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Earning a Graduate Certificate as central to building a professional identity

The second benefit is the opportunity to create a clear identity that can be communicated to referral sources: behavioral psychology, for example, is now at a point in its development as a specialty area that its name has taken on an image of certain assumptions that are understood by most other professionals.

For example, in a recent episode of the TV show, Sapranos, the dynamically oriented psychiatrist told her patient that his anxiety disorder might now benefit from a specialist in Behavioral Psychology!

While this is a fictional psychiatrist, the identity that Behavioral Psychology now enjoys is now common place. Board Certification creates identification with, among other things, an approach to treatment that is based on validated techniques, the use of a directed form of treatment, treatments that are often tailored to specific disorders (e.g., exposure and response prevention treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder; cognitive-behavioral therapy of depression), and assessment techniques that include idiographic data.

One example would be receiving referrals from the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation and Borderline Personality Disorder Central—both national organizations. Your Board Certification might also lead to referrals from local attorneys, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians who have become, through some form or another, educated about the basic notions of psychology.

Brand Identity

The third benefit to be found in Board Certification is the manner in which you can create a branded product to be held out to the public. This can work in two different ways.

First, the public will often begin to hold the perception of your practice as one that is clearly defined by you having earned a certification.

The public is very familiar, thanks to the boarding process of physicians, with the idea of specialization and its defining characteristics of defined training, experience, and expertise (the latter derived from passing an examination process to earn the certification).

Secondly, the public not only identifies the level of specialization implied by Board Certification, but it is relatively sophisticated about the strategies likely to be used.

The branding from Board Certification taps into the public's understanding of correcting distorted thinking, modifying life patterns, use of activities to counter low mood, and paradoxical acceptance of anxiety.

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Humanitarian Work

Some humanitarian missions only work with certified psychologists, while others are more flexible. Certification, however, can put you in good stead for humanitarian work. It can, of course lead to being placed in more senior roles, which will benefit your career and increase the amount of good you can do within the country you work in.

Humanitarian work needs dedication and all your attention while you´re performing it. It can be a challenge, and force you to think creatively. It requires resilience. But once you have been through board certification, you will be able to manage situations more easily and professionally. It is similar to having more work experience.

If you are linking of going on a certificate program and you´d like some help writing your personal statement, please let us lend you a hand. You´ll be delighted with how easy it makes the application process.

The Humanitarian Side of a Certificate Program in Psychology

One of the benefits of getting certified is that it prepares you to be an excellent and well-trained professional. You don't need to be board certified to practice psychology, of course—you only need to meet your state's education and licensure requirements.

In fact, less than 5 percent of psychologists who are qualified for board certification actually are, says Christine Maguth Nezu, PhD, president of the American Board of Professional Psychology, one of a handful of organizations that provide specialty certifications.

Some of those that do not choose to go for board certification are generalists who don't feel they need certification. Others don't want to take the time or spend the money for certification. And certification didn't always mean what it does now, says Christine Maguth Nezu.

Initially, certification was seen as proof that a psychologist was at the top of the profession. But as specialization has grown, so has the need to assure the public that psychologists who claim to be specialists really do have the training and experience they need to work with special populations or in particular subfields.

Public Benefit and Increased Marketability

Certification doesn't just benefit the public—it can also increase your marketability. Psychologists applying for jobs at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., must be board certified or in the certification pipeline, Nezu points out. For psychologists within the Department of Veterans Affairs, certification can bring increases in rank and pay, she adds. And, insurance companies are increasingly requiring that the specialists in their panels be board certified.

Certification also lifts the profession. "If we as psychologists are going to insist on equal parity with other professions, such as medicine, law, nursing or dentistry, we need to be able to hold ourselves to that same standard for peer competency evaluation," says Nezu, who is board certified in cognitive and behavioral psychology and clinical psychology.

Improved Collegial Relationships

One of the things about that psychologists in private practice often complain about is the degree of isolation that occurs as a result of the practice setting.

In contrast to academic or hospital work, settings in which there are organized and informal structures that promote support among colleagues; private practice often entails long, continuous hours delivering therapy and consultation. It seldom includes structured or informal opportunities to share experiences or talk about recent articles. 

Board Certification can create the opportunity to build relationships with others who have like-minded approaches to treatment and who share a common language.

There may be few board certified psychologists in your area, but you will get to know each other, and discuss things when needed. Similarly, when attending conferences, the Board Certification and its related Academy membership promotes ways in which you can find others with whom to relate during the conventions. The common experiences, common treatment models, and common affiliations that build within the network drive cement these relationships and can make them very important. 

Another way in which Board Certification and Academy membership promote collegial relationship is through the number of opportunities for involvement in leadership.

If you take the opportunity to serve both the Board that oversees the certification process, and the Academy that promotes recruitment and professional development, you can develop sustainable relationships with others who have the same interest in leadership; and become acquainted with leaders in the field.

This allows for discussions of both professional issues in the field as well as discussions of clinical/theoretical ideas that can rival the intellectual exchanges of graduate school days when we formerly sat up until the dawn arguing the differences among such things as the mechanisms that differentiate systematic desensitization versus exposure therapy.