Psychology internship due process, appeal and grievance procedures

At Counseling Services, our primary responsibility is to the welfare of our clients. Therefore, we maintain high standards of client-care and ethical and professional conduct. On rare occasions, intern performance is insufficient and/or intern problem behaviors occur. When these problems are identified, the training program assesses the nature of problem and formulates a plan to support the intern in effectively remediating it, with the goal of the intern demonstrating a sufficient level of competency and/or correcting the behavior in order to successfully complete the internship.

This section describes potential insufficient performance criteria and other problem behaviors, how due process is ensured, how interns can appeal if they disagree with decisions, and how interns can file a complaint (grievance). An intern, staff member, client or other person may activate a formal review of an intern at any time based on insufficient intern performance and/or other problem behaviors. Formal review may also be triggered by intern evaluation by a supervisor.

In this section:

 

Due process guidelines

The following guidelines describe intern performance concerns that would be cause for formal review, informal action, formal remediation and could potentially result in termination of the employment and training of the intern if not corrected.

When formal review determines that intern performance is insufficient and/or other significant intern problem behaviors occur, a remediation plan may be implemented. Informal action plans and formal remediation plans are implemented when the intern’s performance deficits (or other problem behaviors) present a low risk to stakeholders, and the situation is amenable to adequately timely change. These procedures are not intended to be punitive.

Due Process procedures protect intern rights and are implemented in order to afford the intern with a reasonable opportunity to remediate problems and to receive support and assistance. Interns have rights to appeal remediation decisions. Interns may also file a complaint (grievance) at any time during the internship.

Standard University procedures as stated in the University Administrative Manual or the Student Code of Conduct  may also be applied to the process of identifying insufficient performance and/or problem behaviors during formal review as well as to remediation, appeal, and grievances. In the event of a conflict between the Manual and Code of Conduct, the University Administrative Manual will take precedence.

 

Insufficient performance

Performance problems that may be cause for formal review and subsequent informal action plan, formal remediation, or termination from internship include skills deficits, failures to perform at the level of competency expected, and problems of ethical and/or professional conduct. Examples of insufficient performance include but are not limited to situations that include the following:

  1. The intern does not acknowledge, understand, address, or correct a problem when it is identified
  2. An intern problem is assessed:
    1. as a skill deficit that negatively impact the intern’s clinical work and the quality of other services and reflects competency below that which is expected at the point of the internship year and which likely requires remediation for correction (e.g., increased didactic, experiential training)
    2. as being more than a skill deficit that negatively impact the intern’s clinical work and the quality of other services, that has not been corrected by didactic or experiential training;
  3. The intern’s behavior has not changed as a function of feedback, remediation efforts, and/or additional experience
  4. The intern demonstrates an inability and/or unwillingness to learn and appropriately integrate professional ethical standards into all professional work
  5. The intern demonstrates an inability to effectively manage personal stress, psychological distraction, and/or excessive emotional reactions that interfere with professional functioning
  6. The problematic behavior has potential for ethical or legal ramifications if not addressed
  7. The intern's behavior negatively impacts the public view of University of Nevada, Reno Counseling Services
  8. The problematic behavior negatively impacts the other interns
  9. The problem is not restricted to one area of professional functioning
  10. A disproportionate amount of attention by training personnel is required
  11. An intern obtains ratings below that which is expected for the time of year, as specified in the evaluation form, which states “to pass internship, interns must obtain an average rating of at least 5.0 on each of the individual PWC elements as well as our program-specific competency (intrapersonal skills) on the final evaluation with no individual element rated less than a 3.” Examples include the following:
    1. an intern obtains ratings of 1 or 2 out of 10 on the psychology intern evaluation form at the midpoint of internship, which is indicative of the early stages of doctoral training rather than the ratings of 3-6 that are expected at that stage of on internship
    2. an intern obtains ratings below 5 out of 10 on the final psychology intern evaluation form at the end of internship, which is indicative of the 1st half of doctoral training rather than the ratings of 5 or higher that are expected at that stage of on internship, the intern will not pass internship

Problem behaviors

Problem behaviors subject to formal review and subsequent informal action, formal remediation, or termination from internship include a number of situations that may include, but are not limited to, when an intern engages in any of the following behaviors:

  1. Sexual Harassment
  2. Violation of professional codes of conduct for ethical and professional practice APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists & Code of Conduct, APA Professional Practice Guidelines)
  3. Insubordinate behavior
  4. Exploitive or abusive behavior
  5. Other behaviors not listed elsewhere in this document but that represent infringement on the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of interns, professionals, other volunteers/employees, other members of the community and/or clients of the agenc
  6. Egregious behaviors including illegal behavior, unethical behavior, behavior that likely indicates poor judgment. Egregious behaviors may result in termination of the intern’s employment and notification of the intern’s graduate program.
 

