Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies

pp 549-572

Consultation

  • Jon FrewAffiliated withPacific University

Abstract:

Not long ago the vast majority of clinical psychologists practiced in relatively restricted roles providing assessment and therapy services. There has been a pronounced shift in the field and today most psychologists are moving into expanded roles and activities. One of these roles is organizational consultation. In this chapter some of the requisite competencies to provide consultation services to organizations are outlined at both the basic and expert levels. As there is no uniformity or agreement about the number or definition of consultation competencies, a case study approach was employed to identify the range of competencies that were employed by the author in two organizational consulting projects.

Abstract:

Not long ago the vast majority of clinical psychologists practiced in relatively restricted roles providing assessment and therapy services. There has been a pronounced shift in the field and today most psychologists are moving into expanded roles and activities. One of these roles is organizational consultation. In this chapter some of the requisite competencies to provide consultation services to organizations are outlined at both the basic and expert levels. As there is no uniformity or agreement about the number or definition of consultation competencies, a case study approach was employed to identify the range of competencies that were employed by the author in two organizational consulting projects.

20.1 20.1 Overview

In 1990, I designed and taught a course entitled “Organizational Consultation” in a PsyD program at a university in the Pacific Northwest. The class was a popular elective in a doctoral program curriculum replete with required courses which prepared students to assume the traditional roles of a clinical psychologist. In that era, the vast majority of students in that program aspired to a career trajectory that would ultimately land them in private practice, in which they would provide assessment and psychotherapy services.

Despite the popularity of the organizational consultation class, which was offered once a year until 1998, it was viewed by most students as a “boutique” course, a curious diversion from the program’s rigorous clinical training and as a class that provided a skill set that would probably never be utilized. In 1999, I launched a new course in that PsyD program entitled “Professional Roles.” This course was designed to reflect the educational model of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) first outlined in the landmark article written by Peterson, Peterson, Abrams, and Stricker (1997). Organizational consulting as a role and a set of competencies was transplanted into the Professional Roles course, joining others including supervision, teaching, management, and administration.

Over the course of the past 10 years, as I have continued to modify and teach the Professional Roles class, I have noted a dramatic shift in the attitudes and perspectives of current clinical psychology students, concerning the place of organizational consulting (and other nonclinical roles) in their career aspiration portfolio. The vast majority of students now understand that their future as a professional psychologist will be more financially rewarding and personally satisfying, if they are trained to carry out both clinical and nonclinical activities in a variety of roles. This shift in the recent and current students’ career visions is evident as well in the broader field of psychology. Levant et al. (2001, p. 80) encourage psychologists to envision and access new roles.

For professional psychology to continue to grow and flourish, psychologists must identify and conceptualize roles that they are well suited to take up in the near and more distant future. … [T]hese roles are not really new. What is new, however, is thinking of these roles as aspects of psychology’s core identity.

With the expansion of roles and activities carried out by clinical psychologists comes a concurrent effort to identify the basic competencies required to be proficient in these roles. Graduate training programs in psychology have been forced to take a step back and consider this question: “What are the competencies requisite for professionals who refer to themselves as clinical psychologists?” The organization that has been most active in the discussion of expanded professional roles, curriculum revision, and the identification of competencies has been NCSPP. They have identified the following core competencies: relationship, assessment, intervention, research and evaluation, consultation, education, management, supervision, and diversity. These nine terms can be sorted into three categories (Frew & Machell, 2007):

Roles

Activities

Competencies

 

Consultant

Assessing

Relationship

 

Educator

Intervening

Assessment

 

Supervisor

Evaluating

Intervention

 

Manager

Consulting

Research and evaluation

 
 

Teaching

Consultation

 
 

Managing

Education

 
 

Supervising

Management

 
  

Supervision

 
  

Diversity

 

Despite the role performed by a clinical psychologist (clinical or expanded), the work almost always requires the skill set to form relationships, to accurately assess, choose and deliver appropriate interventions, to evaluate the impact of the intervention, and to have some level of multicultural competence. NCSPP’s identification of core competencies was a good start, leaving much work to be done. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), with the support of American Psychological Association (APA) and 30 other groups, convened a conference entitled “Competencies Conference, 2002: Future Directions in Education and Credentialing in Professional Psychology,” which was attended by more than 130 psychologists. They grappled for 3 days, attempting to address the thorny issues of how competencies are defined, taught, and assessed in graduate psychology training. Kaslow, Thorn & Pate (2005) provided a summary of the conference. In 2007, the membership of NCSPP approved the Competency Developmental Achievement Levels (DALs) to be included in the education and training model. The DALs were a work product of the NCSPP 2007 conference and will be discussed later in this chapter.

This current volume(s), The Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies, is a significant contribution to the efforts to sharpen the focus of a competency model. The topic of this chapter is consultation.

The term “consultation” in the field of psychology often has a different connotation than it does in the business world. Psychologists (and physicians) frequently think of consultation in terms of clinical consultation. You have a question about your patient’s diagnosis and you call an expert for a consultation about your patient. A three-party matrix is created connecting patient, therapist, and expert consultant. This triangular relationship is present in all consultation activities as is the notion that services will be provided to the client/patient directly by the treating psychologist and indirectly by the consultant.

In the world of business, consultation means organizational consultation. The client is the organization itself or some subset of the organization. Organizational consultation is the topic of this chapter. Organizational consultation can be carried out by individuals from a range of backgrounds and training sets. In this chapter, I will discuss psychologists in the role of organizational consultants. I will make the case that psychologists with their exhaustive clinical training are well suited to acquire the competencies required to be consultants to organizations. In addition, psychologists must practice and provide services in accordance with APA ethical and multicultural guidelines, whereas consultants from other backgrounds and disciplines may have no such guidelines regulating their work.

20.2 20.2 Personal Journey

I was trained and received my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Within my doctoral program, I was able to complete a minor in organizational development (OD) and small group studies. I entered the field with a strong interest in working with individuals, groups, and organizations.

In my first post-Ph.D. job, I held a position in a university counseling center. Within 2 years, I was promoted to the director’s role. My supervisor became aware of my knack for understanding organizational dynamics, and began to ask for my input and opinion about some of the complex political pressures she was experiencing as the only woman in an executive “cabinet” of all white men. I was flattered by this attention and recognition of some of my incipient skills. I found myself in a type of executive coaching relationship, as an internal (not external) consultant, and I was advising my own boss. I tell this story today to my students as an example of a very perilous way to engage in a consulting relationship. Ultimately, my supervisor fell out of political favor with the university president and, because I was closely associated with her, my stock value fell dramatically as well with the powers-to-be.

