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Board Certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) provides peer and public recognition of demonstrated competence in one of its fifteen affiliated specialty areas. Additionally, Board Certification through ABPP provides the professional with increased opportunities for career growth, including employability, mobility, and financial compensation.
Michael E. Tansy, PhD, ABPP
It is an honor and privilege to serve as the 2016-2017 ABPP President. As President, I hope to further ABPP’s efforts to fulfill its mission to increase consumer protection through the examination and certification of psychologists who demonstrate competence in approved specialty areas in professional psychology. Since 2005 I have served in ABPP leadership at the specialty board, academy, and Board of Trustees levels. I have benefitted from the guidance of several remarkable ABPP presidents, including Christine Nezu, Nadine Kaslow, Gregory Lee and Randy Otto. I am truly indebted to them as, through them, I learned about the complexities of ABPP board governance. I anticipate working closely with our Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, specialty board and academy leaders, and specialists to maintain continuity in our effort to fulfill our mission.
ABPP is open, professional, and inclusive organization comprised of five dedicated Central Office employees and nearly 4000 specialists, many of whom volunteer their time and talent to achieve our mission. I encourage each of every one of you to be more involved in every level of ABPP leadership. Through my involvement I have had the opportunity to know and learn from many of the today’s elite scholars and practitioners. Were you to do the same you would find ABPP encourages specialists’ participation in its daily operations. I hope you catch the ‘bug’ and take an interest in how you may get more involved. One starting point would be to open our website (abpp.org) and navigate through it. Here you will find information about ABPP, including past issues of The Specialist, messages from the President and the Executive Officer, information about each specialty board and academy, and information about the ABPP Foundation.
Were you to get involved you would find ABPP is a dynamic, growing organization comprised of fifteen distinct specialties. As an indication of the status it maintains among board certifying groups, ABPP is the only multi-board organization recognized by the APA Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology (CRSPPP). Further, ABPP maintains close professional relationships with a number of important psychology organizations, including the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), the Council of Specialties (CoS), and the American Psychological Association (APA). To familiarize you with some of ABPP’s important groups, topics and initiatives I would like to bring to your attention.
No discussion of ABPP can occur without a statement of appreciation of our hard-working Central Office staff, comprised of David Cox, Executive Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org), Nancy McDonald, Assistant Executive Officer (email@example.com), Lanette Melville, Meeting Planning and Marketing Assistant (firstname.lastname@example.org), Diane Butcher, Information Content Manager (email@example.com), and Kathy Holland, Administrative Assistant (firstname.lastname@example.org). In recent history the Central Office has undergone significant changes, including decreasing cost by relocating to a smaller office, telecommuting to increase flexibility and allow for a smaller office, updating the ABPP human resource manual, updating the ABPP policy and procedure manual, beginning an update of the ABPP website and data management system (with the assistance of Code-A-Site, a North Carolina-based web development company). For many years, we have all appreciated the hard work these dedicated employees do and, should you be inclined, pass them a kind word at their emails, listed above. I routinely send them thanks for their hard work and would hope you will do the same.
Board of Trustees, Specialty Boards, and Academy Officers
ABPP is comprised of nearly 4000 members and a very small staff. Yet, ABPP is a very productive group. All of us in leadership have worked with many boards. I continue to be impressed by the effort of our organization, which is primarily volunteer. It would be very difficult to estimate the number of hours each trustee, specialty board officer, and academy officer volunteers to ABPP. Were one to calculate the value of this service based on your hourly office rate I’m sure the annual value would be extraordinary. I am further gratified by the caliber of our leadership and their ability to maintain harmony, particularly when you consider the passion with which professionals should and do hold their interests. If you step back and take perspective, no doubt you are equally pleased. I appreciate, respect and am indebted to all of you for your service.
7th Annual ABPP Conference & Workshops
May 11-14, 2016, ABPP will host its 7th Annual ABPP Conference and Workshops at the Gwen Hotel in Chicago, IL. The ABPP Conference and Workshop series is an opportunity to obtain top-tier continuing education credits provided by board certified specialists recognized by their respective specialties. In the past decade, the ABPP Conference and Workshop Series has provided exceptional training on topics that are timely, relevant, and well presented. Lanette Melville, ABPP Meeting Planning and Marketing Assistant, has worked with others to create a program that receives very complementary feedback. I strongly encourage all specialists, psychologists, students, and other professionals to attend our workshops, and all specialty boards to hold their meetings and examinations at this the conference. The ABPP Conference and Workshops is a cost-effective means of obtaining valuable continuing education, while affording me the opportunity to meet valued ABPP friendships. Learn more about and register for the 7th Annual ABPP Conference & Workshops at abpp.org.