Due process

Due Process is integrated within the formal review and remediation process. Due Process ensures interns are treated justly, given a reasonable opportunity to hear about, respond to, and remediate problems; receive support and assistance; and have the right to appeal and file a grievance. The Training Program is structured to include due process so behavior and performance expectations are clear, and evaluation processes and procedures for remediation are effective, timely and fair.

  • Program Expectations. The Counseling Services training program will provide interns with the training program expectations for professional functioning in writing at the beginning of the internship training year.
  • Procedures for Evaluation. The Counseling Services training program will inform interns about the evaluation procedures including the when, how, and who will conduct evaluations.
  • Procedures for Evaluation of Performance and Problem Behavior. The Counseling Services training program will inform interns when performance and problem behaviors are identified as truly problematic and how they will be addressed.
  • Data for Performance Evaluation. The Counseling Services training program will use input from multiple professional sources to the extent that it is feasible when making decisions or recommendations regarding the intern's performance.
  • Communication with Graduate Program. If an intern has skills deficits and/or problem behaviors, the Counseling Services training program will communicate early and often with the intern, and their graduate program when needed and as specified in the Due Process procedures, to address these problems.
  • Remediation Plan. If it is determined to be warranted, the Counseling Services training program will provide a remediation plan (see remediation section) for interns to address skill deficits and/or problem behaviors, a timeline to complete requirements for remediation, and consequence for failure to meet these by the end of the timeline.
  • Appeal. The Counseling Services training program will provide interns with a written statement of the appeal policy and procedures in the training manual should interns choose to exercise their right to an appeal (see Appeal section).
  • Timely Process. The Counseling Services training program will ensure that a sufficient amount of time is provided for interns to respond to any action(s) taken by the program.
  • Documentation. The Counseling Services training program will document in writing the action(s) to be taken if an intern has skills deficits and/or problem behaviors, the rationale for action(s), the criteria for resolving the remediation, and Counseling Services will provide this information to all relevant parties, and documentation will be kept in the intern’s file in the case of formal remediation.
 

Informal review and resolution

When a Counseling Services staff member believes that an intern’s performance or behavior is problematic, the first step in addressing the issue should be to raise the issue with the intern directly if feasible and appropriate consistent with the APA Ethics Code (see 1.04). The person who raises the concern should raise the issue with the intern directly and as soon as feasible in an attempt to informally resolve the problem. The same person should monitor the outcome. If the person who raises the concern is a person outside Counseling Services, they should inform a Counseling Services supervisor or staff member, who will take up the addressing and monitoring role.

 

Formal review

When an intern, Counseling Services staff member, client, or other person informs the Training Committee, Director of Training, or Director of Counseling Services that intern performance is insufficient and/or a problem behavior has occurred, and informal review has not resolved the issue or is not appropriate or feasible, a formal review of the intern is activated.

Notice: The intern will be notified in writing that a formal review hearing will be held within 10 working days of when it is held.

Hearing: Formal review is conducted by the Training Committee, the Director of Training, and the Director of Counseling Services (or the designee of the Director of Training or Director of Counseling Services) within 10 working days of notifying the intern of the concern. The intern supervisor or supervisors may also be involved at any step of this process, and at least one supervisor will be involved if a formal remediation plan is implemented.

Outcomes: The outcome of a hearing will be communicated to the intern within 5 working days of the hearing decision and will include one of the following:

  • Acknowledgment & No Further Action
  • Informal Action Plan
  • Formal Remediation
  • Suspension
  • Termination

Any time limits listed above may be extended by mutual consent within a reasonable timeframe. If new information is discovered after a review has occurred, even if no further action was previously required, the formal review process may be restarted and a new outcome will result.

 

Acknowledgement and no further action

Acknowledgment and no further action occurs when the Director of Training, Counseling Services Director and the Training Committee decide by simple majority vote the psychology internship is aware of the problem; it has been brought to the attention of the intern; the problem is not significant enough to warrant an informal action plan, formal remediation plan, suspension, or termination; and either a) no further action is required to address the concern or problem or b) if the problem needs to be rectified, the supervisor or other staff member will work with the intern to rectify the problem.

