American Academy of Clinical Psychology

Recognizing and Promoting Advanced Competence within the Specialty of Clinical Psychology

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  • 21 Mar 2016 9:29 PM | Anonymous

    The practice of psychology has undergone many evolutions as a social science, and more recently the practice of psychology has come under scrutiny as it relates to psychologists operating in national security settings.  Professional practice is generally considered the professional behavior that one engages in relative to their occupational specialty.  Recent debates take this a step further to say that professional practice encompasses where you engage in said behaviors – not because of limits of competence, but because of geography and/or potential perception of the environment in which you practice.   

    The Hoffman Report, published in July 2015, found that the American Psychological Association (APA) colluded with the Department of Defense (DOD) to “ensure no APA policy would constrain psychologists’ participation in DOD’s 'enhanced interrogation' program."  Since this report, the APA council adopted the following Resolutions to amend the 2006 and 2013 Council Resolutions to Clarify the Roles of Psychologists Related to Interrogation and Detainee Welfare in National Security Settings, to augment the 2008 Petition Resolution, and to safeguard against acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in all settings.   

    See below:

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in keeping with Principle A (Beneficence and Nonmaleficence) of the Ethics Code to “take care to do no harm,”4 psychologists shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations5 for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation6. This prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement interrogations or domestic detention settings where detainees are afforded all of the protections of the United States Constitution, including the 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination (“Miranda” rights) and 6th Amendment rights to “effective assistance” of legal counsel.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in keeping with the "Actions to be Undertaken by APA" as stipulated in the 2013 Council Resolution, APA shall send official correspondence to the appropriate officers of the U.S. government, including the President, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, CIA Director, and Congress, to inform them that APA has adopted policy changes to expand its human rights protections to safeguard detainees in national security settings against torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.7

    Since this action by APA, a heated debate has ensued, and I would strongly encourage Academy members to read up on this issue.  While various members may agree or disagree with the actions of psychologists who choose to practice their skillset in national security settings, the actions of APA in taking steps to dictate where an individual psychologist should practice is troubling.  Practically, these actions by APA restrain where psychologists are allowed, per the APA Ethics code, to practice their profession, but asserting that psychologists should never be in the presence of events that could be potentially perceived as relating to national security.     

    In no other profession has an accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) tackled the slippery slope of dictating where professionals should and should not practice with hopes of alleviating the professional misconduct of professionals. NGOs frequently develop ethical standards that are adopted by state/federal licensing boards that outline general behaviors that are and are not acceptable. Further, ethical codes will frequently outline methods for establishing and maintaining competence for the behaviors that a professional will conduct.  NGOs also frequently outline steps for professionals to take if they are faced with an ethical conflict that requires resolution.  However, NGOs do not establish the location or setting in which professionals are declared fit to work, outside the establishment of their competency.   

    No one on either side of the debate is suggesting that psychologists that collude or participate in abuse should be absolved of responsibility; rather, there exists proper legal and professional channels for these assertions.  However, suggesting that a NGO should have the ability to limit where a person engages in their professional practice is encroaching on the very principle of Beneficence and Nonmaleficence that APA claims to uphold with their actions. For how can APA know where psychologists will be called upon to practice in order to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally? 

    Jill Breitbach, PsyD, ABPP

    (Click here to read the APA references cited in this post.  The topics and opinions expressed in the blog are those of the author and are not official positions of the Academy.  They are presented as information and food for thought.)

  • 11 Jan 2016 7:40 PM | Anonymous

    Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions this year?  The idea of a fresh start offers interesting possibilities.  With the aim of finding some useful research based information about New Year’s Resolutions, I found an article on the American Psychological Society website and thought it would be a good resource for ideas.  Much to my surprise, the article was quoted from a 12/31/15 article by Carolyn Gregoire in the Huffington Post: Everything You Need To Know About Making New Year's Resolutions.”

    An earlier article said that only 8% of those who make New Year’s Resolutions actually follow through with them!  However, there are ways to increase your probability of success in this endeavor.  To paraphrase Gregoire's article, there are six (research based) steps you can employ to increase your likelihood of following through with your New Year’s good intentions.

    First, “Ask, don't tell.” In one study, people were 14% more likely to follow through on a specific behavior if they were asking a question about something new they wanted to do.  For example, write your resolution as a question or have a friend or relative ask you about your intention:  “Will you stop eating French fries for the next four months?” or “Will you walk an average of 10,000 steps everyday this month?”

    Second,“Stop to consider any potential obstacles.” New York University psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen has found that mental contrasting helps in reaching goals. Using this technique, a person contrasts the vision of attaining their future goal with a review of current or future personal characteristics or other obstacles that can interfere with reaching their goal.  This is a mental “dress rehearsal” that helps a person better prepare for achieving goals.

