EO’s Message

The Executive Officer, recommends and participates in the formulation of new policies and makes decisions under existing policies as they have been approved by the Board of Trustees. Plans, organizes, directs and coordinates the staff, programs and activities authorized by the Board to assure that objectives are attained, plans fulfilled, and member needs are met. Maintains effective internal and external relationships. Through management and leadership, achieves economical, productive performance, forward looking programming and constructive growth of the organization.

David R. Cox, PhD, ABPP

Executive Officer Update

Winter 2021

And so, we continue during what I am sure we all hope is the final months of the pandemic. Hopefully, a return to relative normalcy is awaiting us for 2022. I sincerely hope that we can look forward to not having to take covid issues into account in 2022 and get back to business “as usual”.

At ABPP, “business as usual” includes our terrific Central Office (CO) staff: Nancy McDonald, Lanette Melville, Diane Butcher, and Kathy Holland. Without them, we would definitely be a ship adrift in the middle of the sea. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes on “behind the scenes” and I want to be certain that our staff gets the recognition they deserve. The team at CO works very much as a team and each “player” plays an important part individually, yet also as a member of that team. The outcomes of the work of ABPP really does depend on each CO member, the team as a whole, and the dedication of all. I am writing this as we head into Thanksgiving week and I will be the first to point out that I am very grateful for having the opportunity to work with such a talented, dedicated, and fun group of people.

Post-pandemic, “business as usual” may never be the same again. We have experienced such dramatic changes in the way we conduct meetings, exams and other activities. Indeed, an “up-side” of the pandemic has been undertaking the process of beginning, and becoming adept at, the use of synchronous video as a means of communication that I anticipate will be used for years to come. Our specialty boards did a wonderful job of transitioning to A/V examinations; I suspect that the technology will be used for exams going forward in many cases. If for no reason other than scheduling and accessibility issues, this may forever change the way we think about exams.

ABPP typically reports the number of newly-board-certified specialists on a July through June calendar (this has historically been the case in order to prepare that roster for the Convocation in August). Using that benchmark, in 2020-2021 ABPP experienced the second largest number of newly-board-certified specialists in our history! The only period that exceeded that was a time when we had two new specialty boards affiliating and they generated a large cohort of folks. I suspect that the switch to A/V exams played a significant role in this. I am hopeful that continued use of A/V exams will allow for increased access for candidates, as well as positive changes in the way we schedule and process examinations. Kudos to all involved in making this unanticipated transition a great success!

Current status of proposed ABPP specialties & subspecialties

In the ABPP June Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting, Clinical Psychopharmacology presented a brief proposal for affiliation, which was declined. The vote was quite close, yet the motion to have the group present the lengthier full proposal did not pass. ABPP recognizes that this specialty is recognized by the Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Subspecialties in Professional Psychology (CRSSPP) and the vote was based upon the perceived viability of the proposed specialty examining board. A Forensic Neuropsychology subspecialty proposal was also proposed and did the BOT voted to not have that group proceed. It should be noted that not moving forward currently does not preclude a group from again proposing affiliation at some point in the future.

At our December 2021 meeting, two groups will be presenting their plan for implementation of examinations for board certification. These are Serious Mental Illness Psychology (SMI) and Addiction Psychology (AP). SMI is recognized by CRSSPP as a specialty, while Addiction Psychology, currently recognized by CRSSPP as a proficiency, is seeking affiliation as a specialty with ABPP. We will encourage the latter to seek specialty recognition by CRSSPP, as is out custom.

The viability and sustainability of specialty boards has been addressed at BOT meetings on more that once occasion. This past year included the appointment of an ad hoc workgroup on the issue. That produced some suggestions and issues to consider that were briefly discussed at the June 2021 meeting. There had been a plan to have a more in-depth discussion of these matters at the December 2021 meeting; however, the schedule is quite full, and the decision has been made to reschedule that discussion to the June 2022 meeting. In the interim, I am asking that BOT representatives refresh themselves on the issues (see June 2021 BOT Agenda Book) and hold discussions with your specialty board in preparation for our June discussion. A reminder that what was provided by the workgroup is to be seen as a one suggestion about how these matters might be handled; no firm decision has yet been made and awaits the BOT discussion.

