APA Guidelines for Practitioners

APA has approved a variety of practice guidelines and related criteria as APA policy in such areas as multicultural practice, child custody evaluations and treatment of gay, lesbian and bisexual clients. These guidelines are intended to educate practitioners and provide recommendations about professional conduct. As such, they are useful tools for psychologists in practice to develop and maintain competencies and/or learn about new practice areas.

APA Guidelines for Practitioners

The Affordable Care Act (2010) includes preventive services as a key component of overall health care. The legislation strives to make wellness and preventive services affordable and accessible by requiring health plans to cover preventive services without copayments. These services include counseling to improve habits of lifestyle, counseling to reduce depression, and preventive services to foster healthy birth outcomes. The contributions and leadership of psychologists are critical in implementing a prevention focus in the health care system. The guidelines support prevention as an important area of practice, research and training for psychologists. The guidelines identify best practices for psychologists who engage in preventive activities relating to the interface between physical health and emotional well-being.

These guidelines are designed to address the developing area of psychological service provision commonly known as telepsychology. The expanding role of technology in the provision of psychological services and the continuous development of new technologies that may be useful in the practice of psychology present unique opportunities, considerations and challenges to practice. With the advancement of technology and the increased number of psychologists using technology in their practices, these guidelines have been prepared to educate and guide them. These guidelines were developed by the Joint Task Force for the Development of Telepsychology Guidelines, comprised of representatives from the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) and the APA Insurance Trust (APAIT).

The goals of these guidelines are to improve the quality of forensic psychological services; enhance the practice and facilitate the systematic development of forensic psychology; encourage a high level of quality in professional practice; and encourage forensic practitioners to acknowledge and respect the rights of those they serve. These guidelines are intended for use by psychologists when engaged in the practice of forensic psychology and may also provide guidance on professional conduct to the legal system, and other organizations and professions.

These guidelines are designed to address an emerging area of practice known as Parenting Coordination. The complex and hybrid parenting coordination model continues to be refined in professional deliberations about the role, emerging statutes and case law, and court and local rules and regulations governing Parenting Coordination practice at the local jurisdictional level. These guidelines intend to provide a framework and direction for professional conduct and decision making. Although designed for psychologists, these guidelines may prove helpful and relevant to other professions as well.

The APA Record Keeping Guidelines (RKG) have been revised to take into account changes in practice such as electronic record keeping as well as legislative and regulatory requirements including HIPAA. The new RKG provide guidance in such areas as preserving the context of records, organization and level of detail, and retention time and records disposal.
Applying the APA Record Keeping Guidelines in Clinical Practice (Flash)

These guidelines address what are commonly termed "child custody" evaluations, involving disputes over decision-making, caretaking and access in the wake of marital or other relationship dissolution.

These guidelines enhance psychological practice with women and girls from all social, ethnic and racial groups, sexual orientations and ability/disability status in the United States. These guidelines provide general recommendations for psychologists to increase awareness, knowledge and skills in psychological practice with women and girls.

In recent years, professional psychology practice with older adults has been increasing, due both demographic trends and changes in the marketplace and health service delivery settings. These guidelines inform psychological practice with older adults.

These guidelines provide psychologists with information and strategies for multicultural psychological practice.

The guidelines provide a resource on optimal psychological practice in pharmacotherapy. They also provide information for psychologists with any level of involvement with their patient’s psychotropic and other medication issues.

As the complexity of psychological practice increases and the reciprocal involvement between psychologists and the public broadens, the need for guidelines to educate the profession, the public and the other interested parties regarding desirable professional practice in child protection matters continues to increase. Because psychologists may assume various roles and responsibilities in child protection matters, these guidelines were developed primarily for psychologists conducting psychological evaluations in such matters.

Psychologists practice in an increasingly diverse range of health care delivery systems. At the same time, psychologists’ roles within these settings are expanding, and multidisciplinary collaboration within health care is becoming commonplace. These guidelines are intended to assist psychologists, other health care providers, administrators in health care delivery systems, and the public to conceptualize the roles and responsibilities of psychologists in these diverse contexts.

APA was among the participating organizations in developing this practice parameter which reviews the available empirical evidence and gives recommendations for the identification of children with autism.

Previous efforts to specify test user qualifications, although useful, did not provide the kind of specific guidance that many APA members and others were seeking. As a result, these guidelines describe two types of test user qualifications: (a) generic psychometric knowledge and skills that serve as a basis for most of the typical uses of tests and (b) specific qualifications for the responsible use of tests in particular settings or for specific purposes (e.g., health care settings or forensic or educational decision making). The guidelines apply most directly to standardized tests, such as tests of ability, aptitude, achievement, attitudes, interests, personality, cognitive functioning, and mental health. The guidelines define a psychological test as any measurement procedure for assessing psychological characteristics in which a sample of an examinee's behavior is obtained and subsequently evaluated and scored using a standardized process. The guidelines do not apply to unstandardized questionnaires and unstructured behavior samples or to teacher- or trainer-made tests used to evaluate performance in education or training.

These revised guidelines reflect the many changes that have taken place in the field of lesbian, gay, and bisexual psychology. Existing topics have evolved and the literature also has expanded into new areas of interest for those working with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. In addition, the quality of the data sets of studies has improved significantly with advent of population-based research. As a result, these guidelines provide psychologists with (1) a frame of reference for the treatment of lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients; and, (2) basic information and further references in the areas of assessment, intervention, identity, relationships, diversity, education, training and research.

The goal of these guidelines is to help psychologists conceptualize and implement more effective, fair and ethical psychological assessments and interventions with persons with disabilities. The guidelines provide suggestions on ways psychologists can make their practices more accessible and disability-sensitive, and how they might enhance their working relationships with clients with disabilities. Additionally, the guidelines provide information on how psychologists can obtain more education, training and experience with disability-related matters.

Dementia in its many forms is a leading cause of functional limitation among older adults worldwide and will continue to ascend in global health importance as populations continue to age and effective cures remain elusive. These important guidelines were developed for psychologists who perform evaluations of dementia and age-related cognitive change.

Policy Documents on Developing APA Guidelines

Professional Practice Guidelines

  • Practice Guidelines Criteria Checklist (PDF, 19KB)
    This checklist is a companion to the Criteria for Practice Guideline Development and Evaluation and may be used to evaluate guidelines that have been submitted for review and consideration for approval per Association Rule 30.8.

Clinical Practice Guidelines

Quality Improvement Programs

Expiration of APA Guidelines

Guidelines adopted as Association policy usually expire within ten (10) years of adoption. Review and revision of guidelines set to expire routinely occurs within two years of expiration or when new laws and other developments require earlier review and revision. For further information on these and other guidelines, please contact: Governance Operations, APA Practice Directorate by email or call (202) 336-5881.