Specialty Certification in Psychiatry
Certification following specialty training is provided by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). APA and ABPN are separate and independent organizations. The ABPN is a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). ABMS sets the general standards for its 24-member boards and the ABPN creates and implements the programs for psychiatry, neurology, and their ACGME-recognized subspecialties.
To qualify for ABPN's Certification Process, ABPN requires physicians to have an active, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in at least one state, commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States or province of Canada.
Additionally, physicians must have successfully completed an approved training program and an evaluation process assessing their ability to provide quality patient care in a specialty and/or subspecialty. ABPN's General Requirements note that to qualify to take the initial certification exam, a physician must:
- Be a graduate of an accredited medical school in the United States or Canada or of an international medical school listed by the World Health Organization.
- Complete all training in either a U.S. program accredited by the ACGME or approved by the ABPN or in a Canadian program accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada as well as meet the other requirements specified in the reciprocity agreement with Canada.
- Have an active, full, unrestricted medical license in the U.S. or Canada.
- Have satisfactorily completed the ABPN’s specialty training requirements described on the ABPN website.
- Apply online and submit an application through the ABPN Physician Portal.
Educational Opportunities and Lifelong Learning for Certified Psychiatrists
Lifelong Learning is an essential component of professional development and practice-based learning. With rapid advances in medical knowledge, innovation, social determinants and state-of-the-art approaches towards patient care, physicians need to have access to educational resources and opportunities that support their understanding of such advances.
American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology’s Continuing Certification
As noted above, APA and ABPN are separate and independent organizations. Lifelong learning is complementary to the ABPN’s mission of specialty board certification, which by definition includes independent assessments for physicians to demonstrate their expertise in order to credibly reassure patients, families, and the public. As a member board of ABMS, ABPN creates and implements the programs for psychiatry, neurology, and their subspecialties in compliance with the general standards set by the ABMS and including the ABPN’s requirements for continuing certification. The ABPN has developed a continuing certification program that includes four components. Please refer to ABPN's Continuing Certification Program for details regarding each of these specific components:
- Maintaining an active, full, unrestricted medical license
- Completing a one-time patient safety course
- Continuing Certification Activity Requirements (cover all ABPN certifications)
- CME including Self-Assessment CME
- PIP (Performance-In-Practice / Quality Improvement)
- Assessments (option of either of the following for each ABPN certification)
- Article-Based Continuing Certification pathway, or
- Recertification Examination every 10 years
Article Based Continuing Certification (ABCC) Pathway
The Article Based Continuing Certification pathway was recently created as an optional alternative to the traditional 10-year recertification examination. This involves an ongoing journal article-based assessment activity for meeting the Continuing Certification assessment requirement. According to the ABPN website, this pathway became available for psychiatry and all its subspecialties in 2022.
Physicians choosing the ABCC pathway are required to successfully complete a set of journal-based article exams for each of their certifications on an ongoing basis in 3-year blocks. The ABPN notes that the traditional recertification examination will continue to be offered as an option.
APA’s Continuing Certification Educational Offerings
APA offers several educational opportunities that would assist our members and other mental health professionals with their lifelong learning needs. For a list of educational activities that may assist APA members in the Continuing Certification requirements, please view the 2023 Continuing Certification Activities Guide (.pdf).
As an APA member, if you have specific questions about your individual situation that are not answered in your ABPN Physician portfolio, you may reach out directly with your physician portfolio to ABPN at [email protected].
National Board of Physicians & Surgeons (NBPAS)
APA and NBPAS are separate and independent organizations.
The NBPAS's Certification Criteria lists the following requirements for participation in their pathway:
- Previous board certification through ABMS or AOA required, no exceptions.
- Active and unrestricted U.S. medical license
- 50 hours of ACCME accredited AMA PRA Category 1 CME™ every 24 months (100 hours if ABMS/AOA certification has lapsed)
- $189 for two years
The NBPAS website notes that it does not provide initial board certification but requires it without exception. NBPAS certification is currently accepted at fewer hospitals than ABMS certification. At the time of publication, NBPAS's About Us page notes that NBPAS is accepted at nearly 200 hospitals, health systems, telemedicine companies, private practices and payers. At present, physicians who elect to maintain only NBPAS certification should consult with their employer and other relevant stakeholders to determine if NBPAS certification alone is sufficient to meet credentialing requirements at their workplace.
Please view additional information at NBPAS.org.
APA’s CME Educational Offerings
A list of CME activities available to APA members can be found in the 2023 APA CME Activities Guide (.pdf).
APA's Priorities for Members
- Ensure the availability of up-to-date, meaningful and clinically relevant educational resources in an efficient and cost-effective manner to support APA members’ lifelong learning needs.
- Advocate that APA members receive continuing certification credit for relevant educational and practice improvement activities they are already completing within the scope of their own practice.
- Engage with certification organizations to bring forth opportunities that may reduce any redundancy and burden related to opportunities for lifelong learning and ongoing certification.
- Advocate that certification or continuing certification status is not used for licensure, hospital privileges or insurance paneling.
- Advocate to address member concerns related to fees associated with continuing certification.
- Encourage APA member outreach to certifying organizations for specific questions related to certification and continuing certification needs.