Definition of Clinical Psychology

September 16, 2020

Career Paths of Clinical

The American Board of Clinical Psychology (ABCP) is a member board of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). The ABPP oversees and authorizes the credentialing activities of thirteen specialty boards. The ABCP is responsible for establishing criteria related to the definition and requirements for education, training, competencies, and the examination, which leads to Board Certification in Clinical Psychology. The ABCP is governed by a Board of Directors who are certified in Clinical Psychology and are representative of the specialty on a national basis.

The Board, in association with the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), is responsible for conducting Board examinations in the specialty of Clinical Psychology, mentoring and training examiners, and awarding the Diploma in Clinical Psychology. Board Certification by ABCP, is intended to certify that the successful candidate has completed the educational, training and experience requirements of the specialty, including an examination designed to assess the competencies required to provide quality services in the specialty of Clinical Psychology. The primary objective of the ABCP Board Certification process is to recognize, certify, and promote competence in the specialty.


Clinical Psychology is both a general practice and a health service provider specialty in professional psychology. Clinical Psychologists provide professional services for the diagnosis, assessment, evaluation, treatment and prevention of psychological, emotional, psychophysiological and behavioral disorders across the lifespan. These services include procedures for understanding, predicting, and alleviating intellectual, emotional, physical, and psychological distress, social and behavioral maladjustment, and mental illness, as well as other forms of discomfort. In addition, clinical psychology includes services for the enhancement of functioning in all of these areas. Clinical psychologists may provide services directly or support and facilitate the provision of services through supervision, teaching, management, administration, advocacy and similar roles.

Individual and cultural diversity recognizes the broad scope of factors such as race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, class status, education, religion/spiritual orientation, and other cultural dimensions.1In this Manual, the terms “multicultural” and “individual and cultural diversity” are used interchangeably. It is expected that Clinical Psychologists demonstrate sensitivity to and skills in working with culturally diverse populations.

1American Psychological Association (2002).Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58 (5) 377-402.


The ABCP examination process encompasses the inter-related competency domains required by the specialty of Clinical Psychology. The American Psychological Association and the American Board of Professional Psychology have adopted an educational and training matrix based on a theoretical Foundational and Functional competencies, which can be applied to any theoretical framework. ABCP Candidates should be familiar with the competency model as referenced by these organizations.

A successful Candidate demonstrates knowledge, skills, competencies, attitudes/values within each of the domains and the experience necessary to provide specialty level services in the practice of Clinical Psychology.



A successful Candidate demonstrates sensitivity to the welfare, rights, and dignity of others and an ability to relate to individuals, groups and communities in ways that enhance the effectiveness of services provided. Successful Candidates must be aware of their own impact on others and maintain effective relationships with a wide-range of clients, recipients of service, colleagues, and the public.

Behavioral anchors include effective negotiation of conflictual relationships, demonstration of understanding of diverse views in complicated interactions, a non-defensive posture in the receipt, evaluation and implementation of feedback from others, and effective and clear communication in both verbal and written interactions.

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