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President’s Column

SoAP Box: 
President's Column

Summer 2020

Linda Carter Sobell, PhD, ABPP

Great News For Our Division and the Addiction Field: Addiction Psychology has officially become a Specialty Board under the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

This is my last column as your president, and before describing what the creation of a new ABPP specialty board, the American Board of Addiction Psychology, means for our field, I want to give a few shout-outs.

Many individuals made my year memorable and easier than I expected. Thanks to all of the hard- working SoAP Executive Board members and Committee Chairs. As with almost all professional conferences since April, SoAP’s annual in-person Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction (CPA) meeting and the APA annual conference were cancelled and were conducted or will be conducted online. Many of SoAP’s events and sessions that would have been conducted at the August APA convention will be occurring using Zoom. Finally, thanks to all members who voted, as we just learned we had enough votes to maintain two seats on the APA’s Council of Representatives.

Lastly, outgoing presidents give presidential citations at the end of their term, and this year I gave two citations. The first to Dr. Nancy Petry who died all too young (see the “In Memoriam” column this issue). The second to Dr. John Kelly who, as SoAP’s president several years ago, suggested Division 50 seek to get Addition Psychology recognized as a specialty board under the ABPP Board.

It has been a long time, but Addiction Psychology was approved May 6, 2020 as a specialty board by the ABPP.

The specialty of addiction psychology is the application of psychological principles and practices to ameliorate the human suffering caused by psychoactive substance use or other highly reinforcing behaviors. With the growth of Addiction Psychology (AP) over the past 40 years, it became clear that a credential was needed that would differentiate doctoral level psychologists from a variety of other addiction professionals, many of whom lack comprehensive mental health training. Psychologists developed many of the evidence-based addiction treatments (e.g., motivational interviewing; Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, SBIRT; guided self-change; relapse prevention; cognitive-behavioral skills training; contingency management), and it is well known that persons who enter treatment for addictive disorders often have other mental disorders. In recognition of this need, in 2016, Division 50 submitted an application to the ABPP asking to have Addiction Psychology recognized as a specialty board.

The rationale for an ABPP specialty in Addiction Psychology is that there are vast numbers of individuals who need evidence-based addictions treatment, and psychologists are well-positioned and have the foundational skills to provide that care. Moreover, addiction psychologists can work collaboratively with primary care providers to address the co-occurring mental disorders and any related medical conditions. It is well known that drug and alcohol problems play a significant role among individuals presenting for treatment of medical conditions in primary care settings, including private practices, emergency departments, medical units in hospitals, clinics, and the like. Trained and qualified addiction psychologists are providers who can be important parts of teams providing such services. Psychologists are ideal gatekeepers and clinical supervisors in managed care systems that provide addiction-related and other mental health services. There is also a need for more outpatient and early intervention services for the underserved majority of individuals with addictive disorders that do not require intensive treatment. Importantly, specialty board certification in Addiction Psychology is anticipated to result in a much-needed increase in the presence of psychologists in the addictions treatment delivery system. Now that the specialty board has been established, many things need to be done before the American Board of Addiction Psychology (ABAP) will be ready to conduct exams. It is hoped that early in 2021, a call will go out for those who want to apply to the ABPP to take a specialty board examination in Addiction Psychology. Over time, the acronym ABAP will become, like other ABPP specialties, widely recognized and respected.

Lastly, besides myself, five other Division 50 members who are board certified in another area worked to make the ABAP a reality. They are John Kelly, Ray Hanbury, Bruce Liese, and Mark Sobell. The Addiction Field owes them a debt of gratitude for their perseverance and hard work over the past four years.

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