ABPP Mission Statement


The mission of the American Board of Professional Psychology is to increase consumer protection through the examination and certification of psychologists who demonstrate competence in approved specialty areas in professional psychology.




Message from the President



Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, ABPP
Board Certified in Clinical Psychology, Couple and Family Psychology, and 
Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Happy 2011! I hope that the upcoming year will be one filled with love, laughter, opportunity, and meaning.  I encourage each of you to be genuinely kind toward yourselves.  And toward others, please be generous, engage authentically, and demonstrate compassion. 
It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as the President of ABPP this past year and I am excited about the upcoming year.  This year could not have been so successful without our wonderful Central Office Staff and very hard working Executive Committee. 
The following are some recent and upcoming highlights. 
  • 2011 ABPP Summer Workshops - Please join us at the 2011 ABPP Summer Workshops in San Francisco - June 15-18, 2011.  We have a wonderful line-up of presenters.

  • Couple and Family Psychology Conference - The American Academy of Couples and Family Psychology of ABPP announces the first advanced workshops on Couples and Family Psychology with co- sponsorship with APA Division 43, Nova Southeastern University, Florida ABPP, the American Board of Couple and Family Psychology, and the American Academy of Group Psychology February 4-6, 2011 at the Hyatt Pier 66, a luxury resort hotel in sunny Fort Lauderdale Florida.  Other specialties have a long history of successful conferences: Forensics Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, and Rehabilitation Psychology. 
  • Police and Public Safety Psychology - The ABPP BOT voted unanimously to accept the application from Police and Public Safety Psychology for the next step in the affiliation process with ABPP and it is anticipated that soon they will become our 14th specialty.  Their application was a model for future groups interested in pursuing board certification.  CONGRATULATIONS to the representatives from that group for a job well done!
  • The Specialist - We have appointed a new Editor (Robert (Bob) Hill, PhD, ABPP) and Associate Editor (Michael Cuttler, PhD, ABPP) for the Specialist and we are grateful to Bob Goldberg, PhD, ABPP for his outstanding years of service. Dr. Goldberg will continue as the historian for the organization. 
Competencies - We are shifting the ABPP competencies to be consistent with the foundational and functional competencies that have been widely adopted within professional psychology. 
  • ABPP Foundation - The ABPP Foundation was established in 2010 and is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  The specific and primary purposes for which the Corporation was organized are to receive, administer, and expend funds for charitable and educational purposes.  The ABPP Foundation accepts donations in general, as well as those that may be designated for specific purposes, providing that those purposes are in keeping with the law and the organization’s intentions. 
  • ABPP Partnerships - ABPP has been active partners and participants with various relevant groups within professional psychology including the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology, APA Committee for Advancement of Professional Practice and Board of Professional Affairs, APA Taxonomy Workgroup, and the Joint Training Conference.
  • Expanding Board Certification – We are creating strategies for expanding the number of board certified psychologists.  If you have suggestions in this regard, please email them to me. 
I look forward to hearing from you with suggestions and ideas for improving ABPP!  I can be reached always at nkaslow@emory.edu.




Executive Officer Update

David R. Cox, Ph.D., ABPP 

 Happy New Year!  I hope that your year is full of health and happiness.


I would like to express my gratitude and recognition of the excellent staff that work with me in Central Office (CO):  Nancy McDonald, Lanette Melville and Diane Butcher have worked tirelessly (you may have noted some emails in the wee morning hours!) to help keep ABPP running smoothly.  I am extremely thankful to have such a hardworking, dedicate and FUN staff with whom to work.  Everyone in the office is mindful of getting job(s) done while also having a great sense of humor that gets us through some very busy times.  I hope your experience of the CO staff has been as pleasant as has mine!  They are a great group!  2010 was an extraordinarily busy year, and CO could not have processed everything that we did without such dedicated staff. 


So what goes on in ABPP CO?  Sometimes we get inquiries that suggest that not everyone is aware of how busy CO can be.  Starting off 2011, I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight just some of the activities in which CO is involved.



Web Site and other Technology Issues


We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the new ABPP website.  We continue to work on updates and improvements, and are very pleased with the way the site has worked out.  We are in the process of helping one or two of the academies get their sites linked to and/or hosted by our site.  Using the site, we have processed annual attestations electronically with relatively few hitches, and established a way for ABPP specialists to log in and update their contact information independently.


