History of Recognition Process and CRSPPP

Early Specialties

The history of concern about issues of specialization in professional (applied) psychology is nearly as long as the history of the American Psychological Association itself, and parallels the evolution of psychology as a profession. In what was probably the first major organizational event associated with professional specialty identification, an Association of Clinical Psychologists was formed as a section of APA in 1917.

Two years later, amidst failed attempts to develop licensing procedures for applied psychologists, APA established a committee to consider procedures for certification. This action was taken with the idea in mind of differentiating "clinical" psychologists from "consulting" psychologists, and other possible "specialists" related to emerging sections of APA on "educational" psychology and "industrial" psychology.

Formal Recognition

From the education perspective the need for a mechanism by which to formally recognize specialties, but not proficiencies, was introduced in 1986 when APA's Council of Representatives endorsed in principle a resolution that the scope of accreditation of professional education and training programs in psychology be expanded beyond the areas that historically had been accredited (i.e., clinical, counseling and school psychology).

This action anticipated the possibility that new areas of specialization might emerge for which professional training would be required at either or both the doctoral or postdoctoral level. This led the Education and Training Board to propose, and the Board of Directors to approve, establishing the Task Force on Scope and Criteria for Accreditation to propose a conceptual model for the future accreditation of programs in professional psychology and procedures by which new specialty areas might be recognized.

CRSPPP Established

In February 1995, the council received from the Joint Interim Committee (JIC) a final report and approved its recommendations as amended by the Board of Directors. APA thereby established the Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology (CRSPPP) as its organizational agent to implement the recognition process, all final decisions from which would be affirmed by APA council.

The structure and functions of CRSPPP are documented in Association Rule 90-5. It is important to note that in addition to one member being a representative of the general public, CRSPPP members are elected by council based on nominations from constituencies of APA representing practice, education, science and public interest, thus broadly representing all of psychology.

Recognition Process

APA's specialty and proficiency recognition process does not credential individual psychologists, nor does it limit their practice. Boundaries for the latter are set by licensing boards and regulations, on the one hand, and on the other by the ethical principles and code of conduct for psychologists. Specialty and proficiency recognition does not create areas of practice, but rather identifies, codifies by recognition, and clarifies for the public distinctive patterns of professional education, training and practice that exist among professional psychologists.

In serving the public through this process, however, CRSPPP does not function in isolation. While the recognition process for which it is responsible must be conducted in a manner consistent with the published criteria and procedures for recognition, CRSPPP also serves as a public forum through which others of the general public or the profession can provide feedback or otherwise share their concerns about issues related to the recognition process and its outcomes.

This it does in several ways, making information available as in this website, holding open forums at annual professional meetings, and preparing annual reports for APA governance. It also is represented by liaisons at meetings of other national organizations concerned with issues of professional psychology.

Adapted from Paul D. Nelson, PhD (written in June 1999)