Maintenance of Certification
When ABPP was first established, psychologists who passed their examinations were awarded lifetime diplomas and the members were titled “diplomate”. Several years ago, ABPP began awarding successful candidates certificates and their titles became “specialist”. About a decade ago ABPP recognized that to fulfill its mission to increase consumer protection it is reasonable to expect that board certification must be maintained, that is it should be periodically renewed by demonstrating ongoing competence. Toward that end, ABPP’s Board of Trustees created a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Task Force. The MOC Task Force developed a MOC model that asks each specialist to complete a self-assessment of their competence by completing a specialty-specific continuing professional development grid and narrative. Once notified by Central Office to complete their MOC, the specialist submits their material to their specialty board reviewer. The MOC Task Force partnered with each specialty board to develop a specialty-specific MOC grid and narrative. These MOC materials were approved by the ABPP Standards Committee in 2014. All specialists are encouraged to participate in MOC; however, specialists who are board certified before January 1, 2015 may utilize a waiver. Specialists receiving board certification after January 1, 2015 must complete MOC before December 31, 2024.
Since finalizing the MOC materials in 2014, the MOC Task Force turned MOC implementation over to David Cox, ABPP Executive Officer, and Diane Butcher, ABPP Information Content Manager. In fall 2014 and spring 2015, David and Diane worked with Nat Nelson and the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology leadership to pilot the MOC 1.0, which utilized fillable pdf forms for the MOC materials. Finding this format problematic, the EC approved funding for Code-A-Site to work with David and Diane to build a web-based means by which specialists and specialty boards complete their MOC. We anticipate further pilot efforts and implementation soon. Specialists who have questions about MOC may contact our Executive Officer at email@example.com.
In the past several years the ABPP Diversity Committee, under the leadership of Dolores Morris and Joel Frost, have developed and awarded two diversity-related scholarships, the Arthur Nezu Dissertation Award and the Early Career Psychologist Diversity Award. Additionally, the committee developed a position statement on diversity that can be read in its entirety at abpp.org. In part, the position statement affirms that ABPP “works to ensure that it appropriately affiliates with individuals and institutions that provide equal treatment and access to resources and decisions for all community members representing all aspects of individual and cultural diversity. These aspects include, but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability status, and special populations.” I am very proud and hold ABPP in high esteem for its dedication to diversity and anticipate it will continue to be mindful of important foundational competence. Specialists who are interested in promoting diversity within ABPP are encouraged to contact Joel Frost, Diversity Committee Chairperson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Early Career Psychologist
In May 2014, through the efforts of the Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Task Force, chaired by Alina Suris, the ABPP Board of Trustees agreed to expand itself to include an ECP Trustee. The Trustees agreed to pilot this position for four years (January 2015 until December 2018, unless re-authorized by the Trustees). In December 2014, the Trustees selected the inaugural ECP Trustee, Veronica Bordes Edgar from a pool of very talented early career psychologists. Since her selection, Dr. Bordes Edgar has presented to the Trustees and the ABPP Foundation regarding the ECP Task Force efforts to reach out to ECPs, encouraging them to become board certified and to become involved in ABPP leadership, once certified. Also, the Trustees have strongly encouraged each specialty board and academy to consider formally recognizing an ECP on their respective board. Specialists interested in learning more about the ECP Task Force are encouraged to contact Dr. Bordes Edgar (email@example.com).
Early Entry Option Applicants
Several years ago, in large part through the initiative of ABPP’s Executive Officer, ABPP developed a means by which students and graduates who are not yet licensed may begin the process of becoming board certified. This program, the Early Entry Option (EEO), affords these individuals the opportunity to begin banking their materials with ABPP. Also, it provides a meaningful discount for their additional application. I encourage all graduate students and pre-licensed graduates to investigate this benefit. Information about the EEO program is available at abpp.org.
