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Serious Mental Illness Psychology

Formal Definition of Specialty:

Psychologists with a specialization in Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Psychology apply specialized individual, societal, and systems level assessment and intervention methods to assist those diagnosed with SMI and severe emotional disturbances (SED) recover and attain their full functional capability.

The population of interest is comprised of individuals with the most severe mental illnesses and is of variable age and mixed diagnoses, with an emphasis on disorders where 1) psychosis is often predominant, 2) symptoms may wax and wane but are typically long-standing, and 3) community functioning is often impaired — disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum, bipolar illness, and depression with psychotic features predominate in the Specialty.

The complexity of this work requires extensive training and expertise in provision of the unique assessments and services for this population, known as psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR), that have been developed and empirically tested specifically to assist those with SMI to overcome the functional deficits that commonly accompany these diagnoses, so they can live productive and satisfying lives.

Overview of Organization and Goals:

Serious Mental Illness Psychology Specialty Presentation 2023


Bylaws for Serious Mental Illness Psychology Specialty Council

Levels of Specialty Training:

Education and training are available at both the doctoral and postdoctoral levels. The APA recognized Specialty in SMI Psychology is at the post-doctoral level.

Specialty Board Certification:

The Serious Mental Illness Psychology Specialty Council is working with the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) to enable board certification in Serious Mental Illness Psychology.

Sources of Specialty Recognition:

  1. APA/CRSPPP recognition

Serious Mental Illness Psychology Specialty Council Membership:

  • American Psychological Association Task Force on Serious Mental Illness/Severe Emotional Disturbance

  • American Psychological Association Division 18, Psychologists in Public Service

  • American Psychological Association Division 18 Section on Serious Mental Illness/Severe Emotional Disturbance

  • Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Psychosis and Schizophrenia Spectrum Special Interest Group

Specialty Related Web Links:

Education and Training Guidelines:


Sandra G. Resnick, Ph.D.

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