As the title of this specialty denotes, psychologists with a specialization in SMI Psychology apply specialized individual, societal, and systems level assessment and intervention methods to assist those diagnosed with SMI and severe emotional disturbances (SED) recover and attain their full functional capability. The population of interest is comprised of individuals with the most severe mental illnesses and is of variable age and mixed diagnoses, with an emphasis on disorders where 1) psychosis is often predominant, 2) symptoms may wax and wane but are typically long-standing, and 3) community functioning is often impaired — disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum, bipolar illness, and depression with psychotic features predominate in the Specialty. Psychologists working with the SMI population must be able to identify and address the severe symptoms and pervasive functional deficits that reduce the quality and length of life of many individuals diagnosed with SMI, recognizing this as an element of individual differences and disability while also being capable of providing appropriate support for those individuals who are able to function more autonomously.
The complexity of this work requires advanced knowledge and skills in the provision of the unique assessments and services for this population known as psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) services that have been developed and empirically tested specifically to assist those with SMI to overcome the functional deficits that commonly accompany these diagnoses, so they can live productive and satisfying lives. The advanced knowledge and skill preparation required to competently provide these services is typically acquired through an organized sequence of formal education, training, and experience in addition to the broad and general education and core scientific and professional foundations acquired through an APA or CPA accredited doctoral program. Such training is not typically provided at the doctoral level in generalist health psychology training programs. Advanced training in the Specialty most often takes place at the post-doctoral level and consists of the formal education, training and experience requirements defined in the Specialty’s Training Guidelines. Advanced training may also be acquired through SMI Psychology CE courses, supervised experience in the Specialty area, or via other SMI Psychology professional experiences.
Specialists may identify themselves as board certified psychologists through the American Board of Serious Mental Illness Psychology (ABSMIP). They may indicate so in the signature line as follows: