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A Summary of State Laws Regulating the Practice of Psychology by Licensure
(L) or Certification (C)
Certification and Licensure
State and provincial laws regulating psychological practice are either Licensure (L) or Certification (C) laws. Certification regulates the use of the title "psychologist." Licensure laws do the same, but they also enumerate activities which constitute the practice of psychology for which a license is required, withoud regard to the title by which the practitioner is identified. State laws regulating psychological practice generally extend exemptions to members of other recognized professional groups employing psychological skills or techniques in their work, provided that they not identify themselves as "psychologists." Most psychology licensure and certification laws are generic in that they confer the same license for general practice upon psychologists whatever their field of applied specialization may be. The APA Standards for Scientific and Professional Ethics and Conduct which are referenced by many state laws, serve to limit a psychologist's practice to their particular area of competence.
State Examining Boards
State laws regulating psychological practice are generally administered by a Board of Psychologist Examiners, which may include one or more "public" (non-psychologist) members. This chart serves to briefly summarize some of the key features of psychological practice legislation. For further information on admission to the licensure or certification process, contact the appropriate State Board. A list of State Boards of Examiners is available through the APA Office of Professional Affairs.
Most state laws establish that doctorate training in a field of study "...primarily psychological in nature" is the minimum requirement for the use of the title (noun) "psychologist" in the context of independent and unsupervised practice. Statutory recognition for training below the doctorate level is afforded in some states by use of the adjective "psychological" along with the term "assistant" or "associate." Ordinarily, psychological assistants or associates function under the supervision of a psychologist licensed or certified for independent and unsupervised practice.
Generally, degree programs held to be "primarily psychological" by State Boards of Examiners are earned in programs within institutions which are themselves accredited, or psychology programs within institutions accredited by the APA. The APA currently accredits doctoral level programs in the four generally recognized principal fields of applied psychology: clinical, counseling, industrial-organizational, and school.
Beginning in 1980, the APA will implement on a trial basis a program to "designate," by a process separate from but related to Accreditation, those programs which train providers of psychological services. Should the approach prove viable, information generated by designation will at some future point be available to students, training programs, and to State Boards of Examiners. "Designated" programs would be held to qualify as programs "primarily psychological" for purposes of licensure and certification. As presently envisioned, the criteria to be employed by the designation program parallel those already utilized by the APA Accreditation Program.
For further information on psychology training programs, consult the APA Guide to Graduate Study in Psychology.
Scope of Regulation
Laws regulating psychological practice ordinarily affect individuals identifying themselves to the public in the context of "fee-for-service" practice. Research and academic activities are also ordinarily exempt from regulation. Federal Civil Service and state civil service job classifications often do not require state licensure or certification, although this may change in the years ahead. At their higher levels involving independent practitioner skills, the Federal Civil Service standards parallel state requirements for practice.
In some states, separate licensure or certification programs have been established for other professional specialities; for example, "marriage counseling" or "psychotherapist" certification. Just as psychology laws extend exemptions to other recognized groups, so too are psychologists licensed or certified for independent general practice exempted from these other regulatory programs.
Many State Departments of Education certify school psychologists, trained to the masters level, for service within educational settings. Department of Education certification as a School Psychologist ordinarily does not constitute a license or certificate for the independent general practice of psychology.
Examination of Candidates
Most State Boards of Examiners currently employ the standardized Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology in the course of administering licensure and certification programs. EPPP has been developed jointly by the Professional Examination Service for the American Association of State Psychology Boards (AASPB). State Boards may supplement the EPPP examination with written questions of their own or an oral examination. The EPPP is given each Spring and Fall. Applications for admission to the test should be made through the appropriate State Board of Examiners.
While the APA does not review or approve examination preparatory courses, many workshops or home study courses are advertised in the Monitor, the official newspaper of the American Psychological Association. Pass/fail scores for the EPPP are set by the individual State Boards, as the admission requirements for licensure and certification vary somewhat from state to state.
American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) Diplomate
Holders of the ABPP Diplomate automatically qualify for admission to the licensure or certification process in many states. The diplomate is conferred with individuals who have successfully completed examination in one of the four principal fields of specialization in applied psychology: clinical, counseling, industrial-organization, and school. Candidates for the ABPP diplomate must be trained to the doctoral level and have upwards of four years of experience. For further information on the ABPP examination, contact the American Board of Professional Psychology, c/o Margaret Ives, Ph.D., 2025 "I" Street, N.W., Suite #403, Washington, D.C. 20036.
National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology
Since 1975, the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology has served to identify which generically licensed or certified psychologists are qualified in the area of health service. Current requirements for voluntary listing in the Register are: 1) doctoral training, 2) two years of experience in a health setting, and 3) training in a psychology program meeting criteria approved by the Register Council. For further information on the National Register, contact: Council for the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, 1200 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.
Formal reciprocal licensing or certification agreements between states have generally been discontinued State Boards now reserve the right to review credentials on a case by case basis. Should it be apparent that an individual was licensed or certified in another state with requirements reasonably similar to the new state of residence or practice, the application process may sometimes be foreshortened. Such a decision may be made only by the State Board administering the licensure or certification program.
A comprehensive listing of current employment opportunities in all fields of psychology including applied psychology is provided in the Employment Bulletin Section of the APA Monitor, the Association's newspaper which appears monthly. The APA also provides an employment locator and interview service to registrars at its Annual Meetings, as described in the American Psychologist, the anchor journal of the Association.
In addition to formal training, experience requirements have been established in most states. Of the total requirement, that portion which must be either "post degree" or earned under the supervision of a qualified psychologist is indicated. "ABPP Recognized" refers to the American Board of Professional Psychology diplomate. "Grandparenting" refers to the last date by which psychologists meeting previous standards for practice can apply for a license or certificate without submitting themselves to the credentials review and examination process. "Grandparenting" generally occurs only at the time that a law regulating psychological practice has just been put into effect.
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