It was during that same 5-year period, however, that I got my first legitimate consulting job. I was hired by a nonprofit organization in the community to do an employee satisfaction survey. I met with the executive director and the board, interviewed all the employees, and delivered a written and oral report of my findings. This consultation project went very well and the organization made a number of changes which improved employee satisfaction and retention.

Twenty-five years later, I reflect on a career in which I have been able to have a steady stream of organizational clients representing businesses (small and large) and nonprofit, educational, and government organizations. Organizational consulting has never been a full-time endeavor. Rather, I have integrated my consulting work with clinical private practice, teaching, training, and writing. I am privileged to be able to teach consultation to students in both a Master’s and PsyD program and be the director of an organizational track in a PsyD program. Identification of competencies in organizational consulting and how to teach them is still in its infancy in the field of psychology. In the “Basic” and “Expert” competency sections of this chapter, I will outline what is known and the work ahead of us.

20.3 20.3 Selected History

Earlier I pointed out the differences between organizational consultation and clinical consultation. Another clarification is also necessary. Within the field of psychology, there are clinical psychologists, industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists, and consulting psychologists. None of these designators is a pure type because there are clinical psychologists who engage in consultation activities and I/O psychologists who might do clinical work. Lowman (1998) differentiates these three types of psychologists based on emphasis. The clinical psychologist works primarily with individuals, wherein the I/O psychologist sees the organization as the client, while the consulting psychologist “plays no favorites” and sees the individual and the organization as the client.

Consulting psychology has a division (13) in APA, has been around in various iterations since 1915, and is a place that psychologists who engage in organizational consultation can call home. O’Roark (2007) stated that the attempt to identify competencies can be dated to 1920, when the APA’s Standing Committee on Certification of Consulting Psychologists was charged with identifying core consulting competencies. Unfortunately, that initiative was severely derailed when the Consulting Psychology division was stricken from APA bylaws from 1926–1945. In 1946, after World War II, APA reorganized and the Division of Consulting Psychology, now known as the Society of Consulting Psychology, was reestablished.

Other streams have fed the river of organizational consultation in the past 60 years. In 1999, the Society of Consulting Psychology (SCP) launched a “Best of the Century” survey to determine who had the most influence on consulting psychology during the past century. Surveys were mailed to 23 past presidents of Division 13 and 300 general members, with a response rate of 70% from the past presidents and 8% from the general membership or 39 usable surveys (as reported by O’Roark, 2007).

Kurt Lewin was named as the most influential figure in the past century in the field of consulting psychology. Lewin, who died in 1947, was a social psychologist and is best known for his writings in field theory (Lewin, 1951) and as one of the founders of the National Training Laboratory in Bethel, Maine. Lewin is also known as the originator of “action research,” although an earlier version of a very similar approach to OD was outlined by Collier (1945). Lewin’s contributions were manifold and his belief in the democratic/collaborative process (having fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s) in organizations is notable. The consultant’s role after collecting data is to feed that data back into the system and to the individuals who provided it and to facilitate a process, whereby the members of the organization derive meaning and action steps from that data. This is a practice which has lost favor with many contemporary consultants who interpret the data they collect and present it only to the sponsors who have commissioned the assessment.

Another frequently cited individual in that survey was Caplan, whose Theory and Practice of Mental Health Consultation (1970) was an important work in a surge of contributions to the consulting literature which took place in the 1970s. Caplan outlined four types of consultations that could occur in mental health organizations including “program-centered” and “consultee-centered administrative.” Both of these types of consultation were departures from the more traditional client-centered (supervision) awtee-centered (clinical consultation) approaches, and opened the door for organizational consulting and coaching in mental health settings. Other prominent names in the survey included Levinson, whose Organizational Diagnoses (1972) was named most often as the most influential writing, and Schein who was cited for his works Process Consultation (1969) and Organizational Culture and Leadership (1985).

The field of OD is closely related to consulting psychology and organizational consultation. OD consultants concern themselves primarily with assisting their clients to undertake planned (typically long-term) organizational change processes. Efforts to identify and define OD competencies have been ongoing since the 1970s (e.g., Warrick & Donovan [1979] and Sullivan [1974]). More recently, Worley, Rothwell, and Sullivan (2005) surveyed 365 early, mid, and late career OD practitioners using a list of 141 competencies generated originally by Sullivan (1974) and which have been updated annually since 1992. The survey task was for respondents to rate how important the competencies were in successful OD practice. The authors were able to reduce the number of critical competencies from a cumbersome 141 to a more workable 20–24. Perhaps the most intriguing finding was that “self-mastery” is the most important competency an OD practitioner can have. “Viewed not as an intervention in the system, but a characteristic of the person doing the work, self-mastery allows the practitioner to access and apply theories and models in a customized rather than a ‘canned’ fashion” (p. 158).

20.4 20.4 Competencies Revisited

I mentioned earlier that the quest to identify and define the basic competencies involved in organizational consulting can be dated back to 1920. More recently, the Education and Training Committee of Division 13 published the Principles for Education and Training at the Doctoral and Postdoctoral Level in Consulting Psychology/Organizational (2007). In that document, competencies were divided into three domains: individual level, group level, and organizational/systemic level with the proviso that many competencies (e.g., assessment) are required in more than one domain. In that same document, ten general competencies were added: (1) self-awareness and self-management; (2) relationship development; (3) assessment; (4) process consultation/action research; (5) interventions; (6) knowledge of theory, case studies, empirical research, applications, evaluation methods; (7) multicultural and international awareness, knowledge of sociopolitical backgrounds and cultural values and patterns; (8) research methods and statistics; (9) business operations, legal, industry regulations, technological advances; and (10) professional ethics and standards.

The Society for Consulting Psychology has taken the lead for the overall field of organizational consultation in defining the basic and more advanced competencies necessary to provide consultation services. O’Roark (2007) summarizes the task of consulting psychologists very clearly.

Consulting psychologists are practitioners of applied psychology. Interventions and educational programs require knowledge of relevant information, drawn from credible sources with verifiable data supporting effectiveness of consultation practices, approaches, and strategies for problem solving. Services are tailored to respond to requests from specific client populations with particular cultural contexts. To provide competent services, practitioners review and evaluate the best available research evidence (O’Roark, 2007, p. 189).

She also points out, citing APA’s policy on evidence-based practice, that interventions that have not been studied in controlled trials (virtually impossible to do in organizational consulting) can still be effective. “Consulting practitioners work as scientist-practitioners, methodically planning future interventions based on what has been beneficial in the past for clients in comparable circumstances” (O’Roark, 2007, p. 189).

