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Board certification (Diplomate) in Behavioral Psychology.

This article describes the American Board of Behavioral Psychology (ABBP) and how it can assist you in maximizing your potential as a behaviorally-oriented professional psychologist. The mission of the board is to grant board certification in Behavioral Psychology to qualified behavioral psychologists after a competency-based examination. As a board certified psychologist (Diplomate), you will be on a par with board certified physicians and other similar professionals. Furthermore, possession of the diploma makes it easier for psychologists to be licensed in many other states. Some managed care companies increasingly look for the possession of credentials such as board certification and other employers recognize such specialty credentialing as well. In some employment settings, increased pay schedules may be possible for board certified psychologists. Finally, possession of the diploma informs the professional community that the holder is a recognized specialist in behavioral psychology as demonstrated through a competency-based examination presented by peers. Because of this competency-based assessment, a diploma from ABBP is recognized as the "gold standard" of professional practice in this specialty.


In order to provide behaviorally-oriented psychologists with the opportunity to demonstrate their specialty competencies, the American Board of Behavioral Psychology was formed in 1987 and incorporated shortly thereafter. After an initial phase of negotiation with and monitoring by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), ABBP was incorporated into ABPP as a specialty member board in 1992. ABPP has been certifying psychological specialists since 1948. I was the first Behavioral Psychology representative to ABPP's Board of Trustees, serving from 1993 through 1996. Dick Suinn, former AABT President and Past President of APA, was the Behavioral Psychology representative from 1997 through 2000. Christine Nezu began her term this year as the third Behavioral Psychology representative.

The General Eligibility Criteria for the Diplomate in Behavioral Psychology are as follows:

1. Psychologists must be of good moral character, scientific integrity, and professional standing. Their conduct must be in accordance with the prevailing ethical principles of the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association, as appropriate to the location of their practice.

2. An earned doctorate in psychology is required that is APA accredited or met equivalent standards at the time the degree was awarded.

3. State or regional licensure or certification at the level of independent practice is required in the state in which the psychologist practices.

4. Three years of experience in one or more aspects of behavioral psychology; one of which may be pre-doctoral, as well as appropriate supervision in behavioral psychology is required. The board recognizes that not all of a candidate's experience may be in behavioral psychology.

5. Membership and participation in professional organizations which have identifiable purposes that are congruent with those of ABBP.

The process of acquiring board certification in Behavioral Psychology consists of three phases. In Phase One (Application Phase), the candidate obtains the ABBP application packet from the ABPP Central Office, completes it, and submits it with copies of the following documents:

* Current psychology license

* Current curriculum vita

* Official school transcripts

* Supervisor rating forms from two former supervisors

* Colleague rating forms from two or three current or past colleagues/peers

* Candidates who are members of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Professional Psychology are presumed to have met the General Eligibility Criteria.

In Phase Two (Work Sample Phase), candidates are invited to submit four copies of at least one work sample of his/her typical practice as a behavioral psychologist. The sample most commonly consists of a verbatim report of professional interactions (e.g., a behavioral psychology session or supervision of a new behavioral psychologist). Occasionally the nature of the candidate's work dictates a different type of work sample and this can be arranged. The important point is that the work sample should reflect what the candidate actually does in professional practice. The work sample materials are evaluated by a committee of ABBP diplomates and this committee decides whether the candidate should be admitted to the next phase.

Phase Three (Oral Examination Phase) consists of three parts; an in vivo work sample (typically either a client or supervisee), an examination on the previously approved work sample, and an examination on ethics and professional issues. The in vivo examination covers the following four interrelated areas:

* Realistic assessment of the problem

* Effectiveness of the candidate's efforts toward constructive interventions

* Awareness of theory and research in the area of behavioral psychology

* Sensitivity to ethical implications of professional practice

Examinations have been and continue to be conducted at professional conferences. In addition, they can be conducted in most areas of the country at any time mutually convenient to the candidate and the examiners.

The board recognizes that the practice of behavioral psychology today is broad in scope and multifaceted. Therefore, we examine candidates in one of four practice areas. However, we expect all candidates to have some knowledge in the other areas. The four areas are:

* Applied behavioral analysis

* Behavior therapy

* Cognitive-behavior therapy and modification

1. Cognitive therapy

ABBP has done well in encouraging newer professionals to apply for board certification in Behavioral Psychology. However, many professionals who received their degree a number of years ago have, for a variety of reasons, been reluctant to apply. I should note that this situation has been faced by other ABPP specialties as well. Therefore, some specialties have created a senior examination procedure. These senior examinations, while retaining the rigor and thorough process characteristic of all ABPP exams, allow for flexibility of approach and tailoring of the examination process to reflect the unique status of senior professionals. The American Board of Behavioral Psychology has a senior examination procedure which is available to those professionals who meet the following criteria:

* At least 15 years postdoctoral experience as a behavioral psychologist.

* Continuous contributions to the field of behavioral psychology as evidenced by at least two of the following criteria:

1. Fellow status in APA in a professionally relevant division.

2. Publications of books and/or articles in the field of behavioral psychology.

3. Service on behaviorally-oriented journal editorial boards.

4. Presentations at professional conferences on behavioral psychology topics.

5. Case consultations on behavioral psychology.

6. Behavioral psychology supervision of students, practitioners, or employees.

7. Conducting training sessions in behavioral psychology.

* Known and respected by colleagues in the field of behavioral psychology by the above activities and/or involvement in professionally appropriate organizations.

The initial application procedure and basic requirements for application are the same as that for all behavioral psychologists. However, the professional statement, the work sample, and the in vivo examination are all tailored specifically to the competencies and professional activities of the senior behavioral psychologist. In particular, the work sample need not be prepared specifically for the ABBP examination but may consist of previously prepared writings or other materials.

For a complete set of application materials, please contact the ABPP Central Office as listed below. If you are interested in the senior examination, please request in addition a copy of the Format for the Examination of Senior Behavioral Psychologists.

The American Board of Professional Psychology

514 East Capitol Ave.

Jefferson City, MO 65101


The American Board of Behavioral Psychology cordially invites and encourages all behavioral psychologists, including senior psychologists, to apply for board certification. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your professional background or the application and examination process, please contact me by phone at 330.672.7664, by E Mail at, or by letter to the Department of Psychology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242.

E. Thomas Dowd, Ph.D., ABPP President, American Board of Behavioral Psychology, Inc.
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Author:Dowd, E. Thomas
Publication:The Behavior Analyst Today
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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