The Council of Presidents of Psychology Specialty Academies was formed in 1994 as a means of coordinating the efforts of the various specialty academies and as a vehicle for the ABPP academies to speak with a unified voice on matters of mutual interest. Since forming the relationships between specialty boards and academies have undergone considerable change. Currently, there are six academies that are organized external to ABPP (Clinical, Clinical Neuropsychology, Couple and Family, Counseling, Forensic, and Rehabilitation), two academies that are organized internal to ABPP (Clinical Health and School), three specialties with merged boards and academies (Group, Police and Public Safety, and Psychoanalysis) and four specialties with no associated academies (Behavioral and Cognitive, Clinical Child and Adolescent, Geropsychology, and Organization and Business Consulting). Under the recent leadership of Jack O’Regan, CPPSA has partnered with the ABPP Foundation and offered specialty boards grants to promote ABPP board certification. Specialists who are interested in increasing their involvement with their academy’s activities are encouraged to contact their academy leadership or Jack O’Regan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The American Board of Professional Psychology Foundation was established in 2010 to promote competent specialty practice and specialty board certification, to protect the public through providing educational opportunities in the form of scholarships and assistance to training programs, and to provide continuing professional development. Under the leadership of chairperson Florence Kaslow, the Foundation raises funds in order to support educational programs that interpret and promote the importance of board certification in psychology to the general public and to those in related professions. I hope you learn more about the Foundation and contribute donations to your ability. Specialists who are interested in learning more about the ABPP Foundation may contact Florence Kaslow (email@example.com)
ABPP continues to be on very solid footing thanks to the leadership of our Executive Officer and the BOT’s Finance Committee. Though he recently retired from the BOT, we are indebted to the service of Jerry Sweet, who served as the ABPP Treasurer for several years, as well as Randy Otto, who preceded Jerry. I am looking forward to working with our new Treasurer, Deborah Attix toward continuing the tremendous financial stability ABPP has achieved.
As I mentioned before, ABPP is primarily a volunteer organization that is and continues to be open, transparent, and healthy. As President I hope to continue to build on the efforts of my predecessors. Of course, I am only one person. I operate among 4000 ABPP colleagues, all of whom I need in order to achieve my goal…to transfer ABPP in better shape than I found it when my term expires. Please lend me you support and guidance. Never hesitate to contact me, should you find the interest or need (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Applications - ABPP continues to receive applications at a significantly increased rate over past years. ABPP had over 1000 applications in 2015 and is on a slightly slower pace this year in which we anticipate over 800 applications. More than 50% of the applications are now through the ABPP Early Entry Program. The culture of psychology is changing and the profession is increasingly integrating board certification into the expected professional pathway. The recent Summit on Specialty, Specialization and Board Certification (see below) suggests that there is wide-spread support for this movement and that continued growth can be expected. Specific to ASPPB is the collaborative project that ABPP and ASPPB have initiated in which ABPP applicants will bank their credentials with ASPPB, and ASPPB will provide the primary source verified credentials to ABPP. This is a “win-win” for the two organizations in several ways, including facilitating the workforce study in which ASPPB is engaged. We are currently working with ASPPB to get the necessary specifics in place and hoping to initiate the program in early 2017.
ABPP Workshops & Conferences – The 2016 conference was held May 11-14 at The Gwen Hotel (formerly the Conrad Hilton) on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. ABPP’s usual offering of 4 days of workshops, with 4-5 workshops (half day or full day) each day, was again met with terrific reviews by those in attendance. In addition, we continue to receive feedback from the presenters that those attending are of very high caliber relative to many other conferences. Another very special aspect of the conference is the “pre-Conference” APA CoA Site Visitor Training. This has been a regular, and well attended, aspect of the ABPP Conference and Workshops for several years now and we are very pleased to join forces with CoA to provide these opportunities.
Recently, I was asked to meet with the executive officers of ASPPB, the APAPO and The Trust while attending the APA Convention. It was agreed that increased collaboration between the groups would likely prove beneficial to all as well as to the profession. To initiate the joint effort, it was agreed that the four organizations would cooperate in providing an all-day the presentation on specialty, quality interstate practice and risk management at the 2017 ABPP Workshops & Conference. The workshop will be Wednesday May 17, 2017 at the Omni San Diego.
The program for the 2017 Annual Conference and Workshops is in shape, and the program and registration material can be viewed elsewhere on this web site. I thank those on the Workshop Planning Committee who assisted in suggesting topics and speakers. We have some terrific presenters and anticipate another well received conference. We will be celebrating 70 years of ABPP!
