Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD

ABPP Questions for APA President Elect Candidates

Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD

Q. What are your views regarding board certification in psychology?
A. As psychologists, we need to adopt an approach to life-long learning as the field is ever-evolving and expanding. Board certification is a critical way to increase our psychological knowledge and skills. Certification benefits the profession as it is vital to deepening the public’s respect and credibility for the practice of psychology. It also showcases our commitment to the public and people’s health and wellness. Some subfields require certification, such as forensic and clinical neuropsychology. The certification process ensures a shared foundational knowledge of the specialty intended to assure the quality of psychological services. Being board certified as a psychologist can also result in an opportunity for employment promotion and salary increase. In this way, board certification can enhance the quality of service in the subfield and the quality of life for the individual psychologist.

Q. What are your views regarding specialization within psychology?
A. Specialization within psychology can produce psychologists who are better equipped to address the unique needs of members of the public. While there can be some benefits of being a generalist, specific individual psychopathologies and organizational challenges are best served by persons who have devoted more time to and attention to their study, whether in practice, consultation, education, or research. In each area of psychology, psychologists are usually rewarded and sought out depending on their expertise with a given issue, diagnosis, or population. Research awards and consultation contracts are most often given to those who have a track record in researching or addressing a particular topic. Relatedly, clients who are empowered to be selective about their choice of psychologist often ask potential practitioners if they have any experience treating or working with the client’s health concerns. The specialization prepares psychologists to give more than a surface-level response and instead provide concrete interventions designed with the specialty issue or population in mind. Our psychological science demonstrates that interventions are not one size fits all but should be ethically tailored to serve individuals and the public.

Q. If elected, how can APA and ABPP work together toward improving our field?
A. Depending on the program, psychology students are often not exposed to the process and benefits of certification and specialization. APA and ABPP can both benefit from more collaborations. For instance, both organizations can work together to develop a campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of being board certified. The campaign can target three constituents (a) students at all levels, (b) early-career professionals, (c) mid-career professionals. APA can encourage educators and training programs to provide information about certification and specialization. Specifically, I envision collaborations with the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and the Board of Convention Affairs (BCA) to bolster awareness about board certification. For example, APA can allot time and space in the annual convention program to provide psychologists, from early-career onward, about the vital work that ABPP carries out. Additionally as APA makes strides to address inequities, ABPP can work to increase both the diversity of board certified psychologists and certifications that target specialization in serving underseved, historically excluded, populations such as racial, sexual, attractional, gender, and religious minoritized persons.

Q. If elected, how can ABPP help with your presidential agenda?
A. My presidential platform is titled “Thriving in a Post-Pandemic World: Applying Psychological Science to Enhance People’s Lives.” The five keys to my platform include (a) addressing trauma and loss, (b) countering inequities and injustices, (c) highlighting holistic therapies that attend to the body, spirituality, and culture, (d) integrating the expressive arts, and (e) rebuilding communities. With these keys, psychologists with board certifications in any of the 15 specialties and those with specializations in trauma psychology, community psychology, multicultural psychology, and grief will be invited to spearhead and populate the various task forces connected to my presidential platform. I genuinely believe that together we will build momentum to empower APA, the public, and related organizations such as ABPP to not only survive but thrive.