In the United States, psychologists who specialize in addictions treatment differ from addiction counselors in a very important way. In most states, addiction counselors do not need comprehensive mental health training, even though research has shown that many people in treatment for substance use disorders or behavioral addictions have other psychiatric comorbidity. Furthermore, most evidence-based non-medication treatments for addictions were developed by psychologists. Yet, until the establishment of the American Board of Addiction Psychology (ABAP), the highest level of recognition available for addiction psychologists has been to become a Master Addiction Counselor. Like in the medical professions, becoming a board certified psychologist by the ABAP recognizes accredited doctoral level comprehensive mental health training and demonstrated competence in treating addictions.

  • It reflects that you have met a higher standard of expertise than a general licensee or a certified addiction counselor.
  • Some employers now require board certification (e.g., Mayo Clinic, several hospitals) or offer increased financial compensation for certification (e.g., VA, Public Health Service, Department of Defense).
  • Enhanced qualifications as an expert witness.
  • Receive 40 CE credits after passing the examination. Please note that each candidate needs to check the relevant state or provincial requirements for CE to ensure that all credits will count.
  • As in medicine, board certification is a ‘trusted credential.”
  • Greater professional mobility, as about two-thirds of states waive their written psychology exam for ABPP board certified psychologists.
  • Board certified psychologists receive a 20% reduction in the cost of liability insurance from the American Professional Agency.
  • Participate in ABPP training and events.
  • Access ABPP online resources for networking and referrals.

You would likely qualify for board certification as an Addiction Psychologist if you meet American Board of Professional Psychology requirements:

  • Completed (a) a doctoral program at an accredited institution, and (b) Completed an acceptable internship program (e.g., APA accredited or APPIC member internship).
  • Licensed as a psychologist for at least two years.
  • You have received specialized training or work experience in addictions (the training can be in coursework or internship, supervised professional experience, postdoctoral Continuing Education activities, or a combination of these and other activities). In addition, it is expected that you will belong to, and self-identify with, one or more of the major professional organizations in the addiction field.

Applicants first apply to the American Board of Professional Psychology for a credentials review.

  • Once applicants have passed the generic and specialty eligibility requirements (see our website for more information) they are invited to prepare and submit a practice sample. The sample is based on the applicant’s typical practice. Please refer to the Document Library for more detailed information.
  • Once the practice sample has been accepted by the Practice Sample Coordinator, the Examination Coordinator then schedules the oral exam. The examination committee consists of three ABAP board certified psychologists. Today for many reasons (e.g., cost, availability, convenience), the oral exams are often virtual (i.e., Zoom). In person oral exams can be arranged (e.g., annual convention or other meetings) if mutually convenient to both the candidate and examiners.

The ABAP also offers a Senior Option for applicants who have ≥ 15 years of postdoctoral experience post licensure as a psychologist and can provide evidence that they have made sustained and influential contributions to addiction psychology. See the ABAP Manual for Applicants (coming soon!) for more information.

The oral examination takes three hours hours and includes:

  • A review and discussion of the candidate’s written documents and practice sample.
  • An in vivo component where the candidate provides clinical consultation (i.e., mock supervision) to a third-party volunteer, such as a graduate student, intern, or postdoctoral trainee.
  • An ethical and legal component where candidates are asked to discuss a vignette within which ethical and legal issues are embedded.
  • A cultural diversity component where candidates are asked to discuss a vignette within which diversity issues are embedded.

A professional component where candidates discuss how they function as addiction psychologists on a daily basis and their awareness of and sensitivity to professional issues. This can also include discussion about important issues in the field of addiction psychology.