Allison Waterworth, PsyD, ABPP
American Board of Couple and Family Psychology
What motivated you to seek board certification in couple and family psychology?
I spent years improving my skills and knowledge in the application of psychological principals in order to enhance the lives of families and couples. ABCFP offered a way to demonstrate that I do in fact possess this specialized knowledge. I first learned about ABPP in graduate school when board certification was presented as the pinnacle of professionalism and excellence. From that time forward I determined to develop the proven expertise to become board certified. It was with this in mind, as well as the urging of mentors, that I began the process of board certification. The process of reflecting upon and concretizing years of education in family systems was surprisingly rewarding.
What advice would you give to a candidate seeking board certification in couple and family psychology?
Begin the process with ‘one step,’ if you view the entire process it may seem daunting. Once you’ve begun the process you will likely find it rewarding and reinforcing, with only minor setbacks from logistical matters (figuring out how to video tape sessions; retrieving records about hours in training). Be certain to use the Mentoring process which is available to all candidates. Mentors are board certified in your area of expertise and will be glad to assist you in understanding the process, working through hurdles, and guiding you as you develop your case formulations and work samples.
What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification?
Board certification provides external validation that I am truly expert in treating couples and families. Many clinicians provide therapy to couples and families but being board certified shows consumers that they will likely experience relief and improvement more efficiently from a board certified clinician. Being board certified allows access to a stimulating peer group from which consultations on challenging cases are accessible and welcomed. Processing the standards by which we measure our expertise and profession is enriching and enlightening. Finally, serving on the Board for ABCFP has provided an additional level of intellectual stimulation and reflection which is rewarding, especially given my current work setting as a private practitioner.
What was the most interesting or surprising aspect of the board certification process?
The most interesting and surprising aspect of the process was the Oral Examination. While the Oral Exam may connote a potentially adversarial process it was anything but. Yes, the examiners asked challenging and thoughtful questions, but only in a manner which was thoughtful and respectful, and not designed to engender feelings of judgment. I have since served as an Oral examiner for two candidates and experienced the same collegiality, intellectual stimulation, mutual respect, and sharpening of clinical acumen in these processes.
What is your practice like?
After earning my doctoral degree in 1997 from the Florida Institute of Technology, with a declared emphasis in Family Systems, I worked in a psychiatric hospital for adolescents in Los Angeles. Family systems knowledge was integral to my ability to understand the youth in context, including the impact of both nature and nurture. From there I moved to an outpatient child and family community center, the St. John’s Child and Family Development Center. I continued providing individual, couples, and family therapy, and began supervising interns, while developing a team of family therapists to provide within-house consultations to other clinicians. From there I moved into full time private practice, which has been enjoyable and rewarding, but a bit isolating at times. Serving on the ABCFP Board has been an enriching adjunct to my clinical work, and served as a primary connection to the latest developments in the field of systems work. As the President-Elect I look forward to leading the Board into the next phase of our work together.