Interview With a Board Certified Specialist

Allison M. Bondanza, PhD, ABPP

Counseling Psychology

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification?
A.  As a practicing psychologist in the field of military psychology, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of collegiate psychologists who had either recently completed board certification or whom were also in the process of pursuing it. I was inspired by their collective drive and ambition and was offered supportive mentorship along the way. I was internally driven to demonstrate to myself, my patients, and the community in which I practice psychology that I share a lifelong commitment to offer evidence-based treatment. Lastly, I was drawn to being part of the American Board of Counseling Psychology community to further network and create unique opportunities as my career progresses.

Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification?
A.  Completing the board certification process has already had a profoundly positive impact on my current practice and career. While each of the steps were rigorous and challenging, they also offered a great deal of reward. The process and of itself allowed me the opportunity to reevaluate the way in which I was approaching patient care. It has highlighted areas that I have already made improvements to and, as a result, improved the evidence-based treatment I deliver to my patients. Board certification has furthermore brought an additional sense of community and connection to those I have met also along the same path. Most importantly, passing my boards has brought a profound sense of personal and professional accomplishment that will last the extent of my professional career.  

Q. What did you learn about yourself and your practice while doing board certification?
A.  Completing board certification allowed me to intrinsically know how dedicated I am to the field. It brought further awareness of my love of, appreciation for, and devotion to ethical practice and standards.  Board certification has further solidified by identity as a Counseling Psychologist, which has built a stronger foundation of confidence and direction in my career.

Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in Counseling Psychology?
A.  My greatest advice for current candidates is to seek mentorship or those whom have already completed the process. It was invaluable to have a community of individuals who could offer sound advice when my anxiety about the process appeared. I would strongly encourage those who are considering board certification to go for it! While challenging, it is worth it and much more of a positive, supportive, and collegiate experience than one would anticipate. 

Sharon L. Bowman, PhD, ABPP

Counseling Psychology
Bio: Sharon L. Bowman, PhD, HSPP, ABPP, LMHC is Professor and Chair of the Department of Counseling Psychology, Social Psychology, and Counseling at Ball State University (BSU). She also has a small private practice. A graduate of Southern Illinois University – Carbondale’s counseling psychology program, she has been at BSU for 31 years. She is a Past President of the Society of Counseling Psychology (Division 17 of APA), and a Past President of the American Board of Counseling Psychology.

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification in counseling psychology?
A.  I applied for board certification via the Senior Option in 2014. I had considered applying for many years, but always backed out before committing. I received strong encouragement from the ABCoP leadership to do this as something SCP leadership should promote. Further, I knew that my doing it would serve as a model for my own junior faculty and graduate students to follow suit.
 
Q. Looking back, what misconceptions did you have about the process that you could clarify for future candidates?
A. Oh, so many! I think the biggest misconception is that only the most elite can pass the “test” and become board certified – that the process is designed to weed out most applicants. I cannot speak for the early days of certification, but the purpose today is to demonstrate proficiency in the field, not to signify elite status. 
 
Q. What was the most challenging/interesting/surprising part of the certification process?
A.  I was most surprised at how much I learned about myself in writing the professional self-study (PSS). After all of these years, I have been comfortable, maybe even complacent, in how I describe my theoretical worldview. While writing my PSS, I realized that there has been much about my work that I assumed was reflected in my descriptions, but, in reality, did not accurately portray what I do. I really enjoyed the PSS process, and thinking seriously about who I am at this stage of my career.
 
Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in counseling psychology?
A.  Spend some time thinking about WHY you want to do this, and what completion means to you. It is not enough to do it because you are required to do so, say by an employer, but there should be more to it than that. The intrinsic motivation is what will keep you thinking about the answers and doing the appropriate self-examination it takes to define your career.
 
