Sandy Talks Psychology Specialization, Board Certification, and ABPP
Question 1: What are your views regarding board certification in psychology?
Board certification is an important aspect of psychology’s continued progress towards competency-based practice. ABPP Board Certification represents one of only two credentialing organizations recognized by APA. It is the only credentialing organization for psychology that is constituted as a broad umbrella organization comprised of many affiliated specialty boards. As such, Board Certification, defined as a credential representing achievement of competencies in a psychological specialty, is an important part of how psychology defines its practice to the public.
In Health Psychology, in particular (but also relevant to General Applied Psychology), Board Certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology represents to the broader healthcare environment the manner in which psychology promotes specialization and documentation of competencies in a manner analogous to other health professions (e.g., American Board of Medical Specialties).
The APA Ethics Code notes that all psychologists can practice within their area of competence, thus allowing each psychologist to describe their own scope of practice. However, being trained in a recognized specialty and earning Board Certification acknowledges that the practitioner has been recognized by their peers as following the expected guidelines of that specialty, thus being recognized as competent beyond the broad and general skills of a generic psychology license. For general applied psychologists, where the generic psychology license is not a focus, Board Certification defines a psychologist as following the expected guidelines for that specialty, thus being recognized as representing an expected level of quality for that specialty. This may be important to a wide array of those members of the public or private organizations seeking the expertise and problem-solving capabilities of psychologists.
Question 2: What are your views regarding specialization within psychology?
Specialization in psychology is an expected developmental process, common to growing professions and disciplines. Early in its development, psychology, as a discipline, grew into broader specialties such as research and practice. As psychology practice and applied psychology evolved, clinical, counseling, school and industrial-organizational psychology developed doctoral training programs to specialize in specific areas. More recently, specialization has been defined by APA to occur at one or more levels of education and training: doctoral, internship, post-doctoral, and/or post-licensure. As a counseling psychologist who now specializes in organizational consultation and leadership development, I understand very well the need for specialization in a more formal manner, through education, and strongly support the need for specialization.
Specialization within psychology is not exclusive to board certification, as many psychologists who specialize have not acquired board certification. Psychology, most notably through ABPP and through CRSPPP (APA Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology), formally define a given specialty and the paths leading to specialization (e.g., education and training guidelines, maintenance of specialization).
Ultimately, for a psychologist to demonstrate specialization in a formal manner, the psychologist can voluntarily seek board certification to demonstrate to colleagues and the public their specialization and their demonstrated competencies within that specialization process. Currently, especially for healthcare settings, both consumers and those managing those settings alike expect specialization and board certification from their providers. In other applied settings, there is increasing pressure for mechanisms to more clearly define both specialization and certification of competencies in areas where professional services are being sought. This trend is likely to continue for some time, and APA needs to be prepared to help psychologists and psychology address these emerging challenges and opportunities.
Question 3: If elected, how can APA and ABPP work together toward improving our field?
APA has a substantial history of working with ABPP and other organizations, and it should continue those collaborative relationships. In fact, APA’s relationship with ABPP goes back to ABPP’s establishment, as APA wanted to assure the existence of a credential in practice, prior to the development of licensure. More recently, APA worked with ABPP and other organizations (through the Inter-organizational Summits) to create a single definition of specialty within psychology. APA has also welcomed ABPP’s active participation within APA’s Boards and Committees (e.g., ABPP’s liaison roles on CAPP and CRSPPP). In the future, if elected, I would reach out to ABPP to continue to discuss and define other ways to jointly improve the field of psychology, through formal APA governance structures, division level activities and other emerging collaborative efforts to take our field effectively into the future.
Question 4: If elected, how can ABPP help with your presidential agenda?
ABPP’s continuing willingness to provide input and feedback and to work on significant issues affecting the definitions of our field will be critical to the success of my initiatives and APA’s ongoing future work to address growth and change within psychology, as we meet the challenges of ever-changing societal needs.
One of my initiatives is to recognize the full range of practice work done by general applied psychologists so that APA and the public alike broaden and strengthen their perceptions of how psychology fully benefits the public. ABPP could provide some distinct and useful perspectives that could contribute to evolving, stronger definitions of psychology practice.
Further, I have a goal to define the psychology workforce of the future. I see ABPP, and other recognized groups, having expertise critical to the identification of potential future roles, processes for defining future role competencies, and ideas for preparing psychologists to optimize contributions for the public good.
A related initiative to prepare psychologists for a technology accelerated future would benefit tremendously from input from ABPP, and other recognized groups, on both the processes and actual content involved to determine competencies needed for future preparation for technology-human interaction roles for practicing psychologists. Such involvement by ABPP could be tremendously helpful in determining how psychologists can best prepare to utilize technology in better serving the public.
Finally, I have a goal focusing on psychologists being prepared to lead change initiatives as learning leaders in our respective spheres of influence. ABPP could be a critical partner in conceptualizing how psychology can best incorporate learning leadership skills and competencies into psychology training, curriculum and certification processes.