The ABPP web site has also been the doorway for an online registration process for the ABPP Summer Workshop Series.   That registration process went very well.  Reporting generated by the online registration process facilitated a rapid turn-around of CE certificates provided electronically to those in attendance at the workshops.  Those in attendance commented on the fact that CO was able to provide them with an electronic (and therefore easily stored and reprinted as needed) certificate of continuing education within 24 hours of workshop attendance. 


The American Board of Rehabilitation Psychology noted the ABPP conference registration and requested our assistance in online registration.  We have recently implemented online registration for a conference that is being so-sponsored by the Rehabilitation Psychology board.  By providing the online registration service, ABPP is able to assist one of its member boards and funds that would have been paid to an external provider are able to stay within the ABPP family.


Our website also has tools built into it to permit us to conduct surveys.  We have completed two such surveys this past year.  The first was the “Getting to Know You Survey” conducted by the ABPP Diversity Committee.  That survey resulted in something in the neighborhood of 750 responses.  We also conducted a survey of those who attended the 2010 ABPP Summer Workshop Series to help us plan future workshops.


Behind the scenes, we have been hard at work digitizing files so that applications and associated documents are electronically accessible.  The electronic files are created in a consistent format and with bookmarks that facilitate finding specific documentation within the file.  Digitizing the files permits no-cost electronic transmission of files that used to be shipped via FedEx or other means.  That process has saved CO a bundle on postage/shipping and has also created a means of all staff being able to readily access files as needed, when needed.


While working on files, the database has been updated and cleaned; this is an ongoing process, as some people (unfortunately) do not update their contact information on their own or have not yet become aware that they can (and should!).  Please do remember to go online and help ABPP and yourself by updating your contact information.  We have moved to almost entirely electronic communication and rely on having up to date information from each of you.  We feel that the database is probably as up to date as it has been in recent years, perhaps ever.  We are able to pull reports on a variety of issues with relative ease.


ABPP is now on Facebook.  We are hopeful that this use of social media will increase the exposure of ABPP, specifically with the younger generation of psychologists, residents, interns and students.  They are the future of ABPP and psychology and we want them involved.


Ongoing ABPP Specialist, Specialty Board, Academy and Inter-organizational Activities


Central Office is involved consistently in day to day activities interfacing with the various specialty boards, academies, specialists, and other organizations.  There are frequent projects that involve CO, including one this year that has resulted in reviewing the leadership of APA divisions to determine who in the leadership is board certified through ABPP.  There has been correspondence with specialty board and academy presidents to determine who the groups are working together and what might be improved.  CO assists in developing and maintaining agendas for conferences including the Executive Committee, Specialty and/or Academy Presidents, Governance, BOT meetings and committees.


An ongoing part of the ABPP CO activities includes updating “the pipeline” for each board so that accurate and up to date information about those who are in the process of becoming board certified specialists.  Also, for each board, CO participates in tracking income and expenses, providing budgets and helping to process reimbursements for the many volunteers who participate in examination and other board related activities.


CO is integrally involved in working with several committees.  The Ethics Committee is informed by CO of any complaints and findings reported to ABPP, and CO facilitates gathering of necessary information for that committee to perform its responsibilities.  This year there have been 10 open cases that have required attention (the Ethics Committee will report on the status of those in dependent of this report).  The Communications Committee includes work for production of The Specialist.  With Editor Robert Goldberg, CO has worked to produce two issues annually.  As most of you know, Dr. Goldberg is facilitating a transition to the new Editor, Bob Hill, and Associate Editor, Mike Cuttler in the coming months.  Dr. Goldberg will continue to be involved as the ABPP Historian.  Many thanks go to Bob for his many years of outstanding contributions to ABPP and The Specialist! 


The 2010 Summer Workshop Series was marketed almost exclusively through the activities of CO.  As well, everyone who attended the 2010 Summer Workshop Series, including presenters, was sent a thank you note and encouraged to provide feedback to assist in improving future conferences.  Exhibitors were contacted, contracted with and thanked.  Randy Otto and CO worked with the Hilton Hotel in Portland for the 2010 workshop, and many CO hours have gone into negotiating the contract for the upcoming 2011 ABPP Summer Workshop Series to be held in San Francisco June 15-18, 2011.  CO has been, and remains, primarily responsible for contacting presenters, assisting with the printing and distribution of handouts provide by presenters for workshop attendees, distribution and compilation of workshop evaluation/feedback forms and CE certificates, and other correspondence associated with the workshop series.