20.5 20.5 Challenges Ahead

In a recent article, Cooper, Monarch, Serviss, Gordick, and Leonard (2007) outline some of the significant challenges which lie ahead for consulting psychologists and psychologists in training or practice who seek to provide consultation services. On one hand, more psychologists are becoming full-time and part-time consulting psychologists either earlier in their career or as a first career choice. Thus, there is a need for comprehensive standards of competence, educational opportunities, and training experiences. On the other hand,

academic barriers and scattered resources limit education and training opportunities for four distinct groups of CP practitioners: beginning (0–3 years/first career choice), entry (0–3 years/experience in another psychological specialization), mid-level (4–7 years experience) and senior consulting psychologists (those with 8 + years of experience in the field). (p. 3)

The authors discuss external barriers, including a dearth of graduate training programs in consulting psychology, predoctoral and postdoctoral training sites and supervised work experiences. Another external obstacle is the unwillingness of many state licensing boards to “count” hours that are not devoted to direct clinical service.

In terms of internal barriers, Cooper et al. (2007) state that although the development and publication of competencies for consulting psychology is an excellent start,

continued development of companion documents for CP/mental health, CP/schools, CP/forensic, and other major types of psychological consulting practice is imperative. Even with a prototype statement of graduate and postdoctoral curricula, the quality of current education and training opportunities is difficult to assess without continued identification of characteristics and competencies that can serve as benchmarks and aspirational guideposts. (p. 3)

I would contest the first point made and absolutely concur with the second. I am not sure that it is “imperative” to develop companion documents which highlight consulting competencies according to a specific setting. My own consulting work has crossed most types of organizations, and I have found the skills necessary to translate well across settings. I do agree, however, that there is a great deal of work ahead regarding the task of identifying the most critical core competencies for consultation, determining the best way to teach them, and evaluating the degree to which the competencies have been learned.

20.6 20.6 Definition, Characteristics, and Stages

For the purposes of this chapter, consultation will be defined using the definition established by Division 13 of the American Psychological Association, SCP Bylaws (2008):

Consulting psychology shall be defined as the function of applying and extending the special knowledge of a psychologist, through the process of consultation, to problems involving human behavior in various areas. A consulting psychologist shall be defined as a psychologist who provides specialized technical assistance to individuals or organizations in regard to psychological aspects of their work. Such assistance is advisory in nature and the consultant has no direct responsibility for its acceptance. Consulting psychologists may have as clients, individuals, institutions, corporations, or other kinds of organizations.

There are some shared characteristics which are present in most types of consultation. Consultation is triadic and involves a consultant, a consultee, and a client system. Consultation services are indirect and voluntary in nature. Consultation is provided by an individual(s) external to the client system. Consultation services can be related to content (what the organization does) or process (how the individuals in the organization work together [or not] as they carry out the tasks of the organization).

Finally, organizational consultation takes place over time and through a series of stages. These stages have been defined somewhat differently by the various authors and practitioners who have described them. These stages are key because each involves specific consultation skills. For the purposes of this chapter, I will use the stage model that I teach in my consultation classes. It closely adheres to most of the stage models described in the literature:
  • Initial contact and screening

  • Entry and preliminary assessment

  • Contracting

  • Assessment

  • Feedback and identification of issues of concern

  • Goal setting

  • Intervention(s)

  • Evaluation

  • Termination

In the following two sections, basic and expert competencies will be discussed and illustrated through case studies. Some of the competencies pertain to particular stages in the consultation process. Most are required through all the stages.

20.7 20.7 Gaining Competence

The development and publication of the Principles for Education and Training at the Doctoral and Postdoctoral Level in Consulting Psychology/Organizations by members of Division 13 was a major step forward. Questions such as “What are the basic competencies to consult to organizations?”, “How are they acquired?”, and “How do we measure the attainment of competency?” were addressed at least to some extent.

Fuque and Newman (2002) were asked to review these principles and competencies from an academic perspective and commented as follows:

We found the task of reacting to the principles to be much more difficult than we expected, due in part to the multiplicity and complexity of issues raised by such comprehensive training principles. … Everyone involved in this process realizes that the publication of these proposed principles is only another step in the long process of trying to improve the services we provide to our clients. (pp. 223–224)

Fuque and Newman also point out that since the principles are organized around core competencies or end states, they can be obtained in a variety of ways not just through coursework.

Clearly the standardization and verification of the efficacy of consultation competencies is a work in progress. Moreover, how and where organizational consultants receive their training is varied and uneven. Cooper et al. (2007) summarize my last statement well:

Largely, those who engage in the practice of consulting psychology have managed to accumulate sufficient training and expertise to function well in the role and have done so despite the historical absence of formal training programs and curricula. Consulting psychologists have followed diverse pathways to achieve and maintain competence. However, professional training and education venues have not yet been adequately defined or developed preparing consulting psychologists to address the growing interest in our services. (p. 2)

In the remainder of this chapter, I will address two core issues that have been brought to light primarily by the excellent work of the members of the SCP. The first is a need to define the basic (and expert) competencies in more practical, teachable terms. The second is how clinical psychology students who are interested in working as organizational consultants can be trained and prepared to offer these services.

20.7.1 20.7.1 What Are the Basic Competencies?

The SCP has published a list of core competencies. They are organized by levels: individual, group, and organizational/systemic. Competencies listed in these three domains may carry over to other levels as well. Example competencies are individual level (executive and individual coaching), group level (assessment and development of teams), and organizational level (organizational-level interventions). However, there is a problem with the language of these competencies. Executive coaching, team development, and organizational intervention are all activities that require training and skills, but the competencies involved in these activities are not clearly stated. More details are provided later in the SCP principles, but generally there is more focus on what the consultants do rather than the specific competency required to do it well.

From the world of OD, we have the competencies listed most recently by Worley et al. (2005). Again the language is problematic for the academic who is charged with training future consultants. For example, “self-mastery” was the most frequently endorsed competency in that survey but what does it mean and how do you teach it? A third group, NCSPP, has also been actively involved in developing lists of competencies for psychologists in training and practice. The result of their most recent effort is the DALs (2007). Unfortunately in that document, the consultation competency is combined with the “education” competency, and the knowledge and skills required to be a consultant and an educator are discussed together. Specific consultation competencies are not well articulated or defined.

20.7.2 20.7.2 How to Train Organizational Consultants

As mentioned earlier, those practitioners who identify themselves as organizational consultants come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have received their training in a variety of ways. We have an opportunity in the field of clinical psychology to develop specific programs and curricula and create standards and accountability in training psychologists to provide consultation services to organizations. Despite the advent of a few consulting psychology doctoral programs’ consulting tracks, the formalization of training processes is in its infancy. Training must also occur beyond the classroom through workshops, training programs, supervised field work, and mentoring by seasoned consultants.

20.8 20.8 Basic Competencies

Clinical psychologists who want to prepare themselves to provide consultation services to organizations respond favorably to training anchored by three models or frameworks: The NCSPP basic competencies, process consultation and stages of consultation.

