Procedures for Obtaining Board Certification in Clinical Neuropsychology
The ABCN certification process is designed to assess one’s scientific knowledge and clinical skill in the practice of neuropsychology, and to provide external evidence of competence in this area of specialty practice. All qualified individuals are invited to apply for the examination and participate in the maintenance of quality standards for the profession.
An individual seeking board certification in Clinical Neuropsychology proceeds through the following steps:
1. Review Candidate Manual, Review Online Application Instructions, and Complete Applications.
- Candidate Manual
- ABPP Online Application (contains instructions and links for the ABPP generic application and ABCN specialty application)
Applicants should be advised that admission to candidacy through credential review and progression through stages of the ABCN examination process do not constitute any form of credential. Phrases such as “board eligible,” “ABCN Candidate,” or similar designations must not be used in any written or oral public statement, as this has the potential to mislead the public about certification status.
2. Credential Review
All application materials should be submitted to the ABPP Central Office along with the initial application fee. Application materials are first reviewed by ABPP with regard to the following generic eligibility guidelines:
- A doctoral degree from a program in professional psychology which at the time the degree was granted was accredited by the APA, CPA, or was listed in the publication Doctoral Psychology Programs Meeting Designation Criteria. Applicants credentialed in the most recent directory of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, or the Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology (CPQ) (ASPPB) qualify as meeting the doctoral degree requirements.
- Completion of an APA/CPA accredited internship program, or equivalent year of supervised experience.
- Licensure or Certification. All ABPP candidates in the U.S., its territories or Canada must be licensed as a psychologist for independent practice at the doctoral level in a jurisdiction in the U.S., its territories or Canada.
ABPP grants limited exceptions for doctoral preparation prior to 1983, degrees granted outside the U.S or Canada, formal retraining, substantial equivalents to accreditation requirements, and licensure in jurisdiction of practice for some Federal employees.
In most cases, ABCN will accept ABPP’s decision regarding program accreditation at the generic level. Questions regarding the adequacy of an applicant’s generic credentials should be directed to the ABPP Central Office.
Specialty Specific Requirements
Once the generic credentials are approved by ABPP, the applicant’s materials are forwarded to the ABCN credentials committee to determine eligibility specific to Clinical Neuropsychology. The specialty credential review examines both the content and the process by which the applicant has acquired their foundational knowledge and functional competencies in neuropsychology. As such, candidates are asked to document their didactic and experiential training.
- Didactics must be documented across 8 core knowledge areas that may be obtained through a combination of formal graduate coursework and less formal educational activities (e.g., seminars, brain cutting conferences, specialty rounds, case conferences). The core domains include:
- Basic neurosciences
- Functional neuroanatomy
- Clinical neurology
- Psychological assessment
- Clinical neuropsychological assessment
- Psychological intervention
- Postdoctoral Training. The mission of ABCN is to promote competence in the practice of clinical neuropsychology. One way in which this is accomplished is by promoting uniformity in training standards. Towards this end, ABCN has endorsed the Houston Conference guidelines for specialty training in Clinical Neuropsychology. With the understanding that training standards have changed significantly over the relatively short period during which clinical neuropsychology has been a specialty, eligibility criteria for postdoctoral training are defined in relation to the criteria in place at the time the candidate obtained training in neuropsychology. As such, ABCN encourages applications from neuropsychologists trained during all eras (including those who completed training prior to the Houston Conference).For candidates whose Neuropsychology education and training occurred primarily during their graduate education (including relevant course work, practica, internship and post-doctoral training), eligibility for ABCN is tied to the completion date of their graduate training.Applicants initially trained in another specialty who complete a formal re-specialization program in clinical neuropsychology are expected to meet criteria for eligibility in place at the time they complete their re-specialization program, not the date of their original graduate education.Applicants must demonstrate a formal foundation for the acquisition of the neuropsychological skill set. Experiential or informal training models will be considered only for those trained prior to 1981; detailed documentation of those experiences will be helpful in the credential review.Specific postdoctoral training criteria are described below. Applicants who completed their postdoctoral training in Canada should refer to our Canadian Guidelines for additional information. For applicants completing their doctoral degree or respecialization program:
1. Doctoral training or respecialization completed on or after 01/01/2005:
- Training conforms to Houston Conference Guidelines
- The length of the residency must be the equivalent of 2 full years of education and training in clinical neuropsychology and neuropsychology-related disciplines, completed on at-least a half-time basis. Training in neuropsychology-related activities must comprise a minimum of 50% of the resident’s time and may include supervised clinical activities done as part of research. ABCN will accept minor deviations from these requirements that may arise based on medical, personal or professional factors. Such situations are reviewed by the Credentials Committee on a case-by-case basis and require written documentation from the residency director that the candidate:
- left the residency in good standing,
- met all requirements of the residency,
- obtained the requisite skills and knowledge base described by the Houston Conference Guidelines.
- ABCN requires that the postdoctoral program reflect a structured and sequenced set of clinical and didactic experiences, provide on-site supervision of all clinical cases, and put the learning needs of the candidate ahead of the operational needs of the program.
- Recognizing that some aspects of the Houston Conference model remain aspirational, ABCN will allow the following exceptions:
- ABCN will not require that the program faculty include an ABCN certified neuropsychologist. Training must be conducted by supervisors who are themselves neuropsychologists and the candidate may be asked to provide additional materials regarding details of the residency program and/or the credentials of their supervisors.
- ABCN does not currently require applicants to train in accredited postdoctoral programs; however, candidates who complete an APA-accredited specialty program in clinical neuropsychology or a full member program of the Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology (APPCN) may skip items on the specialty application form and complete the credential review process more quickly. Please refer to the online application for more information.
