What is BCIA? Why is BCIA Certification Important?

What Is the Role of the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA)?

BCIA serves as the certification body for the clinical practice of biofeedback and neurofeedback, including Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction Biofeedback. BCIA serves as the standard bearer for the fields of biofeedback and neurofeedback.  The BCIA mission statement is quite simple:

            BCIA certifies individuals who meet education and training standards in

            biofeedback and neurofeedback, and progressively recertifies those who

            advance their knowledge through continuing education.

 It is apparent from this mission statement that education and training should be the main focus for BCIA– and they are!  Where does the educational process start?

It all starts with the blueprints of knowledge.  BCIA’s Board of Directors has spent countless hours reviewing the science and the literature on biofeedback, neurofeedback, and self-regulation to ensure that the three blueprints carefully outline the fundamental science, history, and theory of the modalities and thus set templates for what every beginning clinician needs to know.  As the science and clinical efficacy literature have evolved, we have revised the blueprints to keep pace and to truly represent current best practice.

BCIA can only add information to our blueprints when efficacy has been scientifically established. We recommend that you read LaVaque and colleagues’ (2002) informative “Template for developing guidelines for the evaluation of the clinical efficacy of psychophysiological evaluations.” Additionally, the BCIA blueprints must be free of commercial bias. Once beginners can understand the accepted fundamental science, the same science as others who are certified, they are better able to review the field and make a good decision about various theories or equipment choices.

The Role of BCIA Internationally

Biofeedback and neurofeedback have struggled for decades to gain their rightful place alongside other modalities in mainstream medicine when there is an increasing body of research support for the efficacy, probably more than for many traditional medical modalities.  What could be holding up the widespread acceptance of these interventions?

Could it be that there is no standard accepted definition for biofeedback and neurofeedback?  AAPB and ISNR took on that task several years ago, and generated an official definition of biofeedback (Schwartz, 2010), but it has not yet become the accepted standard definition used by every document that refers to these terms.    BCIA can help to support and promote those standard definitions with the hope that in the future, every 5th grader can easily identify the term biofeedback.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have universally-accepted standards of education and training?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the people in Spain, South Africa, or South Carolina all had the same understanding of the modality and could learn from the same science?  Also, if there is new research from another country, it may help all of us if we were joined together by a well-defined field.

What Other Roles Does BCIA play?

BCIA serves as the standard bearer for education in biofeedback and neurofeedback. BCIA has helped to identify what a person should know to be effective, outside of the blueprint.

Most health care education is based on the study of the science, as well as residencies where one learns the hands-on application.  BCIA has also defined the fundamentals for clinical training.  Mentoring by a BCIA certified professional is the pathway for this clinical training (Shaffer, Crawford, & Moss, 2012). BCIA has communicated guidelines for distance mentoring (Ewing, Shaffer, & Crawford, 2011), and today’s online conferencing technologies, such as Skype ®, GotoMeeting®, and Adobe Connect® make the process of interaction with a mentor living elsewhere quite practical.

While new uses for biofeedback modalities are growing, most especially in the fields of optimal and peak performance, BCIA has until now been concerned mostly with the clinical work of treating a medical or psychological disorder.  To that end, BCIA has reviewed the available research and efficacy studies and determined that to treat these disorders one should have background in specific fields.  BCIA has outlined the prerequisite education necessary to treat disease and disorders.  BCIA has gone one step further in its requirement for a state-issued license/credential to independently treat a medical or psychological disorder. That doesn’t mean that BCIA doesn’t certify people without licensure, but BCIA defines how unlicensed practitioners should legally work within state law that governs the treatment of disease and disorder.  BCIA wants to endorse work within legal boundaries of health care practice and not outside the law.  While there may be some gray areas, we know that this is an important distinction that we hope will lead to continued respect and acceptance alongside of traditional medical and psychological interventions.

Is BCIA Certification Mandatory?  If Not, Why Not?

No. Sadly, BCIA certification, as with most other certifications, is not mandatory.  Certification is a voluntary process by which individuals are evaluated against predetermined standards for knowledge, skills, and competencies. There are no degree-granting programs from regionally-accredited academic institutions that include biofeedback or neurofeedback as a mandated requirement, so BCIA has to set those standards.

Most state licensing laws include language that requires professionals to restrict practice to their area of expertise.  It has long been our hope that once biofeedback and neurofeedback become an accepted part of traditional medicine, that the various licensing boards will look to BCIA to help them make determinations of competence and standards of practice.

There are signs of some interest in biofeedback practice and standards of practice.  The American Psychological Association (APA) has pronounced biofeedback a proficiency, but has yet to determine what skills and knowledge psychologists need to work within their area of expertise in biofeedback.  We hope to see movement on this goal in the future.

Who BCIA is not!

BCIA is not the certification police.  BCIA cannot regulate a person’s clinical nor business practices. What BCIA can do is to help direct clients to think about an issue in a more helpful way:  Is this really a Better Business Bureau issue or is this really something dangerous that should be referred to the state authorities who regulate health care?  Also BCIA can help to educate its certificants in order to guide them toward best business practices that will stand up well in comparison to other health care services.

BCIA does not function as a state licensing or credentialing board.  What BCIA can do is to set standards and to serve as a resource to state licensing and regulatory boards should they seek the advice of BCIA.

BCIA is not a referral source for equipment.  BCIA guidelines discuss the fundamental science and how to apply it that should be relatable to any standard FDA-approved device.  BCIA can tell potential clients that some BCIA-accredited training providers are also equipment vendors and that practitioners may wish to consult with them to learn more about how to make a purchase decision.

BCIA certification is not a vaccination, and like licensure, cannot guarantee that every license-holder or certificant will operate at the highest level of competence.

BCIA gladly takes on setting educational and training standards in the hopes that this will continue to support the acceptance and spread of legitimate biofeedback and neurofeedback services so that the professionals who carry our logo will continue to be respected as “more than qualified – BCIA certified.”

Are you looking to get BCIA certified? Learn more abotu BCIA and BCIA Certification at www.BCIA.org

Ewing, A. K., Shaffer, F., & Crawford, J. (2011). Global initiatives position BCIA as an international  resource for biofeedback certification and practice standards. Biofeedback, 39(1), 4-6.

LaVaque, T. J., Hammond, D. C., Trudeau, D., Monastra, V., Perry, J., Lehrer, P., Matheson, D., & Sherman, R. (2002). Template for developing guidelines for the evaluation of the clinical efficacy of psychophysiological evaluations. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 27(4), 273-281.

Schwartz, M. S. (2010). A new improved universally accepted definition of biofeedback: Where did it come from? Why? Who did it? What is it for? What’s next?  Biofeedback, 38(3), 88-90.

Shaffer, F., Crawford, J., & Moss, D. (2012). Mentoring – What is it all about anyway? Biofeedback, 40(3).

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