The NCSPP basic competencies of relationship, assessment, intervention, and evaluation translate fluidly from clinical work to organizational work as does the diversity competency. Schein’s (1988) “process consultation” is a model of consultation which is compatible with the developmental level of psychologists in training to become consultants. Schein defines his model as “a set of activities on the part of the consultant that help the client to perceive, understand and act upon the process events that occur in the client’s environment in order to improve the situation as defined by the client” (p. 11). Adopting process consultation as a model improves the skill set of psychologists, because it allows them to focus on the relationship issues within organizations and avoid being perceived as the expert on the content or product of that organization. Finally, learning how to consult to organizations involves understanding the competencies required for each stage of the consulting process. Therefore, a stage model is extremely useful.

No two consulting projects are exactly the same, but the generic consulting process typically has these stages:

Stages of consultation

Clinical counterpart

 

Initial contact

Screening

 

Entry and preliminary assessment

Intake

 

Contracting

Informed consent

 

Assessment

Assessment

 

Feedback, diagnosis, goal setting

Treatment planning

 

Intervention

Intervention

 

Evaluation

Measuring progress

 

Termination

Termination

 

I have listed the clinical counterparts to the right of the stages of consultation. The similarity in the stages of clinical work and consulting to organizations accelerates the learning curve of the clinical psychologists or the clinical psychology students who seek training in consultation.

Before identifying and discussing the basic competencies, I will provide a brief case example of a consultation project I completed several years ago. I have altered a number of the details of this project to protect my client’s identity and enhance this example as a teaching case.

20.8.1 20.8.1 Case Example #1

I was contacted by Peter who was an architect at a relatively large architecture firm. Peter knew of me as he attended a class I taught in a local MBA program. We spoke by phone about the possibility of me doing some work for his firm (initial contact). After some initial screening to make sure that I had the skills and experience to address the issues Peter laid out, we agreed to have a meeting with Peter, his boss Larry, who was a project manager, Craig, the president of and a partner in the firm, and Lisa, who was the chief financial officer. The meeting took place several days later at the architecture firm. During that meeting, I asked the four of them to tell me what they saw as the issues of concern and the focus of a consulting process (entry and preliminary assessment).

In this exploratory meeting, there was a consensus that Larry’s project group had some significant interpersonal conflict and communication issues. The group had just completed a project which involved the design of a university classroom building but problems within the group resulted in the final product coming in over budget and several weeks behind schedule. Another project (a state government office building design) was about to be launched, and Craig and Lisa were reluctant to assign the project to this team. Peter and Larry, on the other hand, believed that it made more sense to try to improve this project group’s performance rather than dismantle this group to form another. I proposed a further assessment process in which I would have contact with every member of the project team (contracting). In the next week, I conducted individual interviews with each group member and sat in on a project group meeting led by Larry (assessment).

I then reviewed and summarized the data I had collected and developed a written and oral report that focused on key themes, concerns, and strengths which emerged from the input of group members. I had a follow-up meeting with Peter, Larry, Craig, and Lisa. During that meeting, I presented feedback from the assessment phase and facilitated a discussion in which they were able to identify the key problems and the changes they viewed as necessary for this group to function together at a higher level on the next project (feedback, diagnosis and goal setting). I then proposed several initiatives that would potentially support the changes they were seeking as well as a method by which change could be measured. The initiatives proposed involved several psychoeducational trainings (which focused on communication, conflict resolution, and team building), “coaching” with Larry to enhance his leadership skills, and a modification to the present compensation system in which individuals would receive bonuses and firm-wide recognition at different stages of the project, if the project group as a whole either met (or exceeded) a series of deadlines or budgetary goals. This final initiative was a response to a culture of competitiveness which existed in the group whereby newer members of the firm would try to stand out to the firm’s partners as up and coming “stars” by looking better than their peers (intervention).

Efficacy of the consulting work was evaluated by measuring the degree to which previously determined benchmarks (related to meeting deadlines and staying within budget) were met (evaluation). I left the project several months after my initial meeting with Peter, Larry, Craig, and Lisa before the project was completed, but after determining that the group was functioning at a much higher level based on the evaluation method just mentioned (termination).

I will use this case study to identify and briefly discuss basic consultation competencies.

20.8.1.1 20.8.1.1 Initial Contact

In this phase, three basic competencies are required: Relationship skills including the ability to listen and put the caller at ease are critical. Interviewing skills are also necessary so that the information necessary for the consultant to decide whether to move forward is obtained quickly and efficiently. Finally, knowledge of the consulting process is required so that the consultant can begin to orient the caller on how the process will work, the next steps, and who should be present during the next phase.

20.8.1.2 20.8.1.2 Entry and Preliminary Assessment

Again relationship skills are critical in this phase. The consultant is now meeting with individuals from the client system on their “turf.” To interviewing skills I would add knowledge of group dynamics, group leadership skills, and observation skills. Most consulting projects begin (or end) with an exploratory meeting with key players of the organization. In my meeting with Peter, Larry, Craig, and Lisa, I wanted to demonstrate that I had solid interpersonal skills, could facilitate a small-group process, could inspire all parties to speak up and respond to “smart” questions and probes. Smart questions are developed through the initial contact by doing your “homework” about the organization before the first meeting on site and by using listening and observational skills during the meeting to formulate further questions or to propose preliminary statements of issues of concern. Sometimes conflict mediation skills are useful in this type of meeting to redirect and reframe heated differences into useful “multiple perspectives.” Finally, diversity skills come into play in this phase. For example, in this case example, I noticed that Lisa’s comments were either ignored or minimized by two of the men in the meeting, so I intentionally highlighted several of her comments in my summary statements near the end of the meeting.

20.8.1.3 20.8.1.3 Contracting

Contracting is another critical phase of any consultation project. It occurs at both the informal and formal level (Schein, 1988). On the informal level, the consultant must work toward a mutual understanding with the client regarding each party’s expectations about the nature and the amount of work to be done. Formally, the consultant must have the skill to construct and negotiate a written contract which details the terms of the consulting relationship. A crucial aspect of all consultation work is the determination of “who is the client?” This is a competency in and of itself because in consultation, unlike clinical work, there can be several types of client. Schein refers to contact clients or the individual who makes the first call to the consultant (Peter), intermediate clients or those who are involved in early meetings (Peter, Larry, Craig, Lisa), primary clients on the “unit” targeted for the assessment and intervention (the whole project group), and ultimate clients, anyone directly or indirectly impacted because of the consultation (pp. 117–118).

