Psychologists as mental health administrators

William James Burns (1998)

A descriptive study of psychologists and other professionals employed as mental health administrators was conducted, sampling their views and experiences concerning their preparedness for administration and their perceptions of training needs for effective administrative functioning. A group of 30 doctoral level psychologists was assessed using a 24 item questionnaire consisting of items relevant to demographic characteristics, as well as training and preparation to function in contemporary mental health administration. The use of a generic mental health administrator questionnaire allowed for also obtaining data from mental health administrators who were not psychologists, thus permitting a comparison of their viewpoints with those of the psychologist sample. Data were organized and compared according to three groupings: (1) Group I-Psychologists, (2) Group II-Other Clinicians, and (3) Group III-Administrators. The study explored training issues with regard to views on: (a) strengths and weaknesses of psychologists and other disciplines in administrative roles, (b) adequacy of personal preparedness from graduate training in psychology and other disciplines, (c) areas requiring additional emphasis and training for administrative functioning, and (d) recommendations for administrative training within graduate programs in psychology and other disciplines. Demographic areas reviewed included: (a) position, (b) work setting, (c) education, (d) professional licensure, (e) gender, (f) age, (g) years in discipline, and (h) years in administration. Areas of interest for discussion included: (1) whether psychologists favor clinical backgrounds over administrative backgrounds as being of greater value for administrative roles; (2) whether psychologists feel that they were inadequately prepared for administrative roles, based upon their own graduate training; and (3) whether the views of psychologists are consistent with those of other clinician-administrators with regard to their training preparation and experiences in administrative roles. Data were presented and discussed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Views of psychologists relative to training requirements in administration were compared with views of other disciplines, both as acquired in the survey and as cited in the literature. Recommendations were made with regard to training preparation, curricula, and further study. Results were intended to provide a contribution to the preparation of psychologists and others who function in administrative roles in the mental health field.