Do you want to become a psychological assistant? Are you a new psych-assistant? Unsure how to set up the agreement with your supervisor? Need help finding referrals? Not sure about BOP regulations?

What is a psychological assistant?

In California the title psych. assistant, psych. assist., or psychological assistant all refer to a pre-licensed clinician who works under the supervision of a psychiatrist or psychologist.

These psych assists are registered with the California Board of Psychology and are required to adhere to strict guidelines. You can verify their registration on the Board’s website. Their supervisor’s name and credentials will also be listed.

In order to register as a psychological assistant individuals must:

  • Have a master’s degree in psychology or education with specialization in psychology,
  • Be a doctoral candidate in psychology (with three or more years of postgraduate training), or
  • Hold a doctoral degree in psychology, that qualifies for licensure

What are the benefits to seeing a psychological assistant?

Psychological assistants offer several advantages over other clinicians:

  • As they are early in their career they are often less expensive than fully licensed psychologists
  • They may also be willing to offer sessions at times on the weekends, early morning, or evenings whereas other clinicians may not, and
  • As most are in doctoral programs or have just completed a doctoral program they are informed of the most recent advances in psychology and therapy.

What is the difference between a psychological assistant and an intern?

To answer this we need to clarify what an intern is.

In California doctoral psychology students are required to, in addition to classwork, have clinical/practical experience. First students are placed in practica for 2 to 3 years, where they learn how to provide psychological services. Then, students are required to work in a more demanding situation, which is referred to as a pre-doctoral internship. The ‘pre’ is in reference to the internship being a requirement of the degree of doctor. A pre-doctoral internship in California is at a minimum 1500 hours of clinical experience, which usually takes a year working fulltime. Next, once students graduate, a post-doctoral internship, also of 1500 hours, is needed. It is similar to the residency that MDs must complete. And, finally, students must take two licensing exams to become psychologists.

So, a psychological assistant can be a pre-doctoral intern, post-doctoral intern or neither.

  • If a clinician has not yet finished his or her dissertation but has completed his or her pre-doctoral internship, then he or she meets the requirements of being psych. assist.
  • The same is true of clinicians who have finished their post-doctoral internship but have not yet taken, or passed, the licensing exams.
  • And some internships (both pre- and post-) are classified as psychological assistantships, for organizational reasons.

What about me?

I was a psychological assistant for years.