.

What to do:

Every case is different, but it seems clear that you should NOT be backdating  supervision agreement forms.  Those who have done this often have very good reasons for having done so, but the BOP appears to perceive this as an act of dishonesty on the part of both supervisor and psych assistant (i.e., not as an attempt to recreate a lost form that was previously properly signed and completed).  If you or your supervisor(s) have lost the supervision agreement forms, seek guidance from the BOP or from an attorney about what to do.

If you have been denied SPE hours by the BOP because of this issue you may have some options.  The BOP may re-evaluate these denials on a case-by-case basis, and depending on individual facts and circumstances may choose to grant hours that had previously been denied.

This is also a good time to become active in state and local professional associations.  CPA, for example, is aware of this issue and is doing its part to communicate with the BOP.  CPA frequently coordinates activities with local associations, so if you aren’t a member of CPA please contact your local organization to get involved.

IMPORTANT: This website is for basic information only. Nothing in this website should be construed to be formal legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Please see the “Important Information” page at the top of the screen.



25 Responses to “Important News for California Psychological Assistants and their Supervisors”

  1. Elizabeth S., Ph.D says:

    I have a colleague who is in this situation and was denied her post doc hours because she backdated the form as this has been common practice in our field for quite some time now. Why the BOP chose this year to clamp down on this I am not sure, perhaps for political reasons? In any case, I think this is unconscionable what the BOP is doing to our interns, many who are unemployed and depending on getting licensed to survive. Rather than spending time trying to trap interns why not spend the time and energy informing post doc sites and psychology programs of the BOP’s new stance?

  2. Stuck in a hard place...... says:

    I am in this situation myself.

    The BOP already has possession of my agreement which my supervisor dated incorrectly–this was a predoctoral internship experience from 2 years ago.

    The error was brought to my attention by a fellow intern who applied for licensure–and the BOP TOLD HER TO CREATE A SUBMIT A NEW FORM! Can you believe that? And that was okay for her and she is on her way……!

    When I contacted the BOP to ask about the situation for myself, I was treated horribly and told all my hours would be disallowed for the year. Am I really to believe I will never be able to be licensed and all of this was for nothing? I can’t ever complete more pre-doc hours, I’ve graduated and am a post-doc now!

    My supervisor put the wrong date by her signature-10/30, when it should have been dated the beginning of that September. I understand disallowing the hours I accrued in September and October, but the whole year’s experience? How can they do that?

    It makes me sick that this is BOP I have to deal with. I have my weekly/monthly logs (signed off by both primary and secondary supervisors) for that entire training year documenting my experience, so it would be very easy to demonstrate what hours I accrued when, etc. for them to “disallow” the hours for September and October.

    I just wonder what’s going to happen when I apply for licensure officially. So far it looks like I’m up for a fight, just because my supervisor wrote the wrong date in one place on one form…….CRAZY!

  3. S.R. says:

    I’m glad to hear that the BOP is protecting the general public from these nefarious backdaters. As we all know, backdating is a gateway crime to having sex with clients or stealing from them.

    Has it occurred to anyone that in some cases supervisors are (unconsciously) financially motivated to sabotage their psych assistant’s hours? In many instances, supervisors are making a substantial amount of money from their psych assistants, and it is in their financial best interest to keep us beholden to them. So, the supervisors screw up the dates or lose the form, we psych assistants get punished, and the supervisors extend the amount of time we’re earning money for them. Often, there’s no punishment for the supervisors, only a reward!

    The BOP meets this weekend in San Diego — let your voice be heard on this ridiculous issue.

  4. I think it’s less likely that anyone has nefarious motives here, unconscious or otherwise. It is more likely the case that the BOP has adopted a very strict policy that emphasizes the BOP’s interpretation of the supervised professional experience rule. There are alternative interpretations of this rule, but in order to have them heard it is necessary to go through the administrative review process.

  5. San Francisco Psy.D. says:

    One note to people whose pre-doc hours were affected: the board’s requirement is 3000 supervised hours that must include at least 1500 post doc hours. I believe this means that in theory all of your hours could be post-doctoral. Look into this yourself if you are affected, but I don’t think any hours must be pre-doctoral. So while this new crackdown will painfully slow down people’s licensure processes, it shouldn’t directly stop anyone from eventually being licensed.

