Mary Ann McCabe, PhD, ABPP

ABPP Questions for APA President Elect Candidates

Mary Ann McCabe, PhD, ABPP

Q. What are your views regarding board certification in psychology?
 I am proud to be board certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology since 2015. It was a meaningful step and affirming process for me, and I have recommended it to countless colleagues, sometimes mentoring them informally in their applications. I have found board certification to be helpful in my clinical work (e.g., rendering credibility to my diagnostic impressions and recommendations) and in the business of practice (e.g., driving referrals). It also provides a community of colleagues with similar interests and expertise. Like any other field, I believe that identifying oneself as a “specialist” within psychology necessitates a process of review to ensure consumer protection.
While on the full-time faculty of Children’s National Health System, I served on the Credentials Committee of the Medical Staff. It was striking to me that psychology at that time was one of the only health professions with full medical staff privileges who were not required to have board certification. I witnessed the difficulty with which my physician colleagues evaluated the credentials of new psychologists. It came as no surprise when this tide started turning and more health care delivery systems began encouraging and/or requiring board certification as a more generalizable standard.

Q. What are your views regarding specialization within psychology?
A. I believe that this is a complex landscape. Some of the target problems and populations that are served by psychological science and practice require more specialization while others are aptly addressed with general training. It also varies across geographical regions; some communities experience a shortage of any providers, while in other regions marketplace forces provide financial incentives and/or requirements from third party payors for specialization (and specialty certification). Lastly, there are differences according to the culture of organizations, wherein some may limit leadership opportunities or career advancement to those who have acquired board certification. It is in the best interests of individual psychologists to consider the benefits of specialization for their own practice area, geographic location, institutional culture, and career goals.

Q. If elected, how can APA and ABPP work together toward improving our field?
A. It will be important for APA and ABPP to collaborate in promoting specialty certification as a means of increasing equitable access to evidence-based mental health care. This has never been more important than it is following the pandemic and racial trauma of the last year. We will increasingly see tiers of service across communities, wherein specialists consult with other providers to stretch resources. This will be particularly true with underserved populations and under-resourced areas. To this aim, we should set goals and measure progress, enabled by the APA Center for Workforce Studies and ABPP. For example, in a recent Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) funded study, it was noted that 13 states did not have a single psychologist who was board certified in clinical child and adolescent psychology.  No doubt the same scarcity in some geographical areas applies to other specialties.

Q. If elected, how can ABPP help with your presidential agenda?
A. An emphasis crossing my priority areas is to start early and set long-term goals. I have a few priorities related to the psychology workforce for which ABPP could be quite helpful, particularly in terms of its communications work. First, I am committed to cultivating a more diverse psychology workforce that more closely resembles the public we serve. It will be important for diverse students training for health service and general applied practice to learn about board certification early in their training and professional development. As with other areas, having role models with whom they can identify who are board certified will be particularly important for inspiring the same. This pipeline will take time to nurture if we are to see significant diversity (in terms of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity) across specialty areas. A related priority of mine is to introduce students very early to the full range of subfields and careers in psychology. This maps directly to the range of specialties for which board certification is possible. The early-entry program within ABPP can assist with both priority areas – steering students early to the possibility of board certification (before needing to declare a specialty) and making mentors more widely available.
For more information about my campaign for APA President-Elect, please visit .