Q. What advice would you give candidates from under-represented minority groups in counseling psychology?
A. 
 Don’t doubt yourself, or question whether you are ready to do this. You ARE as ready as any other candidate who is not a member of your group. What is important is that you step up and demonstrate your competence and confidence as a counseling psychologist. My premise is that our field is quite diverse, so with your achievement of board certification you will also be a role model for others coming behind you.
 
Q. What did you learn about yourself, or in what ways do you see yourself differently, having completed the board certification process?
A. 
 I hesitated for years before finally deciding to complete this process. I let my fear get in the way. However, once I did it, I realized how much I have grown in the last 30 years. I hadn’t changed my description of what I do in decades, without realizing that it was no longer accurate or complete. I now have more confidence that the work I present to the world is congruent with my personal and professional world view.
 
Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification?
A. 
 I didn’t do this to improve my career, as I have achieved so much in my life already. The value is truly intrinsic for me –having achieved this goal renewed my excitement about the work I’ve been doing.
 
Q. How has your professional life changed since attaining board certification?
A.  
Neither my academic position nor my private practice required the addition of board certification, so there was no boost in that area. However, since earning my certification I have become a cheerleader for getting others to apply for certification, especially graduate students and new professionals.
 
Q. What is the most interesting/challenging/rewarding/fulfilling aspect of your work as a counseling psychologist?
A.  
This answer hasn’t changed since my days as a graduate student – I identify as a counseling psychologist; no matter what I am doing, I view the world with a counseling psychologist’s sensibilities. I get to do anything I want to do as a counseling psychologist – teach, do research, see clients, be an administrator. The challenging aspect for me has always been learning to say “no” to the many opportunities that come before me.
 
Q. What would we be most surprised to learn about you?
A. 
 I am a master procrastinator. If I don’t get something done almost immediately, it will nag at me until it finally gets done, usually with great worry about the enormity of the project at hand. Invariably, though, once I actually get around to finishing it up, the project is bigger in my head than it is for real.

Allison Clark, PhD, ABPP

Counseling Psychology
Bio: LCDR Allison Clark is a Navy Psychologist currently stationed with a Marine Corps infantry unit aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. She earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology at the University of Tennessee, working under Dr. Gina Owens as her primary professor. She has previously worked at Cornerstone of Recovery, Inc. in Louisville, TN, Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA, Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, NC, and United States Naval Hospital Guam in Agana, Guam. For the last 3 years, she has served as the Practice Sample Review Chair for the American Board of Counseling Psychology.

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification in counseling psychology?
A. My mother is a veterinarian and I remember her speaking of her board-certified colleagues as though they were the most advanced and respected in her field. Ultimately, I wanted to maximize my expertise in order to be more effective in my work with patients/clients and those that I supervise.

Q. Looking back, what misconceptions did you have about the process that you could clarify for future candidates?
A. The number of hours required to prepare my work sample was not as high as I had feared it would be. It just takes some self-reflection paired with that devoted time at a computer that I remember from graduate school!
 
Q. What was the most challenging/interesting/surprising part of the certification process?
A. The oral exam team offered feedback on my work based on the video recording I submitted. This was the first time since graduate training that a respected psychologist watched the entirety of my work in therapy and provided informed feedback for me to consider.

Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in counseling psychology?
A. Submit a work sample which shows your *typical* work in your current position. Complicated, once-in-a-career cases are an interesting read, but it’s difficult to show the practice sample review team that you fully addressed each important element of the case when you are working within a page limit.
 
Q. What advice would you give candidates from under-represented minority groups in counseling psychology?
A. We are a very diverse board and we welcome candidates from all types of backgrounds. It is important to us that we maintain great relationships with one another in our board – we have fun when we get together and learn from each other along the way.
 
Q. What did you learn about yourself, or in what ways do you see yourself differently, having completed the board certification process?
A. The oral exam team offered a discussion on the multiple ways that a therapist can show empathy and they used parts of my video to help me see ways in which I was doing so without realizing it.
 
Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification?
A. The most rewarding part so far has been serving as an oral examiner, when I get to spend 2 days with colleagues from diverse practice areas (private practice, VA, military, counseling centers, universities) and cultural backgrounds. We visit a new city, share stories, and offer one another support.
 
Q. How has your professional life changed since attaining board certification?
A. I am much more aware of the nuances of evaluation in our profession – it’s difficult to operationally define expectations for the processes of psychotherapy, supervision, research, teaching, and management/administration, but important to do so.
 
Q. What is the most interesting/challenging/rewarding/fulfilling aspect of your work as a counseling psychologist?
A. The most rewarding part of my job is pushing a client/patient out of their comfort zone, tolerating the associated risks as a clinician, and seeing the client/patient thrive within that environment of trust.
 
Q. What would we be most surprised to learn about you?
A. When I lived in Guam, my next-door neighbor was Dr. Kyle Bandermann, an outstanding counseling psychologist who attended the same Ph.D. program as I did at the University of Tennessee.
Dominick (Dom) Scalise, PhD, ABPP

Counseling Psychology
Bio: Dr. Scalise is a board-certified counseling psychologist, licensed in Kansas and Missouri. He has worked in university counseling centers, VA Hospitals, and in private practice in the field of psychology with areas of expertise in evaluation/assessment, existential psychotherapy, supervision, and career development. He was formerly the Director of the Counseling Psychology graduate program at Avila University where he taught for four years. Prior to that, he was a staff psychologist at the University of Maryland-College Park.

He is currently in private practice where he serves the community via assessment, including disability and vocational evaluations, and psychotherapy in Olathe, KS a suburb of Kansas City. Dr. Scalise graduated with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, from an APA-accredited doctoral program at University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification in counseling psychology?
A. Encouragement from mentors and psychologists who gone through the process was my initial motivation. When I learned more about it, being able to protect the specialty of counseling psychology by becoming board certified and wanting to challenge myself to pass a well-regarded “stamp of approval” on my clinical skills. Something I wanted for both intrinsic reasons as well as knowing that it may help me with job finding/security down the road.
 
Q. Looking back, what misconceptions did you have about the process that you could clarify for future candidates?
A. I believed that the written portion would be somewhat disinteresting but found just the opposite.
 
Q. What was the most challenging/interesting/surprising part of the certification process?
A. When I was recording sessions to be used, I felt a reconnection to my internship/training years (when I went over my tapes with a kind of scrutiny that may or may have been healthy but was helpful!) that resulted in some treatment planning tweaks that I’m not sure I would have seen otherwise.
 
Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in counseling psychology?
A. Get a mentor, discuss your barriers openly, and remember the reasons you chose counseling psychology and/or the reasons you are sticking with it as you prepare your materials.
 
Q. What advice would you give candidates from under-represented minority groups in counseling psychology?
A. You can make requests on type of mentor; while cultural heritage/identity matching may not be a guarantee the board can look into such a request.  If you feel that the certification process is not meant for you, please reach out to a board member and discuss your reasons.
 
Q. What did you learn about yourself, or in what ways do you see yourself differently, having completed the board certification process?
A. It was a reminder on the importance, both for myself and my clients, to review my work.  It was extremely satisfying to hear the impressions of esteemed colleagues and to be challenged to communicate my approach to other counseling psychologists. It definitely was a kind of sharpening process for me professionally.
 
Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification?
A. When applying for a job change, I was told from the hiring official (a psychiatrist) that a big reason I was a finalist was due to having ABPP. While I didn’t end taking the job in order to pursue private practice, it definitely validated the narrative I wasn’t 100% sure about as it relates to what board certification might communicate to others in healthcare and psychology fields.
 
Q. How has your professional life changed since attaining board certification?
A. The reminders of reflection and inviting friendly challenge/consultation from colleagues have been continued values in my private practice life.  Being able to provide mentorship to other counseling psychologists/candidates at this level has been rewarding. The ability to mentor others seeking board certification has been a pleasant surprise.
 