  6. W.D. says:

    I am wondering if a class action would be appropriate against the board. The reasoning would be that the moment the board accepts the $40.00 check it receives with the application for psych assistantship together with the psych assistantship application, it acknowledges there is implicit in the application the act of supervision.

  7. JL says:

    I agree with WD. If this documentation is so important, then why doesn’t the board have supervisors and supervisees submit the documentation along with all of the other forms that are required up front? What is the value in waiting until a supervisee has undergone, sometimes years of supervision, to determine whether that person was supervised in accordance with the law? In approving the initial paperwork, the board has greenlighted that person’s work without seeing whether they have agreed to the conditions.

  8. Elle PhD says:

    I am a psychologist and just received a notification that my supervisee and I both backdated a form. I do not recall backdating anything, as it was 2 years ago! However, in the past when the board claimed that they never received one of these forms, I was told (in a very indirect but CLEAR way) to backdate it and send it in anyway if it really only was a matter of a lost form (fortunately I located a copy of the original form). I’m not sure if I will get in trouble for this or not, as the board did request a “response” from me “regarding these allegations.”

  9. psyc intern outside CA says:

    What if you complete your internship in a state other than california and were unaware of the requirement to have the CA Supervision Agreement form? Is it impossible to then decide to get licensed in CA without this form signed on the initial start date of your internship?

  10. If you were trained outside California, the CA Board of Psychology has regulations and procedures that address these circumstances. Give them a call to see how they want you to present/collect documentation for your license application.

  11. Steven Shelton says:

    How long could one remain a psychological assistant? Seems to me indefinetly…

  12. While you might be able to remain a psych assistant for a long time, the hours you accumulate toward licensure are only good for a limited period of time. There’s an incentive to get them accumulated in a timely manner because the BOP counts them for a limited period of time prior to your application for licensure.

    The BOP seems to treat the application for a psych assistantship as somewhat independent from the application for licensure. A lot of applicants assume that, because most applicants need to be a PA before they become a psychologist, the BOP also treats it as a continuous process.

  13. A.W., Psy.D. says:

    Just today I encountered a new problem related to this past issue of the board denying hours. ANYONE WHO IS A PSYCH ASSISTANT IN A PRIVATE PRACTICE AND COMMENCED SPE AFTER 9/09 AND BEFORE 04/2010 NEEDS TO READ THIS!! This is a long post. I apologize.
    I know this may only apply to a small group of people, but it effects us in the same manner as it did those unfortunate individuals who found their hours being denied due to backdating of SPE forms.

    I completed my 1500 post-doc hours last week via a part-time fellowship as a Registered Psychologist and a psych assistantship with a psychologist in private practice. The private practice psychologist and I were meeting today to complete the Verification of Experience form. She went on the board’s website while we were sitting there to make sure we had everything in order, and she saw something titled, “New Regulations for Psych Assistants in private practice settings.” When you click on that link, you are directed to a page that tells you, that as of Aug. 23, 2009, psych assistants in private practice must turn in their SPE forms for approval by the board PRIOR to commencement of collecting hours. When she and I completed my SPE in February of this year, this WAS NOT on the website. Again, she had the board’s website pulled up that day to make sure we had everything completed that we needed to; she is extremely diligent that way. (I’ve never had a supervisor do this. She was so careful.)

    So, obviously confused, I contacted the BOP and actually got a live person on the phone, and she said this was correct and that none of my hours would count because we did not send in the SPE for prior approval. I told her this was not on their website in Feb and that the form we downloaded stated to send in the SPE WITH the Verification of Experience form AFTER hours were completed. Her response was that notification of the new change was specified in the letter that was sent to my supervisor and me in February notifying me of my registration approval. Since I did not have a computer in front of me, I could not pull up this old email, so I had to end the conversation with her to research this. Upon reviewing the old email they had sent, not only did they NOT specify this new change, but they referred to an OLD regulation stating: “Also, as of January 1, 2005, we require that a supervision agreement be in place prior to the commencement of supervision. The supervision agreement can be downloaded from the Board’s website at http://www.psychboard.ca.gov/applicants/sup-agreement.pdf

