The American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) is pleased to sponsor a mentorship program for candidates seeking board certification in clinical neuropsychology through ABPP/ABCN. The goal of the mentorship program is to provide support and consultation to individuals whose credentials have been accepted and who are considered “candidates” by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN). Candidates remain responsible for monitoring their own progress toward ABPP–CN certification, and involvement with a mentor is no guarantee of passing any of the individual steps along that process. Likewise, although the role of the mentor is facilitative, he or she cannot be held responsible for the results of any candidate’s examination.
There are many ways to prepare for ABPP–CN certification, and working together with a mentor is optional, although advisable. Candidates should review carefully the Study Guide for Board Certification in Clinical Neuropsychology. Candidates may choose to approach an experienced ABPP–CN specialist in their local area for guidance, form study groups with other candidates, and/or attempt preparation for the board certification process in other individualized ways. None of these efforts are antithetical to the involvement of a mentor; in fact, they should be considered complementary. However, upon acceptance of their credentials, the ABCN office will inform all candidates that they have the opportunity of having a mentor assigned to them who will be available for informational and consultative purposes. Candidates will be asked at that time to inform ABCN whether or not they wish to take advantage of this service, at which point a mentor may be assigned. However, candidates may still request a mentor at any time later during the process of seeking board certification.
Mentors will be current ABPP–CN specialists in good standing who ideally have served as work sample reviewers or oral examiners, though the latter is not a requirement. As a result, they are familiar with the entire range of the board certification process. Mentors will also be active in the practice of clinical neuropsychology, as opposed to being retired or engaged in research exclusively. ABPP–CN specialists cannot serve as a work sample reviewer or oral examiner for candidates whom they have mentored.
Attempts will be made to assign mentors who are familiar with the type of clientele that is most characteristic for the candidate. For this purpose, candidates will be asked to describe the primary age group (e.g., adult, pediatric) and primary diagnostic categories (e.g., stroke, traumatic brain injury) with which they work most frequently. There is no guarantee that mentors can be assigned who match the candidate’s background along each of these dimensions, but the primary consideration will be with regard to a pediatric vs. adult background.
Candidates may request that a specific individual be assigned as their mentor and these requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the understanding that this may not always be possible due to conflicting schedules. Attempts may be made to find a mentor who is in close geographical proximity to the candidate but, again, this may not always be feasible. With the opportunity to correspond via electronic mail (assuming all patient data have been de- identified) as well as the expectation that mentors and candidates may meet for other professional reasons at national conferences (e.g., APA, INS, NAN), geographic distance is not considered to be a major consideration.
When a mentor is assigned, the candidate will be informed of this person’s name and contact information. It is then the candidate’s responsibility to contact the mentor. Candidates will have the right to request a different mentor if they perceive a potential conflict of interest (e.g., involvement on opposite sides in a medicolegal case) or at any time during the preparation for board certification if they are not comfortable with the working relationship with the mentor.
Mentors donate their time and will be available to the candidate free of charge. Consequently, candidates must be cognizant of the fact that the mentor has additional responsibilities, and that some restraint is advisable in making demands on his/her time. Within that context, mentors are expected to be available for consultation at reasonable intervals, provide information and suggestions, and give constructive feedback in a timely manner.
A suggested reading list for the ABCN written examination is available from the BRAIN website. The role of the mentor at this stage of the board certification process is primarily to help the candidate identify those areas in which he/she needs to prepare relatively most thoroughly, given the candidate’s background and experience. For example, a candidate whose practice is limited exclusively to adults would probably need guidance about selecting recent textbooks about pediatric neuropsychology, whereas a candidate who works in a tertiary psychiatric hospital may need suggestions regarding reading materials in the area of genetic disorders. At the same time, the mentor will encourage the candidate strongly to cover a broad base in his/her preparation, including behavioral neurology, functional neuroanatomy, psychopathology, and psychometrics. Although time management is the responsibility of the candidate, the mentor may provide recommendations for a regular schedule and long-term planning. For example, it would not be unusual to allocate an afternoon per week for at least three months to prepare for the major broad content areas covered in the written examination.
Consultation with the mentor will likely increase when it comes to selecting appropriate cases for the work sample. The mentor will encourage the candidate to choose non- controversial cases that are representative of his/her day-to-day clinical work and that are sufficiently different from each other so as to reflect breadth in experience and practice. In addition, the mentor will review the selected cases to prevent the candidate from submitting a product with easily recognizable “fatal” flaws, such as failure to de-identify the report consistent with standards contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or omission of essential areas of interest (e.g., no assessment of executive functioning or mood in a dementia work-up). In some instances, the mentor may suggest selection of one or even two different cases. The mentor may also identify areas of potential weakness in the work sample, such as lack of clarity about specific aspects of the history, the norms used, or the basis of the recommendations, to help the candidate understand the range of questions that reviewers or examiners may consider. However, it is not the role of the mentor to go through each case with a fine-tooth comb to check test scoring, grammar, spelling, etc. The choice of final work sample, and the accuracy and completeness thereof, are eventually the responsibility of the candidate. Support from the mentor for any particular work sample is no guarantee that two of three independent reviewers will agree that the work sample is acceptable.
Preparation for the oral examination will likely be the phase where interaction with the mentor will be the most intensive. Part of the mentor’s role is to dispel common myths or misperceptions about this part of the board certification process. For example, candidates may need to be reassured that the examination will be conducted in a non-adversarial and respectful manner, that they are at liberty to choose from two cases for the fact-finding component, and that they have the option of requesting to have at least one neuropsychologist within their area of expertise (i.e., adult or pediatric) on their examination team.
The most important role for the mentor at this phase of the preparation process is to review the specific components of the oral examination and to suggest ways of preparing for them. For example, review of a casebook on ethical problems as well as thorough familiarity with the literature on the conditions contained in the work sample may be advised. If at all possible, the mentor should conduct a mock oral examination of the candidate. This may be relatively most crucial for the fact-finding component of the examination. Candidates may need guidance about how to structure an efficient information collection process, reassurance that they may ask for clarification and that the examiner is not there to “trick” them, and reminders about the importance of time management. An actual mock fact-finding exercise that adheres to the same format and time constraints as the actual examination process is highly desirable. If geographic distances do not permit this to be done on-site, candidates are encouraged to meet with their mentors at one of the national conferences (e.g., APA, INS, NAN) for this purpose. Candidates should plan with their mentors for such arrangements well before the time of the actual examination, at the latest when they submit their work sample.
Candidates who have completed the oral examination will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire regarding their experiences with the mentorship process. AACN and ABCN will keep this information confidential but may use it to either improve the mentorship program in general or to select different mentors in the future.
Application Forms for AACN Sponsored Mentorship Program
- ABCN Candidate Information Form: this form may be completed by individuals who have already applied to ABPP and passed the credential review.
- ABCN Mentor Information Form: this form may be completed by individuals who achieved board certification in clinical neuropsychology through ABPP/ABCN and would like to offer their services as mentors to ABCN candidates.