    Third, “Get intrinsically motivated.” Internal motivation that is consistent with personal goals and values is correlated with success in achieving one’s goals.  Doing things because we feel we “should” does not work very well because it leads to doing the right things for the wrong reasons.  When we pursue goals that are consistent with our internal motivation, we are better able to focus on the immediate reward of living our values in the pursuit of our goals – and we are more likely to follow through with our plans.

    Fourth, “Make your resolution realistic.” As noted by psychologist Lynn Bufka, We are more likely to achieve small goals that are attainable.  So rather than saying “I will walk an average of 10,000 steps per day this year,” start out small and build the foundation for a sustainable habit. Set small goals that can be renewed and revised as you progress.  Ask yourself, “Will I walk 6,000 steps everyday this month?”  This can be renewed and revised as you gain experience and confidence in your personal track record of success.

    Fifth, “Keep your resolutions to yourself.” Contrary to popular opinion, you may be less likely to achieve your goals if you announce them to others ahead of time.  The article noted that “when you experience someone else's approval, it gives you a ‘premature sense of completeness.’ So you already start to enjoy the desired outcome in your mind.”  Why follow through if you feel you have already completed your goal? 

    Sixth, “Put it in your calendar.” One way to help ingrain a new habit is to make an appointment with yourself for a specific time devoted to the pursuit of that goal – just as you do for other important activities of your day and week.  Having a plan and an appointed time for working on your goal helps establish your new habit.  However, if you have to reschedule, don’t lapse into self-criticism – other appointments need to be changed once in awhile and so may your personal goal appointments need occasional rescheduling.

    Whatever your goals, apply your psychological knowledge and skills to increase your probability of achieving them and enjoy the process!

    You can read the full article and access the associated references by clicking here.

    Mary Ann Norfleet, PhD, ABPP

    (The topics and opinions expressed in the blog are those of the author and are not official positions of the Academy.  They are presented as information and food for thought.)


  • 21 Oct 2015 12:47 PM | Anonymous

    Becoming Board Certified in Clinical Psychology through the American Board of Clinical Psychology is an important professional commitment.  The decision to pursue Board Certification has many professional benefits.  One of the many outstanding reasons(*) for becoming Board Certified is the recognition of your professional knowledge and skills:

    • Recognition of competence by universities, hospitals, health service systems, agencies, insurers, and the public. 

    In a recent article, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities were rated by the public.  It is noteworthy that overall, becoming ABPP specialty certified was rated as the most important CPD activity “that contributed most significantly….to the collective objectives of….maintaining competence, improving services, and protecting the public. “ p. 143  (Taylor, J.M., Neimeyer, G.J. (2015).  Public Perceptions of Psychologists’ Professional  Development Activities:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (2015, 46 (2), 140-146.)

    As a psychologist who is Board Certified in Clinical Psychology, there are a number of reasons to take the next step and become a member of AACP.  Fortunately, this next step is much faster and easier than preparing for the board certification exam!  Our AACP website shows a list of Member Benefits.

    By joining the AACP, you will have access to many additional professional benefits – some of which include:

    • Showing that you have attained a rigorous, independent certification of your clinical competence and you now continue to be involved in professional learning and interaction with professional peers who also have high levels of professional competence.
    • Having access to no-cost continuing education through the AACP Members CE portal on the website.
    • Obtaining discounted annual premiums for professional liability insurance from American Professional Agency, Inc.
    • Having access to the Academy website with "Members Only" access to member documents and resources.
    • Having the opportunity to share your news of professional accomplishments publicly -- in the Member News section of the Academy website.
    • Having the opportunity to be listed in our Member Directory.
    • Having the ability to link from the Directory to your personal professional website.
    • Having the opportunity for new Members and Fellows to have a press release sent to their local newspaper, announcing the awarding of Board Certification and/or Fellow status.
    • Receiving recognition of Board Certification as an aid to reciprocity of licensure by most licensing jurisdictions.
    • Receiving recognition by some universities and federal employers such as the U. S. Public Health Service and Department of Defense of justification for extra salary benefits (when funded)
    • Having a vehicle through which specialists in Clinical Psychology may be heard regarding mental health policy.

    These are just some of the benefits of board certification and membership in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology.  Please look around our website and contact us if you have questions or feedback.  We look forward to having you in our professional community where you will have, among other things:  a) a means to interact with professional peers, b) an opportunity to share your work with colleagues through our Bulletin and our Blog, c) recognition for your accomplishments when you send us your “member news,” and d) opportunities for continuing professional development and professional learning.  We look forward to your participation!

    Mary Ann Norfleet, Ph.D., ABPP

    (*)For addition information about Board Certification in Clinical Psychology, please see the pages under the Board Certification menu tab on our American Academy of Clinical Psychology website.



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The American Academy of Clinical Psychology is an independent membership association supporting board certification in the area of clinical psychology. The Academy is not affiliated with any other organization including the American Board of Professional Psychology.

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