    No mention of sending it in ahead of time. When you clicked on that link, it sent you to the only form available at that time which says to send everything in after hours are finished. As of April this year, they have revised the SPE and put this on the website, which states in HUGE BOLD CAPS: “FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSISTANTS IN A PRIVATE PRACTICE SETTING, THIS FORM MUST BE COMPLETED AND SUBMITTED TO THE BOARD FOR PRE-APPROVAL PRIOR TO THE ACCRUAL OF HOURS.” Obviously, they must have already had some issues with this, otherwise, why would they make this the largest and most noticeable text on the page?? My supervisor also contacted the board today and explained everything I have stated here and she got nowhere; although, the “technician” said she “thought the new change was on the website in February” but she couldn’t say for sure. We know it wasn’t but of course, we can’t prove that. She also said in response the information she gave me earlier today pertaining to our being instructed in the February email to send in the SPE for prior approval that “Betty Thomas (who sent the email) used outdated language.” Based on this admission, plus the other factors can anyone tell me how the board can deny my hours when they are CLEARLY in the wrong here. Not only did they not have the info on their website during the interim period of 9/09 – 4/10, but they directed us to use the old form (which was all that was available), and they did not tell us about this new change in our email. They even referred to the SPE regulation which was set back in 2005 for pete’s sake!!

    I’m not sure how to proceed. There’s no reasoning with these people. Fortunately the majority of my hours are from my fellowship, but I worked hard for the past 8 mos. to accumulate those psych asst. hours! I don’t know if anyone has dealt with this problem or may soon find themselves in this situation, but I thought it should be addressed.

  14. Dear A.W.

    This is a tough one. On one hand, the law requires you to be aware of changes in the regulations and to not rely on the BOP to tell you about changes. Essentially, it’s an applicant’s job to get informed and not rely on the BOP to publicize changes.

    But on the other hand, when you can show that you justifiably relied on representations by the BOP that you were doing things the right way, there’s a strong legal argument to be made that they shouldn’t now say “oops” and deny you your hours. This is, indeed, a tough one.

    You might consider talking to an attorney to file an appeal. Believe it or not, the folks at the BOP are often very reasonable and with some gentle prodding they sometimes revise their deterinations

  15. Ada PsyD says:

    It is undeniably a frustrating situation to see a whole year worth of work going out the window for just a date! I’m afraid that complaining, as much as venting feels good for our sanity, does not solve the problem though! I do believe that our supervised experience should be more about the experience and not about a date!I would like though to try and stay on a more practical path and focus more on possible solutions instead of the problem! Is there advice on what to do or what was found to work when a whole year of work is denied for backdating the supervision agreement?
    Thanks much!

  16. Ada,

    As far as the BOP is concerned, there appear to be at least two separate issues. The first is whether the hours were accrued in compliance with the law. The second is whether, prior to the initiation of supervision, supervisor and supervisee agreed that they would proceed in compliance with the law.

    The second issue is what many people have difficult showing. The BOP is interested in any documentation that shows an intent to proceed in compliance with the law. There are a number of ways to show this, particularly if supervisor and supervisee have an abundance of documentation. Remember that the BOP wants to see intent, not just results (e.g., hours).

    For guidance about a specific situation, consider contacting the BOP, your professional association(s), or an attorney familiar with these matters.

  17. Lisa R. says:

    I sent in the 2005 Supervision Agreement form (older form) to the board, and they misplaced it. I told them I sent it in; however, they denied they had it. I did not make a copy!
    Anyway, I printed out a new one and filled it out again with my supervisor. Little did we realize that it was the NEWER form from 2008.
    Now they are denying my hours from this time. What can I do?
    Is there ANYWHERE to get a copy of the older Supervision Agreement form from 2005?

    Thank you

    Respectfully,
    Lisa R.

  18. Alice says:

    THANK YOU for this article. I appreciate your time and effort. I’m bookmarking your site!

  19. Lisa, if there is a way to get an older copy of the SPE form, I don’t know about it. But even if there was a way to get one, I wouldn’t condone using it. The reason is that the BOP takes the position that backdating a form is tantamount to deceit.

    (Most people disagree with the BOP’s position, and view backdating a SPE as merely recreating a form that was already in existence. After all, it’s not the piece of paper that is important, but the agreement itself. In other words, professionals understand that the paper memorializes the agreement, not vice versa.)