 

Informal action plan

An informal action plan is implemented when the Director of Training, Counseling Services Director and the Training Committee decide by simple majority vote that an intern’s performance deficits or other problem behaviors present a low risk to stakeholders, the situation is amenable to adequately timely change, the deficits or problem behaviors are more significant than those appropriate for acknowledgement and no further action, and that no further action could result in the problem worsening without an informal action plan.

In the event that a vote results in a tie, the Director of Training will break the tie. An informal action plan may include increased supervision, didactic training, and/or structured readings. This process will be documented in writing and discussed with the Director of Training and Training Committee, but will not become part of the intern’s professional file. The informal action plan will not be shared with the intern’s home doctoral program unless requested by the intern or agreed upon by the intern and the Director of Training. Progress reviews will be conducted as part of the intern’s action plan within a specified timeframe. One or more progress reviews may be conducted.

 

Formal remediation, suspension or termination

The key difference between an informal action plan and a formal remediation plan includes the following:

  1. The formal remediation plan becomes part of the intern’s professional file
  2. The Director of Clinical Training of the intern’s home doctoral program is informed when a formal remediation plan is enacted
  3. Formal remediation is a probationary status
  4. Successful remediation is necessary for the intern to successfully complete internship

A formal remediation plan is implemented when an intern’s performance deficits (or other problem behaviors) present a low risk to stakeholders, the situation is amenable to adequately timely change, and the remediation is necessary for the intern to successfully complete internship.

Formal remediation plans

A formal remediation plan will include the following:

  1. The actual behaviors or skills associated with the problem
  2. The specific actions to be taken for rectifying the problem
  3. The time frame during which the problem is expected to be ameliorated
  4. The procedures for determining whether the problem has been appropriately remediated

If a simple majority (with or without a Director of Training tie breaker) votes to implement a formal remediation plan, the plan will be developed by the Director of Training, Training Committee and the intern’s Supervisor, and forwarded to the Director for approval. If the Director agrees with the plan, it will be implemented, otherwise, it will be revised until accepted by the Director. A formal remediation plan will include communication to the graduate program, one or more specific time periods for progress review, criteria for resolving the remediation plan successfully so the intern exits the remediation and consequences if the remediation plan is not completed successfully.

Process for implementing formal remediation plans

The process for implementing the formal remediation plan is as follows:

  1. The supervisor (or a designated member of the Training Committee) verbally informs the intern that formal remediation procedures will be implemented and shares the formal remediation document with the intern within 5 working days of the remediation decision.
  2. The formal remediation plan is placed in the intern’s file. This decision will be documented in writing, and the Director of Training will forward a copy of the document to the home doctoral institution within ten (10) working days of sharing the document with the intern.
  3. The Director of Training will share and discuss the formal remediation plan with the parties involved including the intern primary clinical and/or emphasis area supervisor in addition to the Director of Clinical Training (DCT) of the home doctoral institution within ten (10) working days of sharing the document with the intern.
  4. The formal remediation plan will state the specific behavioral conditions for the continuation of the internship, if the intern is suspended from some or all of their activities until specified steps are taken, and criteria needed to resolve the remediation successfully and time periods for progress review, and deadlines for completing these criteria.

Formal remediation plan progress reviews

Progress reviews will be conducted as part of the intern’s remediation plan within a specified timeframe. One or more progress reviews may be conducted.

A formal evaluation of progress under the remediation plan will be conducted by the Director of Training, Training Committee, and the intern’s supervisor and will ultimately decide by simple majority, with a tie breaker by the Director of Training if necessary, whether to do the following:

  1. Resolve the formal remediation plan upon its successful completion;
  2. Reduce the formal remediation plan to an informal action plan;
  3. Extend the formal remediation plan for a later formal remediation evaluation with or without progress reviews
  4. Terminate the intern's involvement in the internship and notify the intern’s graduate program and APPIC. University of Nevada, Reno Human Resources will be notified. The intern will need to complete the normal procedures for ending internship including completion of all client documentation. The evaluation decision will be forwarded to the Director for approval. If the Director approves, it will be implemented. If the Director does not approve, the Director will join the Director of Training, Training Committee and the intern’s Supervisor for another remediation plan evaluation vote, which will be resolved by simple majority, with a tie breaker by the Director if necessary.

The formal remediation plan evaluation decision will be documented in writing and will be shared with the intern within ten (10) working days of the meeting. This documentation will become a part of the intern’s professional file. The decision will be shared with the intern’s home doctoral institution. If the decision involves continuation in the training program, the Director of Training may assign a new clinical supervisor and meet with them to plan the monitoring of the conditions in the decision. If the Director of Training is the supervisor of intern, the Counseling Services Director will take up the role(s) of the Director of Training, listed above. Any time limits listed above may be extended by mutual consent within a reasonable timeframe.