20.8.1.4 20.8.1.4 Assessment

NCSPP has designated “assessment” as a primary competency across most of the roles and activities of clinical psychologists. In organizational consultation, assessment is both an ongoing process beginning with the initial contact stage and an activity specific to particular phases of a consulting process. There are a number of competencies involved in the assessment stage of consultation. In my work with the architecture firm, I conducted interviews and observed a project group meeting. Assessment through individual interviewing requires competency in developing the interview questions and interviewing itself. Assessment through observation of groups requires competency in observing communication processes and knowledge of group dynamics (e.g., leadership styles, decision-making models, phases of group development, etc.). Assessment in organizations is also carried out using surveys or focus groups. Developing questionnaires (assuming that a nonstandardized one is necessary) and administering questionnaires are additional competencies often required in the assessment phase. Facilitating focus groups is another specific competency. Focus groups can be utilized alone but are more frequently combined with other assessment methods like interviews and surveys.

20.8.1.5 20.8.1.5 Feedback, Diagnosis, and Goal Setting

Before the consultant can give feedback, the data collected during the assessment phase must be organized, reviewed, and shaped into a format that will be most useful to the client. I will name this competency organizing and formatting assessment data. The task can be challenging if the consultant has collected information from many (what are the central themes and concerns) or from few (how to protect the anonymity of individuals). The next competency required is giving feedback. Assessment data are usually presented both orally and in writing. Report writing is a skill specific to the feedback phase of consultation. So is conducting a feedback session. From a process consultation perspective, one of the goals of the feedback session is to encourage the clients to “own” their data. In other words, the consultant does not tell the clients what their problem is and what they need to do about it. Rather, the consultant uses group leadership skills to facilitate a dialogue in which problems are identified (diagnosis) and goals for change are proposed. I worked in this capacity with Peter, Larry, Craig, and Lisa, and they determined that the project group’s poor performance could be mediated by a shift in culture from rewarding individual achievement to more collaboration.

20.8.1.6 20.8.1.6 Intervention

The term “intervention” favored by NCSPP and utilized broadly throughout the consultation literature is again too broad and too general to capture specific competencies. I will return to the topic of intervention in the next section of this chapter on expert competencies because specific types of organizational interventions typically require more training and experience to execute. The interventions I used with the architecture firm could all be seen as competencies: preparing and delivering trainings, team building, executive coaching and compensation system analysis. These interventions represent the individual, group, and organizational/systemic levels of competencies proposed in the Division 13 principles.

20.8.1.7 20.8.1.7 Evaluation

Organizational consultants must also evaluate the results of their efforts. The competencies involved are identifying consulting goals (always in conjunction with the client) and specifying how to measure progress toward consulting goals. Unfortunately, this is the phase of consultation most commonly overlooked by consultants. The evaluation of consultation typically takes place during and after the intervention stage. The questions are “what are the changes the client system wants (short- and long-term) and how can the interventions recommended and carried out by the consultant to create those changes be measured to see if they have actually worked?” Evaluation can be both formative as well as summative so that interventions can be modified along the way. In the case of my work with the project team, there were time deadlines and budget goals that served as ways to measure group performance (compared to the previous project) and the success of my interventions.

20.8.1.8 20.8.1.8 Termination

Although there is no particular competency associated with this stage, organizational consultants need to know when to leave and complete a consulting project. As in clinical work, the key is not to abandon prematurely or engender dependency.

20.8.2 20.8.2 Summary of Competencies

In Table 20.1, the competencies identified in the previous section are listed. Several of the competencies (e.g., relationship, interviewing skills) were cited more than once over the stage of consultation. The checkmarks highlight the competencies that are required across most or all of the stages of a consulting process.
Table 20.1

Competencies from case example #1

 

Most phases

All phases

Level

 

Relationship

  Listening skills

  Conflict mediation skills

 

BE

B

BE

 

Interviewing skills

  

BE

 

Knowledge of consulting process

 

B

 

Knowledge of group dynamics

  

BE

 

Group leadership skills

  

BE

 

Observation skills

Observe communication patterns

 

BE

BE

 

Diversity

 

BE

 

Construct and negotiate contract

  

B

 

Determine who is the client

 

B

 

Developing interview questions

  

B

 

Develop and administer surveys

  

B

 

Organize and format assessment data

  

BE

 

Giving feedback

Report writing

Conducting feedback meeting

  

BE

BE

BE

 

Prepare and deliver trainings

  

BE

 

Team building

  

E

 

Executive coaching

  

E

 

Compensation system analysis

  

E

 

Identify consulting goals (measurable)

  

B

 

Measure progress of consulting goals

  

B

 

Two of the competencies, relationship and diversity, are critical to all phases and aspects of a consulting project. Each of these general terms can be reduced into more specific competencies. For example being competent in the area of relationship requires interpersonal skills, empathy, listening skills, etc. Likewise, the diversity competency is sometimes referred to as “multicultural competence” and involves knowledge and skills in terms of self-awareness, awareness of others, and utilization of contextually relevant interventions.

Organizational consultants both new to the field and experienced will possess some level of interpersonal and basic relationship skills. Diversity skills, however, are not given. SCP recently conducted an informal survey of its members and found that “the majority have very limited education, training or supervised practice in dealing with the cultural, racial, and ethnic issues that impinge on the delivery of effective organizational consulting psychology” (Cooper & Leong, 2008, p. 135).

The other competencies listed in Table 20.1, which are crucial over many phases of consulting, are knowledge of the consulting process, observational skills, and determining who is the client. Knowledge of the consulting process is important for the consultant to stay grounded in any particular stage while also seeing the larger picture. This knowledge is also imparted to the clients throughout the project to demystify the process and encourage collaboration. Whenever the consultant is physically with the client, the ability to assess and gather information through observation is vital to the success of any project. Finally, the concept of “client” in consultation is more slippery than in clinical work. To practice effectively and ethically, the consultant must be able to keep track of the various types of clients being served and impacted at each stage of the consultation.

20.8.3 20.8.3 Basic or Expert?

To provide the reader a comprehensive sense of the many competencies required to engage in consultation, I listed all the competencies that were involved in my project with the architecture firm in Table 20.1. The division of basic and expert competencies in consultation is more art than science. Like the psychotherapy competency, most consulting practitioners take the “long view” that becoming truly proficient as a consultant is a lifelong effort. Of the 24 competencies listed, only eight (knowledge of consulting process, listening skills, contracting, knowing who is the client, developing assessment questions, survey construction and administration, identifying consulting goals, and measuring progress) could be defined at the basic level. Thirteen others (e.g., interviewing skills, observational skills) are learned at a basic level and enhanced with consultation experience. Indeed an argument could be made that all the competencies in Table 20.1 exist at the basic and expert level. Finally, team building, executive coaching, and compensation system analysis are types of consulting interventions that require more training and experience. The topic of expert competencies in consultation will be taken up in the next major section of this chapter.

