Criteria for Selection of Practice Guideline Topics*

Treatment guideline topic selection is a systematic process in which topics are nominated, refined, rated and selected according to a systematic process and utilizing a set of specific criteria. Final decisions reflect both the systematic review of topics as well as considerations regarding need and resources.

Topic Selection Process

The selection of topics for treatment guideline development is intended to be a transparent one open to nomination of topics from the public, the APA members and professionals. The goal is to select topics important to the stakeholders. Topic selection is a task of the Clinical Practice Guidelines Advisory Steering Committee.

1. Topic Nomination & Identification
Who can nominate topics:
  • APA members
  • APA Boards/Committees
  • APA Divisions
  • Other psychologists and health care professionals
  • Other professional organizations
  • Public advocacy groups
  • Other members of the public
2. Topic Refinement
Refinement of the scope of the topic in consultation with nominator(s), Advisory Steering Committee or content area expert
3. Topic Rating (further details will be developed)
  • Topic is rated through a deliberative process of the Advisory Steering Committee
  • A member of the committee who serves as a facilitator leads the deliberative discussion.
4. Topic Selection
Steering committee prioritizes and selects topics based on topic ratings and available resources.
5. Topic(s) referred to Guidelines Development Panel
Topics referred and frequency of selection conditional on available resources.
6. Feedback is provided to nominator

Topic Selection Criteria

The criteria below are to be used in the selection of Practice Guideline topics. To be selected, a topic would need to address each of the following:

1. Appropriate domain for APA practice guidelines

This includes but is not limited to behavioral, mental and physical health problems and disorders for which psychological interventions might play a part. The focus here is on the domain of work of psychologists.

2. Importance

The guideline represents an area of high prevalence, severe symptoms or significant burden to an individual, families, communities or society as a whole:

  • Significant number of people/proportion of population affected
Symptom severity
  • Symptoms are severe, or represent a significant departure from normality in terms of intensity, frequency, duration
  • A condition associated with significant morbidity or mortality in the population as whole or specific subgroups.
  • Affects a large proportion of the general population or of priority populations (e.g., children, elderly adults, low-income, rural/inner city, minorities, gender, or other individuals with special health care or access issues)
  • Significant impact upon the person, such as impairment in functioning, quality of life years lost
  • Significant impact upon families, communities and society overall (e.g., disability, health care utilization, family satisfaction).
3. Need

A clinical need exists when there is reason to believe that:

  • There is a potential harm from inaction (no guideline)
  • There is significant variation in clinical practice
  • The guidelines are of high public interest
  • The guidelines have the potential to improve health care decision making for patients and providers; improve outcomes for patients; and/or decrease costs for a large proportion of the US population
  • Change practice and enhance care by significantly improving patients’ quality of life; or reduce avoidable morbidity; or reduce avoidable premature mortality
  • Reduce inequalities in health relative to current standard of practice
  • Addresses inequities in vulnerable populations
  • If evidence is insufficient, the clinical need outweighs the evidence
4. Value

A guideline would add value beyond what is currently available and has the potential to impact mental, behavioral and physical health care:

  • The guideline has the potential to be used in clinical practice
  • The guideline addresses a clinically relevant controversy or uncertainty around a topic and supporting data
  • The guideline has the potential to inform an ethical, legal, or social issues
  • The guideline has the potential to lead to substantial system change
  • The guideline would be unique and not duplicate an adequate existing guideline
5. Evidence

There is a sufficient quantity of research evidence that make it possible to develop a systematic treatment guideline. That is, the available research literature provides adequate evidence to support an assessment

  • The existing data are of adequate quality to develop a guideline
  • There is enough evidence to develop guidelines
6. Feasible

The topic is manageable and feasible for a guideline

7. Update

This guideline remains an important clinical topic but needs updating due to the length of time since the last APA review or because there is significant new information that has not been reviewed that may change the nature of the previous guideline. 

Depression and obesity will be first topics of APA clinical treatment guidelines 
* Note: APA has adopted new terminology aimed at bringing its labeling of guidelines in accord with that of other health care organizations. The term "clinical treatment guidelines" has been replaced by "clinical practice guidelines." Further, the term "practice guidelines" has been replaced by "professional practice guidelines." Clinical practice guidelines are focused on specific disorders and interventions, while professional practice guidelines are mainly concerned with how practice is conducted with particular populations or in particular settings.