Practice Directorate Helps to Promote Mechanisms for Mobility

Michael Sullivan, PhD 

Professional mobility for psychologists (as well as for other health professionals) has not kept pace with advances in technology such as telehealth. In contrast to the Internet's ability to cross geographic boundaries instantaneously, psychologists moving into another state usually go through fairly cumbersome procedures to become relicensed in order to practice in a new jurisdiction.

Influencing what state legislatures and licensing boards do with regard to psychologist mobility and reciprocity is essentially a state-level function. A national, non-governmental entity such as APA at best can promulgate policies and make recommendations regarding professional mobility and reciprocity. Ultimately, it's up to state governmental bodies to put policies in place.

In addition, there already are certain mechanisms that have shown promise for increasing mobility -- such as those created by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), and the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology (NRHSPP). As a result, the APA Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP) and the Practice Directorate are focusing their energies on helping to cultivate a climate in which these existing mechanisms can be increasingly successful. Such effort coincides with the APA's governing Council of Representatives reaffirming early in 2000 the association's commitment to promoting professional mobility.

CAPP has been implementing a strategic plan that includes publicizing information about existing mechanisms for mobility, developing conference programs, and facilitating meetings among relevant groups. In an effort to increase practitioner awareness of existing mechanisms for mobility, CAPP recently invited articles written by the ABPP, ASPPB, and NRHSPP, and disseminated them for publication in state and provincial psychological association newsletters. CAPP's intent was to allow each of these organizations to describe their mobility initiatives in their own words.

In understanding mobility for professions, there is an important distinction to keep in mind. There are two major paths to mobility: reciprocity, which refers to agreements between jurisdictions in which states or provinces are willing to recognize each other's licensees based on comparable requirements for licensure; and endorsement, which is a vehicle to recognize individuals as having met a high standard qualification. One example is the Certificate of Professional Qualification (CPQ) developed by ASPPB, which a jurisdiction may accept as meeting most of the qualifications for licensure.

Individual endorsement has become the more promising of the two paths to mobility in recent years. Whereas only ten states have entered into licensure reciprocity agreements over the past ten years, more than two dozen states are in the process of recognizing the more recently developed CPQ.

Following are highlights of how ABPP, ASBBP and the NRHSPP described to CAPP their own efforts related to professional mobility.

The American Board of Professional Psychology. According to the ABPP, the award of a specialty serves to meet a national recognition standard for reciprocity of licensure among jurisdictions. Although limited to those several thousand psychologists who hold specialty diplomas, the ABPP process is one important contributor to the implementation of reciprocity. The ABPP was the first organization in 1947 to establish a set of national criteria certifying psychologists in a professional psychology specialty.

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Founded in 1961 as the association of all psychology licensing boards throughout the U.S. and Canada, ASPPB has created two programs to facilitate mobility. First, while the ASPPB Agreement of Reciprocity has been adopted by ten states and provinces, many states or provinces have unique features of their licensure requirements that preclude their joining the reciprocity agreement. Second, the Certificate of Professional Qualification (CPQ) makes mobility possible for any licensed psychologist regardless of whether the state or province where they are licensed has standards comparable to those recommended by ASPPB.

According to ASPPB, once a psychology board agrees to recognize the CPQ, it has agreed to accept CPQ holders' educational preparation, supervised experience, and examination performance for licensure. A jurisdiction may require a CPQ holder to pass local requirements such as a jurisprudence exam (e.g., local mental health law), training on abuse reporting, or a personal interview.

The National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. The National Register has maintained a credentials repository for 25 years which allows it to facilitate mobility. The National Register provides verification of credentials to registrants or to licensing boards at no charge. In some states, having National Register listing exempts psychologists from having to submit to licensing boards their official transcripts, confirmation of postdoctoral experience, and EPPP scores. The NRHSPP has also been recognized as being able to verify education, training, and board certification for health care organizations by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA). About 14,000 psychologists are listed in the National Register.

In addition to disseminating information about the mobility mechanisms developed by these organizations, the Practice Directorate has helped to facilitate meetings among representatives of psychology licensing boards and state psychological associations at its annual State Leadership Conference. Further, the impact of telehealth on licensure will be examined more closely by CAPP in conjunction with ongoing work on telehealth being done by the APA Board of Professional Affairs.

Students wishing additional information about the organizations or the mobility initiatives described in this article can visit the organizations' respective web sites at www.abpp.org, www.asppb.org, and www.nationalregister.com.