It is particularly important for you to read and be familiar with the Candidate Examination Manual for Board Certification in Counseling Psychology for the American Board of Professional Psychology. Please refer to the Document Library for more detailed information.

Counseling Psychologists aspire to Board Certification for many reasons. The most common reason is a sense of accomplishment at achieving the highest level of professional recognition as a Board Certified specialist in Counseling Psychology. Others apply for board certification in order to strengthen their field of Counseling Psychology itself by applying to join the ranks of board certified counseling psychologists. And for some, there is an incentive at their place of employment or on certain insurance panels for board certified psychologists.

One of the first things you should consider as you begin your board certification application is to request a mentor. Many counseling psychologists already have a mentor to provide guidance and encouragement during the Board Certification process. They might have this person from their work setting, professional colleagues, or graduate program. But even those who have such a mentor, we encourage you to request one through the American Academy of Counseling Psychology. Your mentor can assist you in choosing what materials to submit, and can then review your materials prior to submission. We have found that candidates are pleased with the feedback and encouragement they receive from their assigned mentor which you may find on the Officers page.

The definition used to determine whether applicants/candidates have been functioning as Counseling Psychologists is the definition adopted by the Counseling Specialty Council, a member of the Council of Specialties, and adopted in some form by the member organizations of the Council at their annual meeting on August 6, 2022.

Counseling Psychology is a generalist health service (HSP) specialty in professional psychology that uses a broad range of culturally informed and culturally sensitive practices to help people improve their well-being, prevent and alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to function better in their lives. It focuses specifically but not exclusively on normative life-span development, with a particular emphasis on prevention and education as well as amelioration, addressing individuals as well as the systems or contexts in which they function. It has particular expertise in work and career issues.

Specialized Knowledge

Psychologists have an understanding of and capacity to engage in evidence-based and culturally informed intervention, assessment, prevention, training, and research practices. They focus on healthy aspects and strengths of their clients (whether they are individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations, or communities); environmental/contextual influences (such as cultural, sociopolitical, gender, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic factors) that shape people’s experiences and concerns; the role of career and work in peoples’ lives; and advocacy for equity and social justice.

Problems Addressed

Counseling psychologists focus on normative developmental and mental health issues and challenges faced by individuals across their lifespan, as well as systemic challenges (such as prejudice and discrimination) experienced in groups, workplaces, organizations, institutions, and communities. They use strengths-based perspectives and practices to prevent and ameliorate emotional, relational, physical/health-related, social, cultural, vocational, educational, and identity-related problems.

Skills & Procedures Utilized

The procedures and techniques used within Counseling Psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual, couples/family, and group counseling and psychotherapy.
  • Crisis intervention, disaster, and trauma management.
  • Assessment techniques for the identification or diagnosis of psychological problems and disorders.
  • Education and prevention activities.
  • Consultation and intervention in workplaces, organizations, institutions, and communities.
  • Interventions related to work and career issues.
  • Therapy process and outcome assessment and program/services evaluation. 
  • Training and clinical supervision.
  • Construction and validation of psychological instruments and assessment tools.
  • Scientific investigations utilizing a range of research methodologies.
  • Advocacy for equity and social justice for individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, and communities.

Populations Served

Counseling Psychologists serve persons of all ages and cultural backgrounds in individual, group (including couples and families), workplace, organizational, institutional, and community settings. They work with groups and communities to assist them in addressing or preventing problems, as well as to improve the personal and interpersonal functioning of individual members. Counseling psychologists also intervene in organizations, institutions, workplaces, and communities to enhance their effectiveness, climate, and the success and well-being of their members.

Counseling Psychologists work in many roles, and the American Board of Counseling Psychology has designed the Board Certification process to reflect this rich diversity of work roles. Each candidate must choose one area of focus, though most counseling psychologists work in a variety of roles.
The areas of focus are:
  • Counseling/Psychotherapy
  • Supervision
  • Consultation
  • Administration/Management
  • Training
  • Career Counseling

The application process for board certification in Counseling Psychology is comprised of three steps: Credentials Review, Practice Sample submission, and Oral Examination.

First, the credentials of each applicant are reviewed at ABPP Central Office to be certain that the applicant has met all of the generic requirements for board certification in all specialties.
The internship requirement is met if the internship is: 
  • Accredited by the APA or CPA, OR
  • Listed in the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) Directory for the year in which the internship was completed, OR
  • Met APPIC equivalency guidelines, OR
  • Applicants are listed in the NRHSPP or CRHSPP Directories or hold the CPQ.
Then, the credentials of each applicant are reviewed by the Credentials Reviewer for the American Board of Counseling Psychology. These include:
  • A one-year full-time or two-year half-time internship program is required. The internship requirement can be met in one of four ways.  The internship requirement is met if the internship is accredited by the APA or CPA, or listed in the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) Directory for the year in which the internship was completed, or met APPIC equivalency guidelines, or the applicant is listed in the NRHSPP or CRHSPP Directories or hold the CPQ.

  • Post-Doctoral Practice Experience: By its nature, the specialty of Counseling Psychology denotes a level of practice requiring preparation beyond doctoral requirements. The postdoctoral requirement includes two years of Post-Doctoral Experience.

Your Practice Sample includes three parts:  (1) your curriculum vita, (2) your Professional Self Study, and (3) your Practice Sample (which is typically a video and case write up about your work with the client/supervisee in the video).

1. Curriculum Vitae: A current and complete curriculum vita must be submitted with your materials. Your vita must include all training and work experience, as well as professional publications and presentations.

2. Professional Self Study: The purpose of the Professional Self-study is to convey a sense of the candidate that transfers to the written page. Candidates should describe how their professional, personal, and academic roles evolved in the work set forth for the Practice Sample. The Professional Self-study should detail the candidate’s general approach to psychological assessment and intervention, as well as the training and experience that led to these approaches. Candidates should address these issues as they relate to their chosen area of focus.

  • Description of current professional work (employment and professional activities at the local, state, and national level), continuing professional education activities, long-term plans in psychology, and reasons for seeking board certification.
  • Evidence of science base and application by addressing (a) discussion of evidence base that informs the practice as Counseling Psychologists OR (b) description of the Candidates’ current clinical research activities.
  • Assessment, intervention, consultation, and supervision/teaching/management activities (the latter only if applicable) and theoretical and empirical basis for these activities. Examples of handling of complex interpersonal interactions (i.e., conflicts or disagreements in work relationships, challenging relationship dilemmas with clients/patients) in one or more of the areas of scholarship, assessment, intervention, consultation, and supervision/teaching/management.
  • Description of a meaningful and challenging ethical dilemma personally encountered, the aspects of the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct pertinent to the dilemma, and how the dilemma was managed. Verification that no ethical/legal action has been taken against the Candidate since having been admitted to candidacy.
  • Candidates are expected to accomplish the task in no fewer than eight and no more than ten double-spaced (typed, font 12 pt.) pages, excluding references.
  • Please include ALL these in your Professional Self Study to maximize the probability that it will be accepted without revisions.

3. Work Sample: Examples of awareness of individual and cultural diversity as pertinent to the Candidates’ scholarship, assessments, interventions, consultations, and supervision/teaching/management (the latter only if applicable).

Senior Option: Candidates with fifteen or more years of postdoctoral experience are eligible to use materials listed in the manual in lieu of a video. Not that many candidates find it preferable to submit a video and case write up if they do not have the type of publications or program development required, or if their publications or program development materials are no longer in line with their career path. Please refer to ABCoP Manual in the Document Library for more information.

Standard Option:
Candidates with fewer than fifteen (15) years of postdoctoral experience are required to submit a work sample comprised of a video of your work, depending on the professional practice area you are focusing on. Videos are required for (a) Counseling/Psychotherapy, (b) Career Counseling, (c) Supervision. Videos are preferred but not required for (a) Consultation, (b) Administration/management, and (c) Training.