    I realize that there are well over a hundred applicants out there who are facing this problem (and that number is growing), and this continues to be a vexing problem. But any possible fix that entails the risk of additional BOP accusations should be carefully considered.

  20. A followup to my reply to Lisa R:

    Upon further consideration, you might want to talk to an attorney such as myself or one of the other attorneys who has a similar specialty (I can provide referrals if needed). The reason is that the BOP regulation which currently requires a SPE form didn’t exist until sometime in 2004 or 2005. If the BOP is telling you that you had to comply with a regulation that wasn’t in existence at the time, it seems to me that the BOP has (to borrow an expression from one of my southern friends) some ‘splainin to do.

    For anyone reading this post, this is yet another reminder of why it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about your specific case. As I previously mentioned, I’m happy to provide referrals to colleagues. It would be a shame if an applicant had to redo months (if not years) of work without having first explored all options.

  21. M.F.S, Ph.D. says:

    I am currently in this same situation. I applied for my Psych Assistant ship in July 2009 and sent in all documentation regarding the supervision agreement. I sent off my hours last week and received an email that this document was not with psych assistant paperwork. I work only part-time as I have young children and it has taken me over 2 years to complete these hours. I have not spoken with the board yet, and have not attempted to back date anything. However, I finished my Ph.D. in 2004 and even had some hours prior that could not be counted because they were not completed in 30 consecutive months. I have completed all other aspects of licensing process (EPPP, courses, and hours) … I feel sick about this.

  22. Kim says:

    I got in this trouble too. My internship hours were denied. All my supervisors requested an apeal for reconsideration and I submitted every documents that I have such as internship manual, intent-to-hire with signature, logs of supervision, etc. However, BOP remained same with their first decision. Now, I emailed the board asking if I will never get licensed in CA, why they didn’t accept logs of spe, any possibilities of transfer from another state’ licensure. No response yet.

  23. D. says:

    I applied for a pre-doc psych assistantship back on 10-12-09 and the supervision agreement form, which we filled out then (and says at the bottom “revision date: 9/24/09″) says that we should fill the form out prior but only turn it in once your hours have accrued. So I have it on hand.

    But I didn’t not collect the hours officially when I was a pre-doc–I was doing it simply for the extra work and to begin building a practice.

    I finished my dissertation and graduated this past May, 2011, and began officially collecting my hours on the form that CAPIC provides for collecting hours “Internship Supervisee Weekly Log of Activities.”

    I had gotten wind of the SPE Plan requirement soon after I applied for the psych assistantship in early 2010, so my supervisor and I submitted a roughdraft of a plan, via email, but never heard back. It was still long before I was going to need to be “officially” accruing hours.

    I’ve collected 500 post-doc hours since June, but suddenly got scared that I was supposed to re-apply as a postdoctoral psych assistant, or at the very least to send in an offical SPE plan. My psychological assistantship was renewed again this October, with no hitches, but I’m not clear if they need anything else from me to delineate between my pre-doc and post-doc hours. I still have the original SPE Supervision Agreement, signed by both of us in 10/09. I also have the original email sent 5/10 with a request that they let me know if I would need to submit anything different once I graduated in order for the hours to count toward licensure, and had attached to that email the draft SPE Plan for feedback/approval. I’m hoping that the paper/email trail protects me in some way, but with all of the craziness around the BoP’s denying hours, I’m feeling worried.

    I just re-sent a series of emails to Denise, Tammey and Lavinia at the BoP requesting clarification about all of this, but thought I’d chime in here to see if anyone has any feedback or suggestions.

    Many thanks,
    D

  24. Missy F. says:

    On January 3, 2012, I received a letter from the Board of Psychology denying approximately 450 of my pre and post doc hours. I am now researching my next step, and would like to hear from others about the best way to approach the Board about this matter. In my research, I saw that a letter was submitted to the Board on February 17, 2010 by 21 supervisors in California. This letter was to express concern about this policy of the Board’s to deny hours. Does anyone know what the outcome of this letter was? For a copy of the letter, Google California Board of Psychology Denial of SPE hours. As I believe the that Board’s “punishment” far outweighs the crime, I would be interested in some kind of group action to right this wrong.

  25. To my knowledge, that letter had no effect on the Board’s policy.