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History of Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology

A Brief History of the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP) from Section 1, APA Division 12, status through APA Division 53 status

by Marilyn T. Erickson, Chair, History Committee

The history of Clinical Child Psychology is as long as the history of the field of Psychology itself. Fortunately, Donald Routh has written in depth about the history of Clinical Child Psychology, and you can access his writings in our Bibliography link. This article will present a brief overview of our heritage.

In 1962, Clinical Child Psychology became Section 1 of APA Division 12, Clinical Psychology, with Alan O. Ross as its initial leader. In 1959, Ross, a psychologist at the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Center, had published a book entitled “The Practice of Clinical Child Psychology”. From its beginning, Section 1 acknowledged and supported the interdependence of science and practice. However, at that time, virtually all practioners, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, were psychodynamically oriented. Research in child development, experimental child psychology, and applied behavior analysis gradually changed the training of clinical child psychologists beginning during the 1960s.

To his credit, Ross was converted early to an empirically-oriented clinical child psychologist who trained a large number of doctoral students when he became the Director of Clinical Training at SUNY Stonybrook.

In concert with the movement toward empirically-based practice was the need for licensure to enable psychologists to practice independently; between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, much of the energy of the Section and Division 12 was focused on the achievement of this goal.

A major issue that began to emerge in the 1980’s was the lack of standards for training in clinical child psychology. In an earlier period, Clinical Psychology students were usually trained to assess and treat children, adolescents, and adults. As the field and funding evolved, doctoral programs began to decrease or eliminate academic and/or practicum requirements related to children; at the same time, practitioners with no or minimal relevant training were offering services to children. Several conferences beginning with the Hilton Head Training Conference in 1985 started the process of delineating the content of doctoral programs that would qualify clinical psychologists to assess and treat children. In 1998, the Specialty of Clinical Child Psychology was formally recognized by APA’s Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies.

During the 1990s, Section 1 leadership became increasingly aware that clinical child interests were underrepresented in both Division 12 and other APA activities and began to discuss the possibility and process for becoming an independent Division of APA. Our younger sister, Section 5, Pediatric Psychology, was also discussing a move toward Divisional status. After several years of discussion within the Section’s Executive Committee, discussion expanded to the membership, Division 12’s Executive Committees, and relevant APA representatives. A ballot sent to the Section members revealed that 79% supported the change from Section to Division status. The Division 12 Executive Committee voted to support our change from Section to Division status with the important condition that the Section could transfer its financial resources to the new Division.

In 1998, the Presidents of Section 1 and Section 5, Marilyn Erickson and Maureen Black, presented petitions to APA Council for the creation of Divisions 53 and 54, respectively. Council granted Division status in 1999, and John Weisz is acknowledged as the first President of the new Division in 2000. The name change from the Division of Clinical Child Psychology to the Society for Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology occurred in 2001. From its beginning to the present, the Division/Society has focused its attention and support on evidence-based assessment and intervention.