For most applicants, the Work Sample includes a video of your work along with a write-up of the assessment and treatment process for that client. This case write-up should not only detail the specific assessments and interventions associated with the particular case, but also detail how your work exemplifies your approach as elucidated in your Professional Self-study. Candidates should demonstrate their mindfulness of diversity in their Work Sample including race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, SES, physical and psychological challenges, geographic regions of birth, rearing and current residence as well as linguistic history and facility.

Although the video and case write-up submitted should clearly and specifically detail the course of work presented, it should also specifically state how these activities exemplify Candidate’s broader views on psychological assessment and intervention as a Counseling Psychologist as presented in your Professional Self-study.

Candidates are to complete the case write-up in no fewer than ten (10) and no more than twenty (20) double spaced typewritten pages (font 12 pt.) excluding references, copies of tests, profiles, and other supporting documents that you are free to include.

Your case write-up may or may not include psychological testing. Formal testing is not required for an Assessment Practice Sample, but if formal testing is part of the assessment, candidates should demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the construction, administration, validity and reliability and interpretation of such instruments as well as any cultural limitations.

Upon submission of your materials to the Practice Sample Chair, your practice sample materials will be reviewed by two Board Certified Counseling Psychologists. An overall determination will be made regarding the practice sample. Currently there are three categories: (a) Acceptable without revisions, (b) Acceptable with minor revisions, and (c) Acceptable with major revisions. It is possible for several rounds of revisions to be required. When your practice sample is accepted, you will move to the oral examination.

It is essential that your curriculum vitae, professional self-study, and work sample make it clear that your specialty is, in fact, Counseling Psychology. Remember that you are applying for Board Certification as a specialist in Counseling Psychology. Therefore, it is important that you include the ways that your career has focused on Counseling Psychology, how you have been involved in Counseling Psychology, and how you use the literature within Counseling Psychology to demonstrate the skills of a Counseling Psychologist. As a note of clarification, this does not mean that it is necessary to have attended a Counseling Psychology graduate program. However, it is necessary that your materials identify how this specialty is reflected in your work.

The candidate’s videotape and case write-up serves as a base from which to review the candidate’s pattern of practice, including theoretical and empirical bases of practice. Other areas of the examination include ethics, professional practice, and alternative intervention. Vignettes are used to evaluate competence in these areas. The examination is conducted by Board Certified Counseling Psychologists. The examination takes a half day. Two examiners assess each Candidate; examiners change for various sections of the examination.
The examiners/reviewers ascribe no importance to any one theoretical orientation; the candidate is examined within his/her theoretical orientation. Mentors are willing to discuss ways to prepare for the examination.

Candidates have one year from their admission to candidacy to submit their Practice Sample materials, but most often candidates submit their materials much sooner. It is possible to request an extension for the practice sample if circumstances require this.
Once the materials are received, it can take from two to six months for review, depending on the available reviewers and their schedules. We make every effort to be timely in our reviews.
Oral Examinations are typically scheduled 2-3 times a year. They involve meeting personally with three sets of two-person examiner teams. Candidates are notified by the ABPP Central Office about the results of the examination.
The variability in the length of time it takes to complete the process depends primarily on the candidate. If a candidate takes the full year to submit the Practice Sample, and takes the full time to submit any revisions, the process can take much longer.

For the areas where the manual indicates videos are a requirement, they are in fact a requirement. No alternative has ever been identified to replace the videos. In terms of demonstrating competence, a video is the default format for definitely providing a sample of one’s work.
The senior option only provides the option to provide writing samples in lieu of the video if relevant writing samples are available (articles, etc.). If a senior option eligible candidate wants to focus on a psychotherapy case, for example, or does not have the relevant writing samples, they would need to submit a video.
That being said, the manual specifies that videos are only required for the areas of psychotherapy, supervision, and career. Videos are only preferred for administration, training, and consultation. So if a video is ultimately not possible due to work setting, the latter three might be the best options. If a candidate can obtain a video it would be ideal, but given some circumstances it is acceptable if there is not a video for the preferred areas.
In many work settings one has to serve many roles: therapist, consultant, supervisor, etc. Many candidates also serve in administrative roles, supervising programs. So they can potentially submit a sample in an alternative area as needed. Candidates should confer with the Practice Sample Chair to discuss.