20.8.4 20.8.4 Acquisition of Basic Competencies

Just as there is a lack of consensus about how to identify and define the basic competencies, there is no agreement or solid research about how to prepare clinical psychologists in training for the role of organizational consultant. I have had considerable success over the past 10 years teaching the basic competencies and will briefly outline the methods I have used.

Acquisition of the basic competencies starts in the classroom. Students are introduced to the practice of consultation through a combination of reading and in-class simulations. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to detail the readings available that help prepare psychologists in training to become competent in consultation. I adopt Schein’s (1969, 1988) process consultation model and utilize a variety of other source materials from publications associated with APA Division 13 to works by other scholars and practitioners who write about consultation.

The key to learning the basic competencies is for the students to practice, practice, and practice. I create consulting scenarios and divide my classes into organizational clients and consultants. The clients are briefed about their roles and the primary issues of concern in their fictional organization. The student consultants work in teams and I coach them through the various phases of the consulting process. Usually, I will demonstrate the primary consulting competencies in each phase before beginning the simulation.

For example, the first meeting (sometimes called the exploratory meeting) between the consultant(s) and the members of an organization is a critical point in any consultation project. During this meeting, relationships are formed; a preliminary assessment and diagnosis takes place; the consultant decides to pursue the project or not and contracting begins. Many of the competencies listed in Table 20.1 come into play. In my class, I will lead an exploratory meeting (with students as organization members) to demonstrate the basics required to have a successful outcome. Then, I allow the designated student consultants to lead such a meeting using a scenario I bring to class, often from my own consulting practice. Consultants are encouraged to call “time outs” and ask for supervision in the process, if they get stuck or I might intervene if I see course corrections that are necessary.

I have found that all the early stages of consultation can be practiced through this simulation method. One organizational scenario will usually require several 3 hour class periods to complete. I either rotate the consultant and client roles so that all the students have the chance to practice consulting competencies or, if time allows, retain the same consultants throughout and then run subsequent simulations in which other students have the opportunity to practice their skills. The phase of consulting which does not lend itself to this model is intervention. Students will work through the initial contact, entry, contracting, assessment (usually conducting interviews with organization members), feedback and diagnosis, and goals for change. They might make recommendations for types of interventions in their feedback to the client. As mentioned earlier, there are many types of consultation intervention, most of which require more advanced competencies.

In these simulations, if students have the chance to practice the competencies associated with each phase of consulting more than once, a dramatic increase in their confidence and skill level is evident.

The final component of my teaching approach involves a field project or placement. After the students have demonstrated a basic level of competency through classroom work, they form consulting “teams” and partner with a community organization to conduct a “live” consultation project. Nonprofit organizations are particularly eager for such partnerships. Competency levels improve rapidly when students are engaged in “real work.” I supervise the teams typically from the classroom, not at the site itself. Through these field projects, key basic competencies such as interviewing skills, contracting, observation, and relationship skills and providing feedback are refined and enhanced.

20.9 20.9 Expert Competencies

There is no finite list of expert competencies in consultation. I will begin this section with another case study from my practice in which several are demonstrated. Like case example #1, aspects of the project will be modified for the sake of confidentiality and to add value to teaching.

20.9.1 20.9.1 Case Example #2

I was contacted by Paula, who owned several hotels and a variety of other businesses. She was referred to me by a mutual acquaintance. Paula suggested that we meet at my office and I agreed. In the meeting, she outlined a complex and sensitive situation at one of her hotel properties. The general manager, James, was having significant problems in his relationships with his managers and employees. Paula explained that she had hired James 6 months earlier because of his proven record of improving profitability of hotels that were having financial difficulties. The previous general manager was well liked and respected by the employees, had a collaborative (laid-back) management style, but after the events of 9–11 was unable to bringthe hotel back to a positive revenue picture. Paula described a very “emotional” meeting in which she met with all the employees and announced the change she was going to make bringing James in and the reasons why. She was complimentary of the outgoing general manager, but told the employees she was faced with the difficult choice of installing new leadership or selling the property.

When Paula and I spoke, James had been on the job for 6 months, and she reported that he had already made significant progress on the financial side of the business. Unfortunately his management style was diametrically opposite to the former general manager. She described James as intense, confrontational, and frequently critical of his managers and employees. Turnover and absenteeism were up 25% since his arrival. He was working 60–70 hour weeks (often sleeping at the hotel) and expected his managers to do the same. He had difficulty delegating and was inclined to micromanage employees who resented not being allowed to carry out their duties with autonomy. Finally, Paula had heard complaints that James favored white males and treated them with more respect than women and employees of color.

I asked Paula about the sources of her information. She told me she usually spent 1 day a week at that property and had an “open door” policy. She encouraged employees to drop in and talk to her. She said she wanted to continue to promote a “family” atmosphere and open communication even with the change in leadership. I asked Paula about her own supervision style with James and if she had confronted him with the feedback she was receiving. She replied that she tended to be a “hands off” boss. She had spoken to James several times but he either dismissed or minimized the complaints. He would remind her that she hired him because he had a different management style, that there are always growing pains when a new leader takes over, that the employees who were quitting would have been let go anyway due to poor performance, and that the hotel was making money again.

Paula had never hired a consultant before. She was not exactly sure what I could do or what she wanted to occur. Her desire to meet at my office and not the property was strategic. At this point, she did not want James or any hotel employees to know she was considering hiring an external consultant. As we sorted through the complex situation she presented, she was able to specify the initial goals. She wanted to retain James. She wanted to reduce turnover, absenteeism, and job dissatisfaction. She wanted to maintain some semblance of the family culture that had been a hallmark of this organization, since this hotel opened 8 years earlier. She wanted to make sure that the employees were treated fairly regardless of race or gender.

We spent the remainder of that first meeting discussing the next steps, the consulting process in general and negotiating the outline of a contract (which would be formalized at a later date). I was mindful of the nuances of this consultation project, which would require several more advanced and expert competencies:
  • I was hearing only one perspective about the situation and would need to do further assessment.

  • To address Paula’s goals, I would want to spend considerable time with James which posed the question, “who is my client?”

  • The owner was ambivalent about the desired organizational climate, wanting to keep the family atmosphere among her employees, while recognizing that James was making changes which were necessary to make the hotel profitable.

  • Paula’s open-door policy effectively created a triangle in communication in which James was usually bypassed.

  • Would James be open to a consultation process?

  • There were accusations of possible sexism and discrimination.

Altering the format used in case example #1, I will first outline the stages of consultation and then append a section on expert competencies.