Q. What is the most interesting/challenging/rewarding/fulfilling aspect of your work as a counseling psychologist?
A. Entering into a solo private practice has been extremely challenging and rewarding as a counseling psychologist. However, my ABPP mentor has a long background of success as a private practitioner. Going through this process with her guidance and also having a little extra consultation on private practice, have both been incredible benefits. 

Emily Voelkel, PhD, ABPP

Counseling Psychology
Bio: After my undergraduate studies at Loyola University Chicago, I moved to Houston to complete two years of teaching via Teach For America. I completed graduate studies at the University of Dayton and the University of Houston prior to internship and fellowship at VA facilities, where I specialized in PTSD. I was the telehealth psychologist in the PTSD clinic at the Houston VA for about four years before transitioning into my current role at the Cincinnati VA in the Research Care Line and PTSD Clinic. On a personal note, I am originally from the Cincinnati area and spend any free time cooking, reading, and spending time with my family.

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification in counseling psychology?
A. I have always been the type of person who seeks out challenges, professionally and personally. I think learning is a life-long endeavor and thought it was important for me to consider how my identity as a counseling psychologist was influencing my work as a psychologist. I also wanted to take the time to consider how I practiced and what, if anything, I could do to be practicing at the highest level of care. In addition, I think it’s important to be board certified to protect the public and add some reassurance to those seeking services. On a personal level, I thought board certification would help me market myself professionally and assist with licensure mobility.
 
Q. Looking back, what misconceptions did you have about the process that you could clarify for future candidates?
A. I thought board certification would mean sitting in front of a panel of psychologists who were going to “grill me,” sort of like an in-person EPPP. The process was in no way like that at all, and I found it to be very collegial and supportive.
 
Q. What was the most challenging/interesting/surprising part of the certification process?
A. How collegial and conversational the interview day truly was. I walked away thinking people were interested in hearing about how I practice and my thought processes. As mentioned above, I had the idea previously that it would be more like a strict interview full of knowledge-based, memorization questions.
 
Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in counseling psychology?
A. If you are interested, start the process right now. Each step is laid out for you, and there is plenty of time to complete each one. If you just get started, it is much easier to follow the program and finish in a reasonable time frame. One step at a time!
 
Q. What advice would you give candidates from under-represented minority groups in counseling psychology?
A. I cannot speak from experience to most psychologists from under-represented minority groups. If colleagues from these groups have concerns about the process being intimidating or difficult in any way, however, I would point to my previous comments. The process is very collegial, and I found interviewers wanted to listen and learn from my experiences and expertise. We need more colleagues from under-represented groups to gets board certified to continue to diversify our field broadly and, more specifically, to diversify the pool of psychologists we can turn to for expertise throughout the various stages of board certification.
 
Q. What did you learn about yourself, or in what ways do you see yourself differently, having completed the board certification process?     
A. I walked away feeling more confident about my abilities as an early career psychologist. Even after licensure and having a “real” job, it was challenging for quite some time to see myself as a non-trainee. Going through the process helped me solidify my professional identity and transition more fully from mentally seeing myself as a trainee.
 
Q. How has your professional life changed since attaining board certification?
A. Thus far, I do not think my professional life has changed. It did assist me with getting through the Ohio licensing process more quickly.
 
Q. What is the most interesting/challenging/rewarding/fulfilling aspect of your work as a counseling psychologist?
A. The most rewarding part of being a counseling psychologist to me is working with clients in a holistic framework. I believe our training in diversity and multiculturalism is top-notch, and it has really helped me see clients, their presenting problems, and solutions/treatments in a broader way. When you see a full and complete person, you connect with them on a deeper level.
 
Q. What would we be most surprised to learn about you?
A. I’m not sure—maybe that I’m a certified scuba diver!