Liaison Activities - ABPP continues to participate as liaison to a number of entities in the profession in addition to ASPPB. This includes the APA Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), the various boards and committees that meet at the APA Consolidated Meetings, CCTC, CUDCUP, APPIC, NCSPP, and others. Across most all of these meetings there is an increased focus includes on specialty as one outcome of the sequence of education and training in our profession.
Maintenance of Certification – Perhaps the biggest recent change with ABPP is that ABPP specialists that are board certified in 2015 or later will need to document maintenance of certification once every 10 years. MOC is here and is up and running! As of mid-April, we began rolling out the formal online MOC process and now all of the ABPP Specialty boards are up and running. The initial data indicates that of those who are eligible (those certified prior to 2008) roughly 75-80% are opting out of MOC. This is not surprising considering that MOC is not required of them, many of those are specialists that were certified much earlier than 2008 and a fair number may be nearing retirement from active practice within the next 10 years. For example, a person that was board certified in 1984 will have been practicing more than 40 years by the time her MOC is required (those opting in at present must complete MOC by 2025). ABPP is strongly encouraging specialists to participate in MOC even if not required to do so, however there will be no penalty imposed by ABPP should they decide not to participate. In conversations with some of the above-mentioned organizations with whom APP has a liaison relationship, it has been noted that it is actually impressive that 20-25% of those who do not have to participate in MOC are indeed doing so!
Interorganizational Summit on Specialty, Specialization & Board Certification –The Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology (CoS) held an Interorganizational Specialty Summit immediately following the 2016 ABPP Conference and Workshops. A report from CoS is provided elsewhere in this BOT Agenda Book. From the Summit description provided by CoS: “The Summit will identify issues/problems faced, and to be faced in the future, regarding the place of specialties, specialization, and specialty credentialing in professional psychology.” CoS, as the lead organization, asked that ABPP (as the only credentialing organization recognized by CoS) and ASPPB (as representative of jurisdictional licensing) have each organization’s Executive Director (myself and Dr. Stephen Demers) co-facilitate along with CoS President Dr. Kevin Arnold. Among the entities participating in the Summit along with Cos, ABPP, and ASPPB were APPIC, CRSPPP, CoA, APAGS, CCTC, APAPO, APA Board of Professional Affairs, APA Board of Educational Affairs, and more. The Summit was a very collaborative interaction that began the process of identifying key policy considerations that might solve or lead to the resolution of some or all of the difficulties that the field has regarding scope of practice and specialization. There was unanimous agreement among the participants that the field of psychology needs to unify in its efforts to clarify the role of specialty education and training as well as work toward an expectation that board certification be obtained by those doing significant work in specialty areas. It was decided that a follow-up meeting will be held in late 2016 so as to keep the momentum of this important working going. The Summit met or exceeded all expectations and immediately prior to the December 2016 ABPP BOT meeting, we held what is being called Summit 2.0.
ABPP/ASPPB Collaborative Project - In recognition of the redundancy within the profession, as well as in an effort to move the profession forward toward a singular pathway for applications and credentials review, ABPP and ASPPB have agreed to initiate a collaboration wherein applicants to ABPP (starting with the Early Entry Applicants) will submit credentials directly to ASPPB for primary source verification and credentials banking. This project provides one “doorway” through which to enter the pathway for licensure and board certification. ASPPB is presently working on the specific details needed in their processes; once that is provided to ABPP we will complete the details and the program is anticipated to commence in early 2017.
ABPP Convocation at APA Convention - The 69th Annual ABPP Convocation was held Saturday, August 6th, 2016 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. at the Sheraton Denver Downton Hotel during the APA Convention. The ABPP Distinguished Service and Contributions to the Profession of Psychology Award was presented to Dr. Christine Courtois, who provided a very good talk about PTSD and her work in that area. Newly board certified specialists were recognized as were others who had made significant contributions to their specialty board or academy.
Technology Updates – ABPP has been working with CodeASite (CAS), a local technology vendor, to program the MOC technology that is now successfully up and running as well as transition our database and website to a new platform. We are using technologies called SharePoint, AgilePoint and Kentico in this process. As is often the case with projects, this one has, and will, cost more than originally anticipated. This is a combination of an increased understanding of the ABPP needs as CAS worked, changes made in response to reviews and requests by specialty boards, staff and others, and a realization on the part of CAS that the project is much larger than originally understood. Although we are never pleased with the prospect of additional expenses, we are pleased with the work that CAS has provided and their team that we work with to accomplish the goals. They have worked with us through numerous iterations of the MOC and we continue to have confidence in their ability to do a project that in the end we will all appreciate. Finally, it is important to realize that ABPP does need to continue to improve our technology experience for all users of our services, and that this is probably one of our most significant “products” right along with quality examinations. We have a proposed budget that includes some of the dollars for completion of the initial phase of the project and we will need to plan for continued, ongoing improvements, additions and changes on an annual basis.
The next phase of the project is working on building the capacity for uploading and reviewing of practice samples online in a fashion conceptually similar to the MOC process; in other words, uploaded materials will be readily available to review coordinators and reviewers on line.
Central Office – I personally cannot speak highly enough of our team in Central Office. Nancy McDonald, Lanette Melville, Diane Butcher, and Kathy Holland are a pleasure to work with and they complete their work with the utmost dedication to ABPP. I am very proud of this team! With the exception of Kathy, who joined us more recently, the rest of us have worked together for over 8 years now. Our ABPP Central Office work includes amazing anticipation of the others’ needs, collaboration of tasks and projects without hesitation and successful execution of the many things involved in a very busy operation. I hope you take the time during your visit to personally spend some time with each of these dedicated professionals!
(reprinted from The Specialist, Summer 2009)
Myth 1. ABPP is a Largely Academic and Elitist Organization.
Myth-busting facts. The mission of ABPP is to board certify individuals in various psychology specialties. As such, board-certified specialists are first and foremost, competent professionals who are responsible for the delivery of best practices of their specialty. It is true that, In addition to their commitment to providing competent services to the public, some psychologists who hold leadership positions on the various ABPP boards and academies also hold leadership positions in various clinical training or academic institutions. However, this is not elitist, rather, simply attests to their active participation in the growth and improvement of the field. Board-certified specialists are individuals who are interested in promoting competent practice, at all levels of experience, from the full range of professional service settings, and from all theoretic orientations. Since when did the aspiration of competent practice cease signifying responsibility and start signifying elitism?
Myth 2. If one is Licensed, There is No Need for Further Evaluation of His or Her Abilities.
Myth-busting facts. Technically, in order to legally and ethically engage in independent general practice, this is correct. However, if one considers him- or herself a specialist regarding assessment, treatment, or consultation in any of the recognized specialty areas within professional psychology, there is a growing interest among jurisdictional regulators and third- party payers to look toward board certification, similar to medicine, as a way to credential competent specialty practice. Moreover, our own ethical standards require us to provide services within the boundaries of our competencies. Board certification goes beyond what knowledge we have obtained and extends to how we competently apply what we know in day-to-day specialty practice.
Myth #3. I am a Quality Provider and Very Successful. I Don’t Need ABPP to Attract Patients.
Myth-busting facts. ABPP was never intended to be a marketing vehicle by which individuals could attract patients or increase the entrepreneurship of their practice (although it is a reported additional benefit for some). Rather, when high quality providers (e.g., the very people who subscribe to this myth and accurately self-identify in this way) are recognized through board certification, the process uplifts the entire profession because their practice provides the specialty benchmarks for competent work. One psychologist (who previously subscribed to this myth) recently told me that it was his concern about uplifting the profession during our discussions that sold him on the importance of board certification through ABPP.
Myth #4. ABPP Does Not Have Value for Me. Indeed, if I Take the Exam, I May be Communicating That I Am Not Competent Until I am Board Certified.
