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January 8, 1995
Principles for the Recognition of Specialties in Professional Psychology'
Joint Interim Committee for the Identification and Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies
Knowledge and practice skills in psychology have expanded and become increasingly differentiated over the past 50 years. Currently, the American Psychological Association (APA) acknowledges four professional specialties in psychology: clinical, counseling, school, and industrial/organizational psychology.It is important to note that these specialties first gained de facto recognition through a process of historical evolution. The APA accreditation guidelines also reference clinical, counseling, and school psychology as specialties.
A shared core of scientific and professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes is common to professional specialties. This shared core has been recognized in several conference reports on the future of professional psychology including the reports of groups and conferences of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology, the Joint Council on Professional Education in Psychology, and the National Conference on Scientist-Practitioner Education and Training for the Profession& Practice of Psychology.
The public will continue to need the services of general practice specialists, such as those offered by clinical, counseling, school and industrial/organizational psychologists. However, the
emergence of new specialties to provide needed psychological services must also be recognized and validated.There must be a mechanism within the field to provide for the recognition of specialties.
The past four decades have produced what amounts to an explosion in professional knowledge and areas of application.As a result, new areas of application of psychology's scientific and applied knowledge have been organized around particular emphases in professional practice.The training to acquire this knowledge and skill may occur at the doctoral and/or postdoctoral levels.Such a proliferation of knowledge and an expansion of practice domains has resulted in a need to establish a process for recognizing specialties in professional practice that are differentiated from core scientific and applied professional foundations in psychology. At various times in the last 15 years, groups within and outside APA have worked to articulate such an identification and recognition process.Acknowledgement is given to the work of APA's Task Force on Specialty Criteria, the Board of Professional Affairs Subcommittee on Specialization, and the Board of Educational Affairs Task Force on Scope and Criteria of Accreditation, as well as the American .Board of Professional Psychology for important contributions to this process. Their efforts have been a part of the continuing evolution of a process to identify specialties in psychology.It is now time for APA to exercise leadership in the design and implementation of a de iure process for the recognition of specialties in psychology.
For purposes of this endeavor the following definiton
of a specialty is adopted: A specialty is a defined area of psychological
practice which requires advanced knowledge and skills acquired through
an organized sequence of education and training. The advanced knowledge
and skills specific to a specialty
are obtained subsequent tothe acquisition of core scientific and professional foundations in psychology.
Although the specific dimensions of specialty programs may vary in their emphases and in available resources, every defined specialty in professional psychology will contain:(a) core scientific foundations in psychologv; (b) a basic professional foundation; (c) advanced scientific and theoretical knowledge germane to the specialty; and (d) advanced professional applications of this . knowledge to selected problems and populations in particular settings, through use of procedures and techniques validated on the same.
The relationship between a body of knowledge and
a set of skills in reference to each of the parameters of practice specified
in Section V below represents the most critical aspect of the basic definition
of a specialty. The American Psychological Association and its Commission
for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology
(CRSPPP) will consider petitions for formal recognition of specialties.
Petitions that are approved by CRSPPP will be reviewed and acted upon by
the APA Council of Representatives.CRSPPP will review the status of each
specialty at least every seven years and evaluate whether the specialty
should continue to be 19 20 21 T h e professional psychology specialties
of clinical, counseling, school, and industrial-organizational psychology
will be reviewed seven years after the Council of Representatives approves
the establishment of CRSPPP.
Formal recognition of specialties in psychology begins with the submission of a petition to the American Psychological Association seeking recognition of a proposed specialty.
The following principles are used to evaluate any petition for recognition of a specialty in professional psychology.
Criterion L Distinctiveness. A specialty differs from other existing specialties in its body of specialized scientific knowledge and professional application, and provides evidence of these distinctions within each parameter of practice as described in principle V.
Commentarv: While it is recognized that there will be overlap in the knowledge and skill among various specialties in psychology, the petitioning organizations must describe the specialty in sufficient detail that it is distinguishable from other specialties which may already have been recognized.
Criterion II. Structures and Models of Education and Training in the Specialty. The specialty has structures and models to implement the education and training sequence of the specialty. The structures are stable, sufficient in number, and geographically distributed and may be found at the doctoral, postdoctoral level, or both.
A) Sequenceof Training. A petition describes a typical sequence of training, including curriculum, research, and supervision.
B) History and Geographic Distribution. A specialty has at least
four identifiable psychology programs providing education and training
in the specialty that are geographically distributed and which have produced
an identifiable body
C) Psychology Faculty. Specialty program have an identifiable psychology faculty responsible for the education and training of the students in the program.The faculty has expertise in the education and training offered.Specialty programs also have a designated psychologist who is clearly responsible for the integrity and quality of the program and who has administrative authority commensurate with those responsibilities. This psychologist has credentials of excellence (e.g., the diplomate from one of the specialty boards affiliated with theAmerican Board of Professional Psychology, or status as a fellow of the AmericanPsychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association, or other evidence of equivalent professional recognition) and a record of scholarly productivity as well as other clear evidence of professional competence and leadership.
D) Setting. Whatever the setting, there are full-time psychology faculty, social and financial support for trainees, opportunities for their scholarly inquiry and practice with the faculty, and expanded opportunities for breadth of learning.
E) Procedures for Evaluation. Specialty programs regularly monitor the progress of trainees to ensure the relevance and adequacy of the curriculum and integration of the various training components. attention focuses on the continuing development of the trainee's knowledge: skills, attitudes, and values. Monitoring takes place through formal structured evaluation conveyed to the trainee in writing.
