Interview With a Board Certified Specialist

Sally Barlow, PhD, ABPP

Group Psychology

Q. What is your practice like?
A.  Having taught for over thirty years in a Clinical Psychology Graduate program, I have utilized my group specialty practice in a number of areas: teaching (Group Dynamics, Group Psychotherapy, Advanced Group Practicum); conducting workshops nationally and internationally on various aspects of group practice; leading and co-leading consultation groups on group skills for various agencies such as the State Hospital, Prison, community mental health centers etc; and running actual therapy groups with graduate students at our training clinic.

Q. What did you learn about yourself and your practice while doing board certification?
A.  Who knew that an examination could cause such anxiety! Still, I genuinely valued the time and effort I put into studying for all phases of the ABPP Group Credential from the books, chapters, and articles I read to broaden my knowledge base, to a thorough review of the extant graduate texts available.  I rounded out my knowledge base to include concepts I had not allowed myself the luxury of studying when in graduate school.  I was able to deconstruct a particular group, which I had videotaped for part of the exam, to pin point more accurately what processes worked, and which ones were not effective.

Q. What might you consider doing differently based on what you learned?
A.  I will never again bypass the pre-group interview as it caused such havoc when the actual therapy group was underway.

Q. Do you see yourself in a different light for having completed the board certification process?
A.  Yes, I am proud of myself for enduring the anxiety of being evaluated by my much-esteemed group peers.

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification in Group psychology?
A.  My group colleagues urged me to be one of the founding members of the Group Psychology Specialty, which meant I needed to hustle in order to be one of the first 30 people to sit for and hopefully pass the Group ABPP.

Q. Having attained board certification, looking back, what was your greatest misconception about the ABPP or the credentialing process?
A.  I believe I was so anxious about being evaluated by my peers, that I didn’t relax enough to enjoy the true colleagueship they were clearly offering me during the exam process.

Q. What was the most challenging/interesting/surprising aspect of the board certification process?
A.  The Group examining body was almost as nervous about examining me as I was about being examined! Given what experts they all were in group practice, the message this communicated to me was clearly one of mutual respect, that they took their responsibilities quite seriously. This helped me become a good-enough examiner later given what the ABGP examiners originally modeled.

Q. What advice would you give to a candidate for board certification in Group Psychology?
A.  Once you have fully prepared your work sample and assessment sample, allow yourself to enjoy the collegial exchange.

Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification (e.g., salary increase, referrals, colleagues, increased self esteem, learning, something else)?
A.  The shared colleagueship has been really terrific.  The rewards inherent in studying hard and earning an extra credential were much amplified by the professional relationships I have maintained by being actively involved in the ABPP process.

Q. What would readers be most surprised to learn about you?
A.  Hmmmmm . . . I am an expert downhill skier—a very solitary athletic endeavor.

Q. How has your professional life changed since attaining board certification?
A.  It is a relief to know I could move from my home state to another state or province and not have to re-take the licensing exam. As I have mentioned already, I have come to value my ongoing relationship with my group colleagues and the ABPP leaders generally, who strike me as a very dedicated bunch.

Q. What is the most interesting/challenging/rewarding/fulfilling aspect of your work as a psychologist?
A.  I feel very lucky to still be happy with my career choice of 30 years ago.  Many of my friends who are my age are already into their 2nd careers.  I value being an academic psychologist who specializes in small groups.