Board certification coming for geropsychology; New website available for geropsychology

National Psychologist May/June 2013, Vol 22, 3, p 5.

Board certification coming for geropsychology

By Paula E. Hartman Stein, Ph.D.

Psychologists with exceptional expertise in working with older adults can apply this summer for geropsychology board certification.

Critics say there is no point in arguing the merits of the new credential, as certification by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) looks like a “done deal.” But some say it poses potential risks.

Victor Molinari, Ph.D., professor in the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa, is leading the certification effort. “With geropsychology becoming an APA specialty in 2011, it appears logical that we should offer a credential for those individuals who meet the criteria for identification as a geropsychologist,” he said.

He added that the main sponsor is the Council of Professional Geropsychology Training Programs with support from APA’s divisions of adult development and aging (20), clinical geropsychology (12, section 2) and Psychologists in Long Term Care. The four groups donated $2,500 each.

Molinari said the ABPP executive committee recently approved the second stage of the process, an ABPP workshop in mid-July when half of the new Geropsychology ABPP board members will evaluate each other’s competency in the field. At the summer APA convention the remaining board members will take the oral exam.

The three-hour oral exam will be offered to all interested psychologists in November at the Gerontological Society of America conference in New Orleans.

“Ideally, after 30 people are evaluated in November, we will be designated as an official specialty,” Molinari said. The ABPP board anticipates a final vote to accept the new certification at its December meeting.

“I have been overwhelmed by the response by psychologists, mostly those who work for the Veterans Administration, chomping at the bit to take the exam in November,” Molinari said.

Jon Rose, Ph.D., chief of the geropsychology section of the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care system, said, “The ABPP is expensive in both money and time. But there is a salary advantage for some in the Veterans Administration. Not all levels of psychologists who work in the VA system will be able to increase their grade one step if they obtain an ABPP. The most advantageous time to do it is after three years of employment.”

There is a $125 application fee for initial screening followed by a $250 fee plus a work sample of either an audiotape of a therapy session or formal written assessment of an older adult patient. Molinari said psychologists with more than 15 years of work experience can instead submit edited books, workshops or grants.

The fee for the oral examination is $450 for a total cost of $825. There is an annual $185 fee to ABPP to maintain the credential.

Time is another issue. Rose said, “Psychologists have spent 11 years of academic training from undergrad to grad school, internship, with most doing an additional fellowship. I don’t think it is really necessary for good practice to go for an ABPP. We’re keeping people in training too long. It is a big sacrifice, and it may keep people from choosing this field.”

Molinari said potential future reimbursement could be at stake. “It appears there is more and more push by insurance companies and other reimbursement entities to assure that people are providing state-of-the-art, evidence-based practice. ABPP is one way to show that you have the credentials to work with this population.”

Al Kaszniak, Ph.D., professor of psychology, neurology and psychiatry at the Evelyn McKnight Brain Institute in Tucson and past president of Division 12-2 said, “A solid argument can be made for why it is timely for this ABPP addition.”

He disagrees that ABPP will impact reimbursement. “Some psychologists may fear that an eventual consequence might be that Medicare will reimburse only board-certified clinical geropsychologists. Such a scenario is highly unlikely as the existence of a specialization recognition in geriatric psychiatry has not, to my knowledge, affected reimbursement for psychiatric services.”

Rose said, “An advantage may be for early to mid-career psychologists who want to testify in court as expert witnesses.” However, he is concerned that it could limit other employment opportunities. “In neuropsychology most jobs now require board certification, so it may become expected in geropsychology and limit employment. This is disadvantageous as there are so few geropsychologists in the first place.”

 Historical perspective

Nicholas Cummings, Ph.D., an APA past president, provided a historical perspective. “Back in the 1960s when the field of psychology was struggling to obtain licensure, third party payment and societal recognition, ABPP was an aloof organization that refused to back the struggle for licensure,” Cummings said. “I met with them several times and was told as long as there was ABPP, there was no need for licensure, a short-sightedness that is almost incomprehensible today.”

He said ABPP was supported largely by a $50,000 annual grant from the APA, which appointed him chair of a committee to assess APA-ABPP relations. “The committee concluded it was essentially a vanity organization and recommended the APA subsidy be terminated, which it was by unanimous APA board action.”

Cummings added, “ABPP makes gestures, but continues to fall far short of a truly important organization and remains essentially vanity initials at the end of one’s name …. Competence is earned, while vanity is purchased at an expensive price.”

                Paula E. Hartman-Stein, Ph.D. is a geropsychologist in Kent, Ohio and past president of APA’s Division 12-2, clinical geropsychology. She provides webinars, training, and holistic healthy aging programs. She may be contacted through her website, www.centerforhealthyaging.com.

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National Psychologist May/June 2013, Vol 22, 3, p 17.

New website available for geropsychology

By Paula E. Hartman Stein, Ph.D.

Everyone interviewed had high praise for a geropsychology website that went live in early April. Gerocentral is the result of the initiative of Erin Emery, Ph.D., past president of APA Division, 12, Section 2.

According to Emery, “Gerocentral is appropriate for any psychologist who is interested in learning about geropsychology. Our intention over time is to bolster resources so clinicians can have a list of resources on topics such as Medicare billing, information for families, significant training components and available training resources, including a self-assessment questionnaire on geropsychology competency. Our resources will cover the entire spectrum from undergraduate training to post licensure opportunities for supervision and mentorship. The site is a work in progress, and we welcome ideas and feedback for the site.”

The address is www.gerocentral.org.