F) Admission to the Program. Program descriptions specify the
and content of the program and whether they are designed to satisfy current licensing and certification requirements for psychologists as well as whether or not graduates can satisfy theeducation and training requirements for advanced recognition in the specialty.Postdoctoral programs have procedures that take into account the trainee's prioracademic and professional record. These programs design an education and training experience that builds upon the doctoral program and internship and the professional experiences of the postdoctoral resident as he or she prepares for meeting the standards of preparation for the specialty.
Criterion III. Doctoral Education and Training Prerequisites to Specialty Preparation. The knowledge and skills of a specialty are built upon studies in general scientific and applied knowledge in psychology.
Commentarv: Petitions demonstrate how students acquire knowledge
in core scientific foundations and applythis knowledge to general and specialized
professional practice. The corescientific foundations include the following
substantive content areas: 1) biological bases of behavior, 2) cognitive-affective
bases of behavior, 3) social bases of behavior, and 4) individual bases
of behavior. This basic didactic core also includes scientific ethics and
standards, research design and methodology, statistics, psychological measurement,
and history and systems of psychology. Petitions also demonstrate how the
core professional foundation is acquired, including professional ethics
and standards as well as the theory and practice of assessment, intervention,
consultation, and outcome evaluation. This foundation includes supervised
practice in addition to didactic
Criterion IV. Advanced Scientific and Theoretical Preparation. In addition to the scientific and professional foundations described above, a specialty requires advanced, specialty-specific scientific knowledge.
Commentarv: Petitions demonstrate how advanced scientific and theoretical knowledge is acquired and how the basic preparation is extended.
Criterion V. Advanced Preparation in the Parameters of Practice. A specialty requires the advanced didactic and experiential preparation that provide the basis for services with respect to the essential parameters of practice. The parameters to be considered include: a) populations, b) psychological, biological, and/or social problems, and c) procedures and techniques. These parameters should be arrangements in which described in the context of the range of settings or organizational practice occurs.
A) Populations. This parameter focuses on the populations served by the specialty encompassing both individuals and groups. Examples include children, youth and families, employees, men and women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, and those with physical and/or mental disabilities.
B) Psychological, Biological, and/or Social Problems. This parameter focuses on symptoms, problem behaviors, rehabilitation, prevention, health enhancement of psychological well-being addressed by the specialty. attention to physical and mental health, organizational, educational, developmental problems. promotion and It also includes vocational, and
C) Procedures and Techniques. This parameter consists of the procedures and techniques utilized in the specialty. This includes assessment techniques, intervention strategies, consultative methods, diagnostic procedures, ecological strategies, and applications from the psychological laboratory to serve a public need for psychological assistance.
Criterion VI. Public Need for Specialty Practice. The services of the specialty are responsive to identifiable public needs and attend to human diversity.
Commentary: Identification and recognition of specialties increases the availability of high quality services that professional psychologists provide. Specialties may evolve from applications of psychology to meet a particular public need. Specialties may also develop from advances in scientific psychology from which applications to serve the public may be derived.
Criterion VIL Administrative Organizations. The proposed specialty is represented by one or more organizations that provide systems and structures which make a significant contribution to the organized development of the specialty.
Commentarv: The evolution of a specialty generally proceeds from networks of psychologists interested in the area to the eventual establishment of organized administrative bodies which carry out specific responsibilities to the specialty and its practitioners. These responsibilities include governance structures which meet regularly to review and further describe the specialty and appropriate policies for education and training in the specialty.
Criterion VIII. Effectiveness. A specialty demonstrates the effectiveness of the services
provided by its specialist practitioners.
Commentarv: A body of evidence documents the effectiveness of the specialty services.
Criterion IX. Quality Improvement. A specialty promotes ongoing investigations procedures to develop further the quality and utility of its knowledge, skills, and services.
Commentary: The public interest requires that a specialty provides the best services possible to consumers.A specialty, therefore, continues to seek ways to improve the quality and usefulness of its practitioners' services beyond its original determination of effectiveness (see Principle VIII).Such investigations may take many forms. Specialties elect to promote and participate in the process of accreditation in order to enhance the quality of specialty education and training. Petitions describe how research and practice literatures are regularly reviewed for developments which are relevant to the specialty's skills and services, and how this information is publicly disseminated.
Criterion X. Standards for Specialty Service Delivery.Specialty
practitioners conform their professional activities not only to the profession's
general practice standards and ethical principles but also to appropriate
specialty standards. Commentary: Such standards are readily available-to
specialty members of the public and describe the characteristic ways practitioners
and to in which specialty In this context, professional specialty
standards refer to -modes of conceptualization, identification and
assessment of issues, and intervention planning and execution common to
those trained and experienced in the practice of the specialty.Such
professional standards may be found in documents including, but not limited
to, those bearing such a title or as described in a 24 variety of published
textbooks, chapters, and/or articles focused on such contents.
practitioners make decisions about specialty services and about how such services are delivered to the public.
Criterion XL Provider Identification and Evaluation. A specialty recognizes the public benefits of developing sound methods for permitting individual practitioners to secure an evaluation of their knowledge and skill to be identified as meeting the qualifications for competent practice in the specialty.
Commentary: Identifying psychologists who are competent to practice the specialty provides a significant service to the public. Assessing the knowledge and skill levels of these professionals helps increase the ability to improve the quality of the services provided.
Criterion XII. Continuing Professional Development and Education. A specialty provides its practitioners a broad range of regularly scheduled opportunities for continuing professional development in the specialty. '
Commentarv: With rapidly developing knowledge and professional applications in psychology, it is increasingly difficult for professionals to deliver high quality services unless they update themselves regularly throughout their professional lives through continuing education mechanisms. A variety of mechanisms may be used to achieve these goals.
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