CAP defines competence as a multidimensional construct that is generally considered to be comprised of four major components: knowledge, skill, judgement, and diligence.
Knowledge involves absorbing and understanding a body of information sufficient to understand and conceptualize the range of professional issues that we can reasonably expect to encounter. Knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient foundation for competence. In Alberta, basic knowledge is initially demonstrated by completing a graduate degree program in psychology, with a certain set of required courses, and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the Law and Ethics for Alberta Psychologists examination. Knowledge can be understood as covering a continuum from basic information that all psychologists should know, such as ethics, to specific knowledge necessary for specialized areas of practice, such as neuropsychology.
Skill is the ability to effectively apply knowledge in actual practice. As with knowledge, skill covers a continuum from basic practice skills of listening and interviewing to technical proficiency for specific psychological professional activities such as assessments.
Judgement involves knowing when to apply which skills under what circumstances. It also involves self-reflection regarding how personal and professional values, attitudes, experiences, and social context influence actions, interpretations, choices, and