- ABCN does not require neuropsychological training during internship. In addition, although ABCN prefers that applicants have completed an APA or CPA accredited internship program, the review decision regarding internship training is made by ABPP Central Office during the generic review. If ABPP passes the candidate’s non-APA/CPA internship credentials during generic review, ABCN will typically defer to that decision.
- Additional guidelines regarding training include:
- If the postdoctoral fellowship was not designated as a fellowship in Clinical Neuropsychology (e.g., fellowship was in Geropsychology, Cognitive Rehabilitation Psychology, School Psychology), the applicant must document training in clinical neuropsychology consistent with Houston Conference guidelines.
- At least 50% of postdoctoral training must be in the provision of clinical neuropsychological services.
- At least 50% of the clinical neuropsychological services must involve integrative neuropsychological evaluation under the supervision of a clinical neuropsychologist, with services provided to clinical populations. Integrative neuropsychological services include a component of clinical service delivery (i.e., the integration of results in a written report to patients, research participants or physicians).
- Fellowship training should involve the provision of clinical neuropsychological services to individuals with a diversity of clinical diagnostic issues.
2. From 01/01/1990 to 12/31/2004:
- Successful completion of systematic didactic and experiential training in neuropsychology or neuroscience at a regionally accredited university;
- Two years of appropriate supervised training applying neuropsychological services in a clinical setting. One of these years may be pre-doctoral. For both years of training:1) Supervision must be provided on-site and for all clinical cases; 2) The training program should include a combination of didactic and experiential training;
- A letter of endorsement from a supervisor who can document the extent, nature and completion of the above training is highly desirable.
3. From 01/01/1981 and 12/31/89:
- 1600 hours of clinical neuropsychological experience supervised by a clinical neuropsychologist at the predoctoral or postdoctoral level.
4. Prior to 1981:
- 4800 hours of postdoctoral experience in a neuropsychological setting, involving a minimum of 2400 hours of direct clinical service.
3. Written Examination
Once credentials are approved, candidates are notified by ABPP Central Office of their eligibility to take the ABCN written examination.
The written examination consists of 125 multiple choice items across topic areas of Neuropsychological Assessment, Clinical Neuropsychology, Basic and Clinical Neurosciences, Behavioral (Clinical) Neurology, and General Clinical Psychology. The 125 items represent 100 test items plus a block of 25 unscored pretest items included to provide important psychometric data to inform future editions of the exam. Performance on the pretest items do not count toward the final score, which will continue to be based on the core 100-item examination with a passing criterion cut-score of 70.
Click here to view more information about the written examination, the upcoming schedule of exams, and registration deadlines.
4. Review of Practice Samples
Once the written examination is passed, the candidate is invited to prepare two practice samples for review. Each practice sample includes a candidate’s original clinical report with appropriate confidential and identifying information obscured, a summary sheet of test scores with appropriate normative scores, and scanned copies of the raw data. Optional supplementary materials may also be submitted in the form of a 3 page document (double-spaced in 12 point font). This document may be used to provide reviewers with the context of the candidate’s clinical practice or to explain any aspects of test/norm selection, diagnostic considerations, or clinical decision making that may not have been necessary or appropriate to include in the original report. For detailed information regarding the format and content of the Practice Sample submission, please review the guidelines.
Once received, practice samples are forwarded to three ABCN Specialists who evaluate whether the clinical practice can be defended at the oral examination. An affirmative decision by at least two reviewers is required to pass the candidate to the oral examination.
5. Oral Examination
When practice samples are accepted, the candidate is scheduled for oral examination. Oral examinations are typically held twice per year in Chicago, in the spring and fall. Click here for the schedule of oral examinations.
The oral examination consists of three parts, each of which is designed to allow examiners the opportunity to evaluate the candidate’s scientific knowledge and clinical expertise in assessment, consultation, intervention, and ethical practice. The three portions of the examination include:
- Practice sample examination. The candidate is questioned about their practice sample cases, including their rationale and approach to assessment, interpretation, and conclusions. The practice sample also offers a point of departure for the examiner to query the candidate about related psychometric, diagnostic, scientific, or practice-related issues.
- Ethics and professional issues. The candidate is asked to provide an ethical analysis of a presented vignette and to describe the nature of their professional development, current professional activities, and efforts to foster continuing education.
- Fact Finding Examination. The candidate is given a brief clinical vignette and instructed to elicit from the examiner all relevant clinical information (history, test results, etc) required to conceptualize the case and formulate conclusions.
Immediately following the examination, the examiners meet to discuss how well each candidate was able to demonstrate his or her scientific knowledge, clinical expertise, ethical practice, and professional commitment. After discussion, the examiners vote to either award or not award board certification based on the candidate’s overall performance across the entire examination. Candidates do not pass or fail individual portions of the examination. A favorable decision of two out of three examiners is required to award certification.
6. Awarding Certification
The decision to award or not award board certification following oral examination is summarized and forwarded to ABPP Central Office. Upon approval by the board, a decision letter is sent to the candidate from both ABPP and ABCN. Specialists who are awarded certification are invited to join the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology and to participate in the ABPP Convocation ceremony held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. Candidates who are not awarded certification are provided feedback from the ABCN Central Office, including a summary evaluation from their oral examination team and information on how to resume the board examination process.
For further information regarding ABPP, review of generic credentials (i.e., graduate and internship training programs), fee structure, payments, or early entry student option, please contact:
ABPP Central Office
600 Market Street, Suite 201
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
For further information regarding ABCN, specialty specific credential requirements (neuropsychology didactics, postdoctoral training, ABCN specialty-specific online application), registration deadlines, or specific components of the ABCN Examination process, please contact us.