Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology

Formal Specialty Definition: 

The specialty of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology emphasizes an experimental-clinical approach to the application of behavioral and cognitive sciences to understanding human behavior and developing interventions to enhance the human condition. Behavioral and Cognitive psychologists engage in research, education, training, and clinical practice regarding a wide range of problems and populations.

The distinct focus of behavioral psychology is twofold: (a) its heavy reliance on an empirical approach; and (b) its theoretical grounding in learning and behavioral analysis theories, broadly defined, including respondent conditioning, operant learning, social learning, cognitive sciences, and information processing models.

Currently, there are four sub-areas of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology which share theoretical foundations in learning theory and a common approach to case conceptualization: applied behavior analysis, behavior therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, and cognitive therapy.

In ABA, there are newly approved Applied Behavior Analysis competency guidelines and training guidelines for the American Board of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology. If you are educated/trained and competent in ABA, you may request that your Board Certification examination is in that sub-area. If you are then Board Certified by ABPP by the American Board of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology, having completed the sub-area exam in ABA, you may be eligible to supervise those seeking a credential from the BACB (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, after completing supervision training requirements of the BACB).  

Empiricism is a hallmark of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology; consequently it relies heavily on those assessment and intervention procedures that have been found to be empirically supported.

Levels of Specialty Training: 

Education, Training, and Supervision in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology is available at the Postdoctoral level, or at the Post-Licensure Level, as a major area of study. 

Specialty Board Certification: 

Board Certification in Behavioral Psychology is available through the American Board of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology (ABCBP – formerly the American Board of Behavioral Psychology), which is a Specialty Board of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).


In addition, psychologists and other professionals can seek board certification in applied behavior analysis through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB®); the BACB certifies behavior analysts. The BACB certification is not psychological certification; instead, the BACB’s certification reflects the practice of applied behavior analysis in a variety of professional fields. This description is provided soley to distinguish the scope of the BACB's certification from that of ABPP, and should not be taken to indicate endorsement of the position that the practice of applied behavior analysis is distinct from psychology; in fact, the above description of the specialty Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology incorporates applied behavior analysis (ABA) as a part of this specialtly's psychological competencies. 

Sources of Specialty Recognition: 
  1. APA/CRSPPP recognition
  2. ABPP recognition
Synarchy Membership: 
  • American Board of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology American
  • Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology American
  • Division 25of the American Psychological Association 
  • Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (Non-Psychological)
  • Association for Behavior Analysis Internation (Non-Psychological)
  • Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (Non-Psychological)
  • Behavior Analyst Certification Board (Non-Psychological)

Membership on the Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology Specialty Council in no way should be taken as an endorsment of any position taken by any one member organization. Nor does membership on this Specialty Council indicate any endorsement of any member organization by the Council of Specialties in Professional Psychology.  Any member organization of any specialty council is expected to abide by mission of CoS and its by-laws in order for the specialty council to be recognized and seated as a member of CoS.