Diana L. Prescott, PhD

ABPP Questions for APA President Elect Candidates

Diana L. Prescott, PhD

Q. What are your views regarding board certification in psychology?
A. It is important that board certification be sought through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).  Although board certification is important in all areas of psychology, it has been my experience that it is especially important for psychologists in medical settings.  Taking this step can indeed increase opportunities for career growth, including employability, mobility and financial compensation.  Obtaining board certification in psychology corresponds with board certification in medicine and reflects that a psychologist is well-trained in a specific area of expertise.  It provides an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and skills at the highest level through review by one’s peers.  Physicians understand and appreciate the fact that psychologists are board certified, which lends credibility and trust in one’s practice of psychology.  I also believe board certification is helpful to the consumer, especially in more densely populated areas, to know that the treating psychologist has specific training and expertise in the type of psychological practice for which the consumer is seeking.  At this stage of the development of our profession, ABPP certification is aspirational, but increasingly across the nation, universities, medical settings, and independent practices are encouraging their psychologists to achieve certification in one of the ABPP specialties, as is expected in medicine.  For psychologists who determine the time is right, I would recommend pursuing an ABPP as the most respected way to demonstrate advanced competence in the practice of psychology.

Q. What are your views regarding specialization within psychology?

A. Psychology is such a rich and interesting discipline, with a vast number of fields of concentration in which one can specialize, which makes our discipline extremely interesting for the psychologist.  Psychology is a field that is engaging and continually evolving, so specialization is an important aspect of modern psychological practice.  I believe it is important to create opportunities which make specialization possible in psychology, without making it mandatory.  For many psychologists practicing in less populated areas, although specialization is still fascinating and possible to attain, it is less necessary.  These psychologists are more likely to need a broad, general range of skills that can translate to the situation presented to them at the moment.  In rural or frontier environment, a generalist psychologist may be the only qualified psychologist to treat a wide range of presenting problems for patients of all ages. 

Specialization provides a mechanism to distinguish oneself from the master’s prepared mental health providers that tend to offer general services at a lower cost than doctorally prepared psychologists.  Obtaining advanced training and experience in a specialty you enjoy will assure a niche that only you can fill.  In summary, I believe opportunities for specialization should be made possible for psychologists, without mandating them for practice.  Should a psychologist choose to specialize, ABPP is the organization to contact to obtain specialty board certification in psychology.
Q. If elected, how can APA and ABPP work together toward improving our field?

A. APA and ABPP are separate and unique organizations.  ABPP has 70+ years of credentialing psychologists in an ever-growing number of specialties.  This increase in specialty areas mirrors APA’s history of increasing the number of divisions to reflect psychologists’ interest in areas of specialization.  For the large group of APA members who are practicing psychologists, APA could encourage their practitioners to seek board certification.  APA division boards could encourage their members to pursue ABPP certification.  This occurred historically at APA when the Division 38, Society for Health Psychology, Board became certified in an effort to role model the value of board certification for members.  If APA and ABPP partner to educate the public about the meaning and importance of board certification, this would benefit our profession and increase understanding for the consumer of how to access high quality psychological services.  APA and ABPP are in a great position to team up to share a common mission of encouraging the highest standards of psychological science and practice.

Q. If elected, how can ABPP help with your presidential agenda?

A. If elected, I plan to extend upon Dr. Rosie Phillips Davis’ deep poverty and Dr. Jennifer Kelly’s health equity initiatives by focusing on rural and underserved populations.  ABPP would be an important partner for me as APA President to consider how to help rural and underserved people more easily be able to access high quality psychological services.  ABPP represents the highest demonstration of peer reviewed competence.  The rural and underserved should not have to be treated with substandard psychological services, because they live in areas where high quality healthcare may be not readily available.  For example, the ABPP certified psychologist may not be practicing in a rural or underserved setting; however, telepsychology may provide a vehicle for connecting this psychologist to those individuals.  Alternatively, our psychologists working with these populations could be specifically encouraged to pursue ABPP certification.  ABPP may be able to assist with identifying pathways for these psychologists to obtain board certification, while they are practicing in rural or remote regions of the country.  In this way, rural and underserved persons can be assured their treating psychologist is functioning at a high level of competence.