Myth-busting Facts. Ask any ABPP board-certified psychologist if they ever questioned the board-certification process or if they experienced any fears of how patients or colleagues might react if they did not pass (although the pass rate for individuals taking the exam is high, most all of us have experienced these fears). It is important to consider that many of the most valuable personal learning experiences involve some discomfort. After the first question, the board-certified specialist should then be additionally asked why he or she decided that it was still worth the time, effort, and cost to get board certified. I have never spoken to a specialist who regretted their decision. With regard to concerns about performance, there is much one can do to increase the likelihood of a successful exam experience by seeking information, guidance, and mentorship through the specialty board or academy of interest. More important, ABPP’s value far exceeds the individual sense of accomplishment, the increase in practice mobility, the increase in employment or salary opportunities, and increased protection of the public. Its value is important primarily to the professional of psychology as a whole. I have received emails, letters, and phone calls in the past two years from psychologists who are concerned about the unfair recognition of doctoral-level psychologists compared to their counterparts in medicine. Examples include the lack of fairness in media outlets regarding their refusal to use the title “Dr.” for psychologists and attempts by some segments of the American Medical Association (AMA) to do the same. It is reasonable and justifiable to have these concerns and desire to want to fight for equal professional footing. However, the overwhelming majority of physicians are board certified, whereas the current percentage of qualified psychologists who are board certified is approximately 4%. We will never receive the parity and fairness we seek regarding the media, law-making bodies, insurance carriers, our colleagues in other disciplines, or the public, unless we demonstrate an equal commitment to ensuring competence in our specialty practices. What we do is important. The easing of human suffering, the improvement of lives and relationships, and improved mental and physical health outcomes require robust and competently delivered therapies. Board certification is a widely accepted means by which to increase confidence in the competence of those who provide such services.
Myth # 5. ABPP is Only for Expert Practitioners Who Have Been Practicing for Years and Years.
Myth-busting facts. Individuals qualify as candidates for board certification if they have the requisite doctoral training and have an unrestricted license in the jurisdiction in which they practice. Although requisite professional experience varies with specialties, in most cases, this involves approximately three years postdoctoral training (including internship).
Myth #6. I Don’t See Patients in Day-to-Day Practice Much Anymore. More of My Work Involves Program Development, Supervision, or Development of Effective Treatments Through Psychology Research.
Myth-busting facts. I saved this one for last because I hear it so often in academic settings. I usually ask the person perpetuating this set of myths some of the following questions depending upon the particular version of the myth. “Imagine for a moment that you were a student seeking a professional doctoral training program (e.g., psychology, medicine, nursing, etc.), would you seek training from board-certified or non board-certified professionals in the specialty or discipline with which you are interested? If you were seeking treatment for a significant medical or physical problem, would you want to know that your provider was board-certified as competent and prepared to treat the problem for which you seek help?” And finally, “if you were supporting research to investigate a psychotherapy approach that was aimed at decreasing human suffering, would you want to know that the therapists in the study were competent?” Of course the answers to any (and all) of these questions is usually a resounding “yes.” Particularly in academic settings that train the next generation of professional psychologists or investigate the next wave of effective psychotherapy treatments, competence is a critical concept. For example, one clear bridge between research and practice is that those conducting clinical research trials in psychotherapy must necessarily be concerned with ensuring the competency of therapists in their studies as an essential aspect of their scientific integrity.
Why Myths Tend to Periodically Resurface
Recently, I read an article in another professional psychology organization’s newsletter, in which that organization was promoting its own credentialing process. Rather than focusing on the benefits to their members regarding their own activities, the author provided false and misleading information about ABPP, referring to it as an “academic certification” (see myth # 1), stating that only 1% of psychologists are board certified (false and misleading information), and making statements directly dismissing the value of ABPP board certification. It is disappointing when fellow psychologists behave poorly. More importantly, when our colleagues resort to disseminating information that is at best inaccurate and naive, and at worst, irresponsible and unprofessional, their behavior can be damaging to the profession as a whole.
Despite our training and experience, none of us are immune to fear, or any of the array of personal strategies human beings employ to reduce fears, including avoidance, denial, distraction, rationalization, or even aggressive acts. Many of the myths that persist can be traced back to colleagues’ fears that their competence might be questioned, avoidance of the burden of a fair and objective exam, denial of its importance, distraction from responsibility, rationalization that peer evaluation of competence is not necessary, and in its extreme, aggressive and attacking remarks toward the board certifying body (ABPP). It does not need to be this way. This issue significantly hits the notion of “practicing what we preach” and working together to support and help each other in the inevitable sequence of steps we all recognize as essential to demonstrating competent practice and placing professional psychology on equal footing with other healing disciplines. By doing so, we can reduce the prevalence of these myths and simultaneously help the profession. In order to accomplish this, we will need to reduce our own desires to promote the idea that there are so many competent psychologists out there that should be recognized and identified as such. We will need to do more to help our colleagues confront examination fears in a more effective manner and walk willingly into their board-certification experience. One reason for publishing our first ABPP book this summer was to reach out and make the board certification process more user-friendly, by sharing our experiences, our knowledge, and our collective helpful guidance with the process. We need to be welcoming and encouraging. The challenge, which I have often heard stated at so many meetings and conferences, is to get psychologists to “stop shooting ourselves in the foot.”
