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Principles for the Recognition of Specialties in Professional Psychology'
June 27,1994 Draft
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. Formal recognition of these four general entry level specialties
in psychology has subsequently been made explicit through the adoption
as Association policy of specialty guidelines for service providers in
each. In the cases of clinical, counseling and school, a set of accreditation
guidelines also reference them as specialties.
Lack of specialty designation does not preclude general providers of
psychological services from using the methods or dealing with the populations
of any specialty, except insofar as psychologists voluntarily refrain from
providing services that they are not trained to render.
A shared core of scientific and professional knowledge and skills is common to them. 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 Professional Practice of Psychology.
It is assumed that the public will continue to need the specialists, such as those offered by clinical, counseling, school services of general practice 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 continued 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 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 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 emerging specialties in psychology.
For purposes of this endeavor the following definition of a specialty has been adopted:
A specialty is a defmed area of psychologicalpractice 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 to the acquisition of core scientific and professional foundations.
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 psvchology; (b) a basic professional foundation;(c) advanced scientific and theoretical knowledge germane to the specialty; and (d) advanced urofessional applications of this knowledge to selected problems and populations in particular settings, through use of procedures and technologies validated on the same.
The relationship between a body of knowledge and a set of skills in Section VI below reference to each of the parameters of practice specified in represents the most critical aspect of the basic definition of a specialty.
Formal recognition of new specialties in psychology begins with the submission of a petition to the American Psychological Association by a national organization sponsoring the proposed specialty.
The following principles are used to evaluate any petition for recognition of a specialty in professional psychology.
I. Administrative Organization. The proposed specialty is represented by a single administrative organization.
Commentary: The evolution of a specialty generally proceeds from networks of psychologists interested in the area to the eventual establishment of an organized administrative body which has a set of specific responsibilities to the specialty and its practitioners. The administrative organization representing the specialty has:
1) a written set of bylaws;
2) a governance structure which meets regularly to review the status of the specialty and to establish appropriate policies; and
3) administrative, professional, and financial support sufficient to oversee the self-regulation of the field and perform evaluations of the organization's operations.
II. 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.
Commentary: While it is recognized that there will be overlap in the knowledge
and skill among various specialties in psychology, the administrative organization must describe the specialty in sufficient detail that it is distinguishable from other specialties which may already have been recognized.
III. Structures and Models of Education and Training in the Specialty. The specialty has a variety of structures and models to implement the education and training sequence of the specialty. The structures are stable, sufficient in number, and geographically distributed. They may occur at the doctoral, postdoctoral level or both.
A) History and Geographic Distribution. A specialty has at least four identifiable psychology programs for education and training in the specialty that are geographically distributed and these programs have produced an identifiable body of graduates.
B) Psychology Faculty. A specialty program has 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 expertise in the education and training offered and has credentials of excellence such as the diplomate from one of the specialty boards affiliated with the American Board of Professional Psychology, or status as a fellow of the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association, and a record of scholarly productivity as well as other clear evidence of professional competence and leadership.
C) Setting. Whatever the setting, there are full-time psychology
opportunities for scholarly inquiry and practice with the faculty, social and financial support for trainees, and expanded opportunities for breadth of learning.
D) Procedures for Evaluation.There is regular monitoring of each trainee's progress to ensure the relevance and adequacy of the individual's curriculum and integration of the various training components. Attention focuses on the continuous development of the trainee's knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. Monitoring takes place through formal structured evaluation conveyed to the trainee in writing.
E) Admission to the Program. Published descriptions of all programs specify whether they are designed to satisfy current licensing and certification requirements for psychologists as well as whether or not graduates can satisfy the education and training requirements for advanced recognition in the specialty. Postdoctoral programs have procedures that take into account the trainee's prior academic 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 student as he or she prepares for meeting the standards of preparation for the specialty.
IV. Doctoral Education and Training Prerequisites to Specialty Preparation. A specialty recognizes that its knowledge and shills are built upon studies in general scientific and applied knowledge in psychology.
Commentary: The petitioning organization specifies how students
acquire knowledge in core scientific foundations and apply this knowledge
to general and
specialized professional practice. The core scientific 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.
The petition also specifies 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 instruction.
V. Advanced Scientific and Theoretical Preparation. In addition to the scientific and professional foundations described above,a specialty requires advanced specialty-specific scientific knowledge.
Commentary: The petitioning organization describes how advanced scientific and theoretical knowledge is acquired and how the basic preparation is extended.
VI. Advanced Preparation in the Parameters of Practice. A specialty
requires the advanced didactic and experiential preparation essential parameters
of practice. The psychological, biological, and social that provide thebasis
for services with respect to the parameters to beconsidered include: a)
populations, b) problems, and c) procedures and technologies. These
parameters should be described in the context of the range of settings or organizational arrangements in which practice occurs.
A) Populations. This parameter focuses on the populations served by the specialty encompassing individuals and groups with a diverse range of characteristics and human endeavors. Examples may include children, youth and families, employees, men and women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians and those with physical and mental disabilities.
B) Psychological, Biological, and Social Problems. This parameter focuses on symptoms, problem behaviors, rehabilitation, prevention, health promotion and enhancement of psychological well-being addressed by the specialty. Included are attention to physical and mental health, organizational, educational, vocational, and developmental problems.
C) Procedures and Technologies. This parameter consists of the procedures and technologies utilized in the specialty. Included are assessment techniques, intervention strategies, consultative methods, diagnostic procedures, ecological strategies, and applications from the psychological laboratory to serve a public need for psychological assistance.
VIL Public Need for Specialty Practice. The petitioning organization
demonstrates that the
services of its specialists are responsive to identifiable public needs and describes how it attends 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.
VIII. Effectiveness. The administrative organization demonstrates the effectiveness of the services provided by its specialist practitioners.
Commentary: A body of evidence regarding the effectiveness of the specialty services is documented by the petitioning organization.
IX. Quality Assessment and Improvement. A specialty promotes ongoing investigations and 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). Investigations to improve the quality and usefulness of services
take many forms and need not entail a program of research that is funded
and directed by the administrative organization. The petitioning organization
ensures that the research and practice
literatures are regularly reviewed for developments which are relevant to the specialty's shills and services,and that this information is publicly disseminated.
X. Guidelines for Service Delivery. A specialty has developed guidelines for the delivery of services by its practitioners.
Commentary: These guidelines assure effective communication to members of the discipline and the public as to the specialty's practices, practice enhancements, and/or new applications.
XI. Provider Identification and Evaluation. A specialty has procedures to assess the knowledge and shill possessed by individual practitioners and to identify those practitioners who meet the qualifications for competent practice in the specialty.
Commentary: Identifying those psychologists who are competent to practice the specialty provides a significant service to the consuming public. Assessing knowledge and shill levels of these professionals helps increase the ability to improve the quality of the services provided by the specialists.
XIL Continuing Professional Development and Education. A specialty provides its practitioners a broad range of regularly scheduled opportunities for continuing professional development in the specialty practice and assesses the acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Commentary: With rapidly developing knowledge and professional applications 10
in psychology, it is increasingly difficult for professionals to deliver
quality services unless they update themselves regularly through continuing
education mechanisms. A variety of mechanisms may be used to achieve these
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