 

Appeal procedures

In the event that an intern does not agree with and wishes to challenge any of the aforementioned Due Process Procedures including remediation, sanctions, or with the handling of a grievance – the following appeal procedures should be followed:

  1. The intern should file a formal appeal in writing (email will suffice) to the Director with all supporting documents that refute the evidence regarding the evaluative decision made. The intern must submit this appeal within ten (10) working days from the notification of the subject of the appeal (i.e., notification, remediation or sanctions, or handling of a grievance). The intern may also request a personal interview with the Director during this ten-day period.
  2. The Director will convene a formal review panel, consisting of the Director, the Director of Training and at least two other members of the Training Committee (e.g., Assistant Director of Training for Internship) within ten (10) working days of receipt of a formal written appeal from an intern. The intern may request a specific member of the Training Committee to serve on the formal review panel. The review panel will review all written materials and have an opportunity to interview the parties involved or any other individuals with relevant information. The review panel will reach a decision based on a simple majority vote, with a tie breaker vote from the Counseling Services Director, if necessary. In the event of a conflict of interest, the Director of Training or the Counseling Services Director may designate a substitute representative.
  3. In the event that an intern is filing a formal appeal in writing to disagree with a decision that has already been made by the formal review panel and supported by the Director, then that appeal is reviewed again by the Director. The Director will determine if a new formal review panel should be formed to reexamine the case, or if the decision of the original decision is upheld. At that point, the decision of the Director is final.
 

Informal grievance procedures

A grievance is formal term for a complaint. A grievance procedure is a process that is invoked when an intern has a complaint against the training program or individual involved in the training program. Interns may initiate an informal or formal grievance about the conduct of another intern, staff member supervisor, the Training Committee, the Director of Training, the Counseling Services Director as well as the Counseling Services Department, the Training Program and their policies and procedures.

Grievances must be raised by interns and others in good faith consistent with APA Ethics Standard 1.07, which states that psychologists do not file or encourage the filing of (ethics) complaints that are made with reckless disregard for or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation. Interns who pursue grievances in good faith will not experience any adverse professional consequences.

For situations in which an intern raises a grievance about a supervisor, staff member, trainee, or the internship program, first the intern should raise the issue as soon as feasible and appropriate directly with the person or persons in an effort to resolve the problem informally consistent with APA Ethics Standard 1.04 on informal resolution (also see informal resolution policy above).

 

Formal grievance procedures

If the matter that is the subject of a grievance cannot be satisfactorily resolved using informal means, the intern may submit a formal grievance in writing to the Director of Training. If the Director of Training is the object of the grievance, the grievance should be submitted to another member of the Training Committee. The individual being grieved (or Director of Training if the subject of the grievance is the training program) will be asked to submit a response in writing within ten (10) working days.

The Director of Training (or Training Committee member, if appropriate) will then meet with the intern and the individual being grieved within ten (10) working days of the response. In some cases, the Director of Training or other Training Committee member may wish to meet with the intern and the individual being grieved separately first. The goal of the joint meeting will be to develop a plan of action to resolve the matter. The plan of action will include the following:

  1. The behavior associated with the grievance
  2. The specific steps to rectify the problem
  3. The procedures designed to ascertain whether the problem has been appropriately rectified.

The Director of Training or other Training Committee member will document the process and outcome of the meeting. The intern and the individual being grieved will be asked to report back to the Director of Training or other Training Committee member in writing within ten (10) working days regarding whether the issue has been adequately resolved.

 

Lack of resolution: Human Resources

If the formal review panel or Director determines that an appeal or grievance cannot be resolved internally or is not appropriate to be resolved internally, then the issue will be turned over to the University Human Resources Department in order to initiate the University Employee Due Process procedures. If the formal review panel determines that an appeal or grievance potentially can be resolved internally, the panel or Director will develop a second action plan that includes the same components as mentioned above.

The process and outcome of the panel meeting will be documented by the Director of Training or other designated Training Committee member. In the case of a grievance, the intern and the individual being grieved will again be asked to report back in writing regarding whether the issue has been adequately resolved within ten (10) working days. The panel will reconvene within ten (10) working days to again review written documentation and determine whether the issue has been adequately resolved. If the issue is not resolved by the second meeting of the panel, the issue will be turned over to the University Human Resources Department in order to initiate the University Due Process procedures.