CO's role in ABPP activities at the APA Convention results in having smoothly run Governance Day activities as well as Convocation.  Each was successful this year in San Diego, as was the perennial presence of ABPP in the APA Exhibit Hall.  CO compiled a data sheet of information and specs that provides details of what is required in the process of board certification for each specialty board.  This was quite useful at the ABPP booth at APA.


The ABPP booth at APA convention in 2010 was, as usual, quite busy most all of the time and CO greatly appreciates the number of ABPP specialists who volunteer their time and wisdom to assist in educating those visiting the booth about ABPP and specialty board certification.


In 2010, ABPP completed the Periodic Comprehensive Review (PCR) of Clinical Health Psychology, and Rehabilitation Psychology.  We are pulling together the CO portion of input for the upcoming PCRs of Organization & Business Consulting Psychology (January 2011), Group Psychology, and Psychoanalysis in Psychology. 


New in 2010 is a fee-based verification process for credentialing agencies.  Although this service has been provided in the past, the continual and increased number of requests requires a large amount of staff time that is put into providing external credentialing agencies (e.g., managed care organizations, etc.) with verification of ABPP status of individual psychologists.  This has led us to implement a fee for the service.  There is no fee to an ABPP psychologist; this is only charged to credentialing organizations.  Instituting this as a fee-based service has helped us recuperate some of the expense of staff time that is expended to provide the service, and thereby assists in the ABPP bottom line.


ABPP has ongoing and important relationships with several other organizations.  As ABPP executive officer, I represent  ABPP at the APA Committee for Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), APA Board of Professional Affairs (BPA), and as needed at other committees involved in the APA Consolidated Meetings.   I have also worked on the APA Taxonomy Workgroup and was a presenter at APA on a panel discussing the newly proposed Taxonomy and its implications.  Along with many other ABPP leaders, I helped provide an ABPP presence to the Joint Training Conference held in February of the many training and educational organizations in psychology.  I serve as liaison to the Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology (CoS), an organization that is strongly supportive of ABPP board certification.  The CoS has communicated to several other organizations (including APA, ASPPB and directly to some state some licensing boards) that ABPP is the only board certification entity in psychology that it recognizes.  I also regularly represent ABPP at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board (ASPPB) meetings, and have assisted in building a good relationship with ASPPB leadership.   ASPPB and ABPP have had ongoing discussions of ways in which they can work more closely together. 


Finally, thanks to all of you who volunteer time and expertise to ABPP and other areas of professional psychology!  Your efforts are appreciated, and extremely valued!  Enjoy 2011, and may it be a wonderful year for each and every one of you!



ABPP Myths 


Christine Maguth Nezu, Ph.D., ABPP


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. 

In closing, I wish to indicate that it has been a sincere honor and privilege to serve as President of ABPP.  I applaud the significant work to which so many people have voluntarily contributed over the past two years. During this time we have tackled challenging issues and further defined our mission. We have significantly increased applications (thanks largely to our early entry application), and initiated several important activities, involving improved board and academy relations, our first published book, a refined values statement, a process for consideration of subspecialties, improved examination process of military personnel, a review of our ethics policies, and a combined marketing/advertising/ recruitment/continuing education and conference task force that is planning our first ABPP-wide conference. We have moved our central office to North Carolina and are getting ready to launch our new website as this Specialist issue goes to press. Thank you for allowing me to take part in the leadership of this organization. I was indeed fortunate to have Norma Simon and Al Finch as mentors on the Executive Committee (EC). I am also very thankful to the collective wisdom and dedication of the various members of EC who wrestled with the day-to-day ABPP challenges over the past two years, including former EC members Sandy Koffler and Art Nezu, as well as current EC members Randy Otto, Greg Lee and Nadine Kaslow, and all of the Board of Trustees. With Nadine as the next president, as well as the continued professional, administrative leadership and customer service provided by David Cox and Nancy McDonald, we are indeed in good hands.  


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