Interorganizational Work

That segues us into some issues related to the interorganizational nature of ABPP’s work. There are a couple of issues that our BOT will need to address explicitly and through some detailed discussion that have to do with our interface with CRSSPP, the Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology (CoS), and others.

One issue is that of recognition of subspecialties. With respect to affiliation with ABPP, ABPP has already decided that for specialties that are recognized by CRSSPP, ABPP will accept the specialty and focus on issues related to the fiscal and other factors regarding viability of a proposed new specialty board. ABPP has not yet had a similar discussion with respect to subspecialties. For the moment, this is a moot point in that CRSSPP has not yet recognized any subspecialties. However, at some point in the future we may be presented with the need to address how to handle an application for affiliation from a newly-CRSSPP-recognized subspecialty. It is best that we have the discussion regarding this prior to that time.

Another issue has to do with the Taxonomy for Professional Psychology Health Service Specialties and Subspecialties (hereinafter referred to as the Taxonomy). The Taxonomy has been a focus of work for many of us for well over a decade. I was a member of the original Taxonomy workgroup back in roughly 2008 and it has continued to be a part of my interorganizational work, as it has for many others. I have previously written some about this and provided a link or two; here is a valuable one for APA: https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/understanding-taxonomy and here is one for the completed Taxonomy grids for various specialties as provided through COS: https://www.cospp.org/education-and-training-taxonomies. The Taxonomy is an important aspect of how we as professionals and organizations define education and training as it relates to specialty. Please familiarize yourself with this area; we will be working with specialty boards to integrate the Taxonomy for their specialty into manuals and other materials.

Toward that end, there has been continuing work from the Interorganizational Summit on Specialty, Specialization, and Board Certification 4.0 that has been done by the Outreach and Communication Committee from that meeting. We have worked on infographics regarding the Taxonomy as it may be perceived by various sectors (e.g., public, students, psychologists). Many thanks to the group, comprised of Drs. Scott Sperling, Toni Minniti, Lesley Lutes, John Piacentini, and others at APA with whom I worked on this effort. We have completed much of the work and this can be viewed on the APA website at https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/understanding-taxonomy and also at the CoS 2021 Taxonomy https://www.cospp.org/2021-cos-taxonomy-initiative.

Of course, meetings have been held exclusively in virtual format for the better part of the past two years. I have continued working with numerous groups including, but not necessarily limited to, the APA Board of Professional Affairs (BPA), APA Board of Educational Affairs (BEA), Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), and others. I also hold regular meetings with the CEOs of ASPPB, the National Register of Health Service Psychologists (NR), and the Trust. I served on an invited group, the APA Summit on the Future of Education and Practice, which has held two meetings thus far. I will be continuing to serve as an ABPP liaison on an outgrowth of that group, in conjunction with BPA, on Licensing and Scope of Practice issues related to those with a master’s degree in psychology. I am very please that ABPP is seen as an important component of these interorganizational activities.

Technology Update   

ABPP has been diligently working with Cerebral Consulting on an updated platform for processing materials involved in the application, practice sample submission, and other aspects of the board certification process. We have been extremely pleased with the work done, responsiveness and professionalism, and prototype provided by Cerebral Consulting. The EC has had the opportunity to view this prototype, modeled after the American Board of Clinical Psychology (ABCP) process, as has the ABCP, and everyone is quite happy with what we see. The BOT will experience highlights of this during the upcoming BOT meeting; we welcome input and feedback and are hopeful to have a vote to move forward with a build-out for the rest of the ABPP specialty boards.

Respectfully submitted,

David R. Cox, PhD, ABPP
Executive Officer