Chicago School at Xavier Earns APA Accreditation for Its PsyD Program

Dr. Kelli Johnson, current department chair at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana, announced last month that the program has been granted initial Accreditation on Contingency status through 2024 by the American Psychological Association (APA).

At its July 18-21, 2019 meeting, the APA Commission on Accreditation voted to initially “accredit, on contingency” the doctoral Clinical Psy.D. program at The Chicago School in New Orleans. “Accredited, on contingency” is granted when the program meets all standards except for the inclusion of all required outcome data on students in the program and after program completion. To move to fully accredited, the program is to provide the required outcome data within three years.

“We are overjoyed that our first class will be graduating from an accredited program next August,” said Dr. Johnson. She extended her thanks and that of faculty members Drs. Chris Leonhard, Richard Niolon, and Margaret Smith to colleagues of the Louisiana Psychological Association. “We would like to extend our gratitude for your support for the program from its inception. A number of you have been a part of the program as adjunct instructors, offered your agencies as practicum training sites, and have served as clinical supervisors over the years,” Johnson noted. “Thank you to each of you for offering guidance, consultation, or encouraging words along the way…your ongoing support has been and continues to be invaluable and we look forward to many more years as a part of Louisiana’s psychology community.”

The school began implementation of its “Health Service Psychologist” Model and Multicultural Focus in September 2015 when the first class of doctoral students started at the new PsyD program in clinical psychology.

The effort was innovative in a number of ways, including getting a head start on aligning with new standards for “Health Service Psychologists” approved by the American Psychological Association later that year.

The Chicago School at Xavier program was also innovative because it focused on applied clinical psychology specifically for the diverse and multicultural context in south Louisiana, and on “growing PsyD Psychologists here,” explained Dr. Christoph Leonhard, founding chair of the program.

“We developed the program to meet the needs of local social service providers of psychological services and of the community,” he said, “and frankly, to provide culturally competent services by people who understand this community, which is a very unique place in many ways.”

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) program is hosted by Xavier, the highly ranked New Orleans institution which is the nation’s only Roman Catholic Historically Black College and University.

The PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) degree is the only program of its kind in the state, and the only other clinical psychology training after that at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

The program organizers focused their recruitment to students inside Louisiana. hoping to grow PsyD psychologists here, and who will remain here, in order to serve the sometimes unique needs of the Louisiana culture. “Studies indicate that newly graduated psychologists who have to leave the state to get an advanced degree do not return,” said Leonhard. “So the emphasis of this program is to educate and train our own.”

Prior to her death this year, Dr. Janet Matthews served on an Advisory Committee of local professionals, along with health psychologist, Dr. Michele Larzelere, for the Chicago School program.

The program is designed specifically to meet community needs, with the focus on primary care/integrated care, and cultural diversity issues, Janet Matthews had explained, and she felt it was ideal for the Greater New Orleans area, helping provide psychological services in an underserved community.

The doctoral students in the TCSPP program at Xavier complete studies in four models of intervention: Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Humanistic Existential, and Systems. The program includes a Research Clerkship model where the students are paired with mentors from the faculty. Three years of practicum and one-year internship are included in the 106 total credit hours that will take five years to complete, prepares students to sit for the psychologist licensing exam.

The PsyD program took advantage of the changes in approach brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires prevention and a focus on primary care and community health.

APA shifted its training model in response to ACA, and the Chicago Professional School at Xavier aligned with these changes. “To be in compliance with what the ACA calls for, we’re now going to be training health service psychologists– –psychologists that provide health service, mental health being a health service, said Leonhard. The Patient and Affordable Care Act is that it mandates interprofessional care teams throughout health care but importantly, in primary care, he said.

Dr. Michele Larzelere served on the Advisory Committee and saw this benefit. “Since primary care is an excellent way to reach underserved and minority populations, the PsyD program will also be expanding Xavier’s efforts toward its core mission,” Larzelere previously said, “and providing a tremendous service to the population of Louisiana.”

The program offers two formal focus area — Clinical Psychology in a Diverse and Multicultural Context and Behavioral Medicine/Health Psychology.

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