Specialty Specific

Addiction Psychology

The American Board of Professional Psychology is the primary organization for Specialty Board Certification in Psychology. There are currently 17 Specialty Boards and one Subspecialty Board. The American Board of Professional Psychology serves the public by promoting the provision of quality psychological services through the examination and certification of professional psychologists engaged in specialty practice. Board Certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) provides peer and public recognition of demonstrated competence in its affiliated specialty areas. Additionally, Board Certification through ABPP provides addiction professionals with increased opportunities for career growth, including employability, mobility, and financial compensation.

Addiction Psychology is a specialty within professional psychology that applies psychological principles and practices to ameliorate the human suffering associated with substance use disorders and addictions.

Specialized Knowledge

Specialized knowledge in the assessment and treatment of substance use disorders and addictions, as well as clinical pharmacology, epidemiology, and etiology are central to the specialty of Addiction Psychology.

Problems Addressed

For decades, addiction psychologists have contributed to, and drawn from, a substantial base of evidence related to the treatment of substance use disorders and addictions. For example, addiction psychologists address problems associated with central nervous system depressants (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids), stimulants (e.g., cocaine, nicotine, methamphetamine), hallucinogens (e.g., LDS, MDMA), and other psychoactive drugs (e.g., marijuana). Addiction psychologists also apply evidence-based assessment and treatment strategies to behavioral addictions, such as gambling and online gaming.

Addiction psychologists do not limit themselves to the assessment and treatment of addictions. They also address secondary concerns of those struggling with addictions, including co- occurring depression, anxiety, PTSD, family problems, interpersonal relationship problems and more.

Populations Served

Addiction Psychologists work with people of all ages. Addiction Psychology assessments and interventions are provided through all modalities, including individual, group, family and couples’ therapies, and even community intervention.

Skills and Procedures Utilized

  • Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment for addictions and co-existing conditions
  • Comprehensive case conceptualizations based on the biopsychosocial model of addiction
  • Use of evidence-based treatments, individualized and applied to meet the specific needs and cultural considerations of the client
  • Ongoing assessment of effectiveness and modification of treatment as needed

Commonly used treatments with empirical support include motivational interviewing to develop and/or sustain motivation for change, identifying conditioned and contextual cues (triggers) for addictive behavior, behavioral coping techniques for cravings, emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills for strong emotions, and relapse prevention plans to support sustained abstinence.


The applicant has completed an acceptable one-year full-time (or equivalent) formal post-doctoral training program in Addiction Psychology or two years of formalized post-licensure experience in Addiction Psychology meeting the Major Area of Study or Emphasis coverage as found in the Post-Licensure Stage of Education column of the Addiction Psychology Specialty Council found at the website of the Council of Specialties and Subspecialties in Professional Psychology. This experience should at a minimum (a) reflect 2,000 hours of AP practice, or (b) have 20% of the Applicant’s practice representing AP, or (c) should include other evidence submitted to the Addiction Psychology Credentials Review Panel for evaluation that meets criteria for acceptable practice experience in addiction psychology.

Documentation of receiving formalized supervision in Addiction Psychology at the doctoral, post-doctoral, internship, or post-licensure level of education and training.

The board recognizes and accepts that not all of the Applicant’s experience is exclusively in addiction psychology. However, it is expected that the Applicant is a member of, and identifies with, one or more of the major addiction psychology membership organizations (e.g., Division 50 (Society of Addiction Psychology, SoAP), American Psychological Association, and Division 28 (Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse), American Psychological Association; College on Problems of Drug Dependence; Research Society on Alcoholism; Research Society on Marijuana).