Conscious Consumerism: Understanding Provider Competence
Updated: Apr 10
Before going to a doctor or specialist, I often head to the Internet to learn more about the doctor’s credentials. Where did the doctor complete his or her medical degree, residency and fellowship? What concentration was his or her fellowship training in? Is the program where they graduated from reputable and well-established for that area of expertise? Has the doctor obtained board certification in his or her particular area of specialty? I do this because I want to be certain that the individual from whom I am seeking advice and care has obtained the highest level of competence in his or her area of specialty. Just as I would not see a cardiologist for a kidney problem or a nurse for open-heart surgery, I wanted to be sure the doctor providing advice or treatment has the training and expertise to provide me with the highest level of care. I don’t know of anyone who would argue that individuals in the medical field should not demonstrate the highest level of competence and expertise before being entrusted with the lives of patients.
In a similar way, I would find it hard to believe that anyone would accept a lower standard of care from his or her mental health provider. As asked by one of the many luminaries in the field of neuropsychology, “If you are receiving the service, would you want anything less than full training of your healthcare professional?” Put another way, would you accept treatment from someone who completed a quick online webinar, who now touts him or herself as an expert? If given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer a provider who graduated from a program monitored for quality, accuracy and adherence to well-established standards in the field? Wouldn’t you choose the provider who then went on to obtain national recognition of their knowledge and expertise through board certification?
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), established in 1947, is the primary organization for specialty board certification in psychology. Its establishment is supported and recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA). Presently, there are 15 specialty boards under the umbrella of ABPP, in areas such as clinical neuropsychology, rehabilitation psychology, school psychology and forensic psychology, among others. This overarching board serves the public by promoting “quality psychological services by the examination and certification of professional psychologist engaged in specialty practice.” Most importantly, board certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) provides peer and public recognition of demonstrated competence in its affiliated specialty areas.
There is no overarching entity, legal or governing body to prevent sham programs from being created or incompetent practitioners form practicing. There will always be programs that attempt to sell a product or service where (1) the individual is utterly unqualified to provide said service or (2) the service has not been found to demonstrate scientific empirical (or research) support to substantiate its claims. Put simply, it has not demonstrated that it can do what it claims it does. What can be done, however, is promotion of conscious consumerism: the encouragement for transparency of credentials demonstrating competence, achieved by health care professionals, with equal encouragement for questions about training and expertise welcomed by the care professional.
The following are a couple of suggested questions that should be welcomed by your healthcare provider:
1. Where did you attend medical school and/or obtain your doctorate?
2. Did you complete an internship or residency? If so, where and with what area of specialty?
3. Have you obtained board certification in your area of specialty?
4. Is this board certification obtained from a well-established board (e.g., a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), such as the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and for psychological specialties, the American Board of Professional Psychology)?
It would be an immediate red flag to me if the provider I was seeing for treatment was unable or unwilling to share answers to these questions. If anything, I would hope that my treating provider would appreciate my due diligence and verification of his or her qualifications. I too, would then feel at ease when discussing my treatment plan moving forward.
Here at NPANJ, we know that you have a choice when seeking a medical or psychological provider. As discussed on our website, we maintain the highest level of training in clinical neuropsychology and hold ourselves to the highest of standards of competence and excellence in patient care. We hope this information proves helpful when considering a new treatment provider, in any field or discipline.