To be recognized by APA as a specialty, a given area — behavioral and cognitive psychology or clinical neuropsychology, for instance — must be represented by an organization or group of organizations that completes a "petition" for recognition and submits it for review to APA's Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology, or CRSPPP. The petition must demonstrate how the specialty meets CRSPPP's 12 criteria for recognition, which include the public need for the specialty, how the specialty is distinct from other areas of psychology, and the specific types of education and training needed to practice in the speciality. Based on its review, CRSPPP recommends a course of action to the APA Board of Directors, and the board gives its recommendation to the APA Council of Representatives, which has the authority to grant approval, notes APA Deputy Executive Director for Education Catherine Grus, PhD.

APA recognition of a specialty may be an incentive for APA-accredited programs to offer education and training in a given specialty area, says David M. Corey, PhD, who underwent an eight-year process that resulted in one of the most recent APA and ABPP specialties, police and public safety psychology.

"We were recognized July 31 [2013] by APA, and since then, three APA-accredited programs are preparing to offer major areas of study in police and public safety psychology," he says.

APA's recognized specialties are:

Note: These are the specialties officially recognized by APA through the Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology, which makes recommendations about what specialties to approve, but does not credential individuals.

The American Board of Professional Psychology, ABPP, board-certifies individuals in a similar range of specialties. For information on exam opportunities and on how to get certified, visit ABPP.