How to Stop Shooting Ourselves in the Foot
Rather than allow fears of the oral exam or face the possibility that some our specialty competencies may require continuing education to result in arguments or competitions with each other, how can we appeal to our colleagues to “cease fire” and stop thinking of ABPP as a “four-letter word?” Continued avoidance, denial, rationalization, and attacks may provide some immediate sense of personal control over fear, but it inevitably reduces the value and importance of what our profession can offer.
Imagine how the field could be strengthened if we helped and supported each other to reach the competency standards for practice to which we can mutually agree. More energy would be spent on mentoring, supervision, continuing education, and cross-specialty conferences. To begin this type of activity, we are planning the first-ever, ABPP-wide, continuing education conference in Portland, Oregon July 6-10, 2010 (please mark your calendars and save the date). This conference will disseminate the work of board-certified psychologists across all specialty areas, and allow for cross-specialty integration. It will provide cutting-edge developments and will be open to both board-certified and non-board certified psychologists. I look forward to seeing you all there.
In recent months, I have spoken to many people and organizations in my role as ABPP President in order to disseminate information about board certification, promote the importance of competence in professional psychology, and to invite dialogue regarding how we can best reach the many licensed psychologists for whom board-certification would acknowledge their work and promote the profession. Although I have witnessed an ever growing enthusiasm for these concepts, I continue to experience the barriers of old myths that are perpetuated by a lack of information or presence of fears.
Why We Need to Change
I recently was speaking with a hospital credentialing administrator and explained the importance of board certification for professional psychology specialists. In doing so, I made a few comparisons to the board-certification process required by physicians. She listened carefully and agreed that peer evaluation of competency in a specialty certainly provides for an important means for the public to have confidence in the psychological services provided by the hospital. Additionally, she indicated that it clarifies for other groups, such as third party payers, the nature and competencies involved in one’s specialty practice. However, she later suggested, “unless we can grandparent the existing practitioners, we may have a revolt on our hands…because no psychologist who has been practicing for many years is going to be willing to take another test. They’re not like other docs…they fight these things.”
Another licensed psychologist recently told a colleague that after years of practice as a qualified psychologist, to have her patients know that she is taking a board-certification would be an embarrassment that may have a negative impact on her practice. As you might expect, I could not disagree more. It’s essential to help our colleagues overcome the barrier of fear in much more constructive ways. However, in order to do so, they should expect our enthusiastic support, mentorship, and helpful guidance. Although undergoing evaluation may be a bit daunting, it’s the very concept of self-study, continuing education, and dedication to competence that contributes to our organization’s integrity.
Why We Need to Address Maintenance of Board-Certification in the Future
During this same week, I read an editorial by a cardiologist who writes a column for our local newspaper that had as its focus, the board-certification requirements of physician specialists and the more recent requirement of maintenance certification to which all of their 24 member boards agreed to participate. The American Board of Medical Specialties indicates that this maintenance of certification is important because it “assures that the physician is committed to lifelong learning and competency in a specialty and/or subspecialty by requiring measurement of core competency areas established by the association.”
Our own board of trustees began an exploration of the topic of maintenance last December and charged the standards committee to consider various models and processes of continuing education and lifelong learning that provide a means by which ABPP as an organization can maintain the value of board certification. As part of their preliminary deliberations, the ABPP Board of Trustees recognized that once an individual is board certified, a full re-examination process would not be efficient; rather it would be and unnecessarily burdensome to our specialists, the examining boards, and the overall organization. As an alternative, the Standards Committee is working on the development of a future process by which board certified specialists can earn “recertification credits” through demonstration of their continued dedication to remain current, active, and proficient in the profession. A model such as this acknowledges that the board certified professional has demonstrated their competence, support of the profession, and personal commitment to excellence in the field at the time of their original certification examination process. This model also presumes that, unless otherwise demonstrated through adverse action, this competence can be maintained by daily professionally relevant work responsibilities and activities. Sample activities that might be included will be solicited from current specialists soon; there is announcement regarding plans for the process in this issue of The Specialist. We are eager to hear from all of you as a way of identifying the daily activities and responsibilities that you view as contributing to the maintenance of competence.