The initial contact was made by Paula. In the meeting with Paula at my office, a preliminary assessment was carried out. Contracting began but would be finalized later in the process. I proposed to Paula that another assessment meeting occur on site which would include James. The primary function of this meeting would be to shut down yet another communication triangle, one that I was now part of with James and Paula. Other purposes of this next meeting would be to elicit James’ perception of the matters at hand and to assess his level of “buy-in” to a consulting process in which he would be a key player. The meeting was set for the following week in Paula’s office at the hotel.

I did meet with Paula and James the following week (entry, preliminary assessment, contracting). Paula and I began by telling James we had met once before and what we had discussed. I am promoting, in this step, transparency and no hidden agendas on Paula’s part. I specifically asked Paula to repeat her concerns and then asked James to respond. At that point, I was assessing James’ level of openness, defensiveness, and capacity to objectively assess his own strengths and weaknesses. I was generally encouraged in what I heard, as James admitted to making some mistakes with employees, and “welcomed” some outside intervention to assist him in examining his management style. He denied any awareness of treating particular groups of employees differently. The three of us drew up the first stage of a contract. I would have three 90 minute meetings with James in my office. The primary purpose of these meetings would be further assessment and relationship and trust building with James. After my meetings with James, a follow-up meeting with Paula would be scheduled to plan the next steps and sharpen the goals of consultation. I would provide no information to Paula until that time.

Before that meeting ended, I made a deliberate intervention with Paula. Although intervention can be seen as a discrete phase of a consultation project, in fact, the consultant is intervening at every stage. I suggested to Paula that during the next 2 weeks when I was meeting with James that she should not meet with the employees to hear their concerns. Instead, I encouraged her to counsel the employees to take their concerns directly to James (it is interesting that despite the size of this organization there was no formal HR director or position – an artifact of we are a family not a formal business culture).

James and I held our meetings. Near the end of the second meeting, he acknowledged that he had hoped to go through the motions with me to pacify his boss and that he neither saw any reason nor had the time to meet me. He thought he was doing exactly the job Paula hired him to do and did not appreciate her lack of support or open-door policy which allowed his “problem employees” to go over his head to “mommy.” I saw that meeting as a breakthrough and absolutely vital, if the consultation process was going to move forward. James was being more honest about his attitudes and feelings. In our third meeting, he softened slightly and admitted that he was struggling in the relationship area with many of his employees. In his previous positions, his management style worked more effectively. He reluctantly agreed that perhaps he could make some slight modifications.

James, Paula, and I met again as planned. I provided feedback from all of the meetings to date. James spoke about his willingness to examine his management and interpersonal style, given the number of complaints and the increase in turnover and absenteeism. He also agreed to reevaluate whether his expectations of his employees and managers were realistic. I came to that meeting with several intervention strategies which I was prepared to present contingent on the goals to be set and changes to be pursued.

The interventions that I carried out were:
  • Ongoing weekly executive coaching with James, including “role plays” in which James practiced different styles of confrontation and communication with me playing the role of the employee.

  • Homework assignments – again geared toward James trying out new behavior with employees.

  • Two 360° feedback evaluations of James. One was carried out at the beginning of my work with James and another 16 weeks later to measure any changes that were occurring in his style and performance rating.

  • Meetings with James and Paula, so we could all be present as James and I discussed the progress of our sessions.

  • Meetings with James and Paula to discuss “cultural” issues and structural changes, including the formation of an executive committee to advise James and the creation of an HR position to shift that function from Paula.

  • A referral of James to cultural competency training for managers.

  • Facilitation of initial meetings of the executive committee to assist them to define their functions and areas of responsibility.

My work with this organization spanned 2 years. James remained as general manager. The hotel continued on a path of financial health. Turnover continued to be an issue for several months and then settled to industry-wide average levels. James was able to make some changes in his style, reluctantly at first, but more sincerely when he saw the results of a more positive work atmosphere. The culture of the organization did shift to a more formal business operation with a clearer hierarchy (Paula’s door only opened if other steps had been taken first). I heard, however, that the yearly Christmas party at Paula’s house continued to be a successful and family-like affair. Allegation of unfair or discriminatory behavior by James diminished markedly and was handled by the HR director (evaluation and termination).

20.9.2 20.9.2 Summary of Expert Competencies

I will begin by reiterating that there is no clear line which demarcates basic and expert consultation competencies. Rather, the vast majority of consultations can be conceptualized as existing on a continuum and becoming a master or an expert consultant is a lifetime process.

My work with Paula, James, and their organization did require that I perform at an expert level utilizing many advanced skills and competencies. In this section, I will attempt to name these competencies using the context of case study #2. In the early part of my involvement with this organization, I relied primarily on my basic assessment and relationship building skills. I asked a lot of questions, listened carefully, and advised Paula about the consulting process and on the initial steps to get us started. Once James entered the process, more advanced skills were called for.

I would call the first expert competency demonstrated in this case as boundary management. It was evident from the very first contact I had with Paula that individuals in the organization favored indirect communication to direct communication. James, in particular, was frequently triangulated. Boundary management means that I attempted to clarify and support direct lines of communication while eliminating the “end run” method of expressing concerns and information. Another expert competency was the ongoing need to manage multiple layers of organizational clients. Paula was my sponsor (she was paying me) and a client. James was my primary client. Over the 2 years, I had contact with the majority of the hotel employees. For James to trust me and be open to my change initiatives, it was essential that the “rules” of what I would say about our meetings and to whom be absolutely clear. I would say to James, “Paula pays me. For this consulting project to succeed she must be aware of many of the things we discuss. I will only have those conversations, however, when you are in the room.” If Paula would call me and ask how the coaching with James was going, I would politely tell her to ask James about that or to wait until our next scheduled meeting with the three of us. Boundary management and managing multiple layer of organizational clients are closely related competencies and functions.

The success of this project pivoted on developing an alliance with James. He was a reluctant client who was going through the motions of cooperating with my interventions while resenting his supervisor for calling me in and for doubting and questioning his management style. The expert competency required to form an alliance with James was acknowledging, validating, and working with resistance. In my early meetings with James, I was empathetic and sympathetic to the difficult position he was in, being required to meet with me and not being fully supported by Paula. At first, he denied any discomfort or resentment, but over the course of our three initial meetings, he admitted that he did not see that he needed any help or coaching.

Before meeting with James and Paula to provide feedback and facilitate a process in which goals could be set, I had a phone conversation with Paula. I did some executive coaching in this call with Paula. I advised her to use a portion of our meeting to point out to James his strengths and accomplishments to date. I knew that James would be much more responsive to a change initiative and more likely to admit to some problems in his management style, if the discussion among the three of us was balanced and included acknowledgement of his strengths.

