The American public is accustomed to health care provided by physicians who are board certified. Did you know, though, that being board certified is not required? However, we have grown to expect that when we go to a doctor, that person is board certified. Physicians and psychologists alike are licensed and can legally practice without being board certified. Board certification is an additional, voluntary process that one goes through to demonstrate competency in a specialty area.
The process of licensing psychologists, as with many professions, is based on a review of education, training and experience. It involves taking and passing a written test of knowledge of the field of psychology. The licensure process is intended to address those areas, but it is not designed to assess competency of the professional psychologist in applying what she or he knows. That is why board certification is important.
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) serves the public need by providing oversight certifying psychologists competent to deliver high quality services in various specialty areas of psychology. Board certification (awarding of a Diploma in a specialty) assures the public that specialists designated by the ABPP have successfully completed the educational, training, and experience requirements of the specialty, including an examination designed to assess the competencies required to provide quality services in that specialty. Psychologists board certified through ABPP have undergone review of education, training, experience, often additional written testing, and have had samples of their work peer-reviewed by board certified psychologists. They have also passed a face-to-face examination by board certified psychologists in the specialty in which they seek board certification. This process serves to address the competency of the psychologist, not just knowledge.
The American Board of Professional Psychology was incorporated in 1947 with the support of the American Psychological Association. The ABPP is a unitary governing body of separately incorporated specialty examining boards which assures the establishment, implementation, and maintenance of specialty standards and examinations by its member boards. Through the ABPP Central Office, a wide range of administrative support services are provided to ABPP Boards, Board Certified Specialists, and the public.
A Specialty is a defined area in the practice of psychology that connotes special competency acquired through an organized sequence of formal education, training, and experience. In order to qualify as a specialty affiliated with the ABPP, a specialty must be represented by an examining board which is stable, national in scope, and reflects the current development of the specialty. A specialty board is accepted for affiliation following an intensive self-study and a favorable review by the ABPP affirming that the standards for affiliation have been met. These standards include a thorough description of the area of practice and the pattern of competencies required therein as well as requirements for education, training, experience, research bases of the specialty, practice guidelines, and a demonstrated capacity to examine candidates for the specialty on a national level.