Moving into the formal intervention phase of this project several more expert competencies were required.
  • In my ongoing executive coaching with James, I used directed role plays. We would construct typical interpersonal situations he encountered at work, in which by his admission his approach failed or his goals were not met. First, I would play the employee. James would approach me in the way that was unsuccessful. Then, we would reverse roles and I would approach James (now in the role of the employee) with a different interpersonal style (e.g., more complimentary). James then had the opportunity to see how it felt to be approached in another manner. Then, James would try to adopt my approach and we would reenact the employee encounter one more time. In this last round, James was trying on a different management style to see how it fit. Sometimes, we would make modifications so that my proposed style could be better integrated into his existing style. Finally, I would assign homework and require that James try out the new approach at least once with an employee before our next coaching session.

  • I conducted a cultural competency assessment with James. I attended, in particular, to the domains of awareness of self and others. The result of this assessment was that James had significant blind spots and frequently operated on stereotypic beliefs about women and certain ethnic minority groups. I integrated this work into the executive coaching frame. Again the work was delicate in that James was, at first, unwilling to admit to weaknesses in this area. Eventually I was able to effect a referral to a series of cultural competency trainings for managers being conducted in the area. I advised Paula to pay for some percentage of the tuition but not all so that James was more likely to take some responsibility for his own professional growth around diversity issues.

  • I convinced James that our executive coaching work would be enhanced and accelerated if we could access more information about his strengths and areas for improvement from his employees. This was a big step for James to take. The coaching alliance we had formed and his growing trust in me supported this step. I conducted 360° evaluations with 25 hotel employees using interviews, not surveys or focus groups. Paula, James, and I collaborated on identifying employees who would be representative of the entire hotel staff. I designed interview questions which would elicit both strengths and positives about his style and performance as well as concerns. I also asked questions about the degree to which any changes in James’ style were evident, since I had begun coaching him.

  • I also conducted a limited program evaluation and made two program development recommendations to James and Paula. The first involved creating a new position for a human relations specialist. Throughout the hotel’s history, the function was never formalized and Paula was the usual point person when HR-type issues arose. My rationale for this proposal was that the roles and responsibilities of employees (including job descriptions) required more individuation and clarity. Paula’s “family” culture had advantages but also resulted in a kind of enmeshment in which employees would bring employment concerns to individuals who did not have the authority or “rule book” to take action. The second was the creation and development of an executive committee. This group of managers would serve in an advisory capacity to James and meet once a week. James had an “ad hoc” style of meeting with his managers. He met with some on a regular but not scheduled basis. Other managers (ones he perceived to not support him) he only met when there was a critical incident which he needed to sort out with that manager. Also, when he did meet with his managers, it was typically “on the run” or he would summon them to his office. In these meetings, James would talk and they would listen. With some of the feedback I obtained in the 360° evaluations, I realized that a weekly staff meeting would be an important shift for James. He would have the opportunity to interact with all of his managers once a week and could demonstrate a willingness to listen more and talk less.

  • Setting up an executive committee is relatively easy; making it work is another matter. Again James was nervous and hesitant about the creation of a formal committee like this. He was concerned about losing power and authority and about losing control of the meeting if his managers “ganged up on him.” The expert competencies I employed at this stage were group leadership training and management team development. Before the first executive committee meeting, I coached James about how to lead this group and how to facilitate a meeting which would foster input while demonstrating and modeling that he was still the boss. Then I attended the first three meetings as an “advisor to the team’s development.” Being in the room allowed me to monitor James as he attempted to shift his style to be more open to input and more empathetic to the challenges voiced by his managers. I also supported the entire group as they got more accustomed to this new method of communicating and seeing James in a different light.

20.9.3 20.9.3 Final Comments on Expert Competencies

Every consultation process is different. The basic competencies listed and illustrated earlier in this chapter will be required in almost every consulting project a psychologist undertakes. Some consultation projects are, however, more complex than others and call out for more advanced and expert skills. Case study #2 was such a project. There is no set number of expert competencies. Particularly at the intervention stage, a wide variety of competencies are necessary for the psychologist/consultant to practice effectively. Similar to clinical work, the key is for psychologists to know and practice within the limits of their current competency level.

20.9.4 20.9.4 Acquisition of Expert Competencies

Basic consultation competencies are learned through a combination of classroom work and supervised field placement. Acquisition of expert consultation competencies occurs over the course of many years through continuing education (workshops, extended trainings, and postdoctoral fellowships), mentorship and supervision, and through hours and hours of experience with a wide variety of organizational contact.

One path taken by many clinical psychologists who engage in consultation work with organizations is to become an expert in a particular type of intervention, for example multicultural OD or team building. The advantage of this approach is the ability to sharpen your skill set in a particular kind of intervention. The downside is that the field of potential clients may be narrowed by the consultant’s move to be more a specialist than a generalist. On this path, psychologists may be functioning more in a training role than a consultant role unless they were involved in the earlier phases of the process to identify the concerns that the interventions are designed to address.

The more traveled route to gaining competency in consultation is first learning the basics of the entire consulting process from initial contact to evaluation and termination. Almost all the basic competencies blossom into expert ones with time, experience, and good supervision.

20.10 20.10 Summary

The field of clinical psychology is in the midst of a quiet revolution. Psychologists, both in practice and training, are expanding their roles to provide a wider array of services including consultation to organizations. The profession is also moving toward a competence model.

In this chapter, I have outlined the basic competencies and some of the expert competencies required for psychologists who provide consultation services to organizations. I made the case that psychologists are uniquely positioned to offer these services because of our understanding of human behavior, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, and because we operate with existing codes of ethics and multicultural guidelines. Psychologists can transpose relatively easily from the key of clinical to the key of consulting because of the similarity in the stages of both kinds of work and the overlap of many of the competencies required to be a good clinician and a good consultant.

Although as a field we are moving briskly toward a competency-based model of training, the identification, definition, and measurement of consulting competencies is a work in progress. The SCP, APA’s Division 13, has made significant progress in this regard with its recent publication of principles for education and training. None the less there is a substantial amount of work ahead to come to anywhere near a consensus on questions such as “What are the basic competencies?”, “How do we train psychologists to attain basic competency?”, and “How do we measure consultation competency?”

Through the use of two case examples, I identified and defined a set of basic and expert consultation competencies using a stage model to illustrate when these competencies would come into play in a consulting project. I stated that although there are a few competencies that could be seen as basic or expert, most consultation skills are learned and mastered first at a basic level and later refined and enhanced to be more advanced through hours of work experience, continuing education, and supervision and mentoring. There are particular competencies like relationship and diversity skills which permeate every stage of a consulting process. There are other more esoteric competencies which would require a psychologist to seek specialized training and supervision to master.

Traditionally psychologists have focused on providing clinical services to individuals. These individuals on average spend almost one third of their time in work organizations. It is only natural that clinical psychologists would consider bringing their ample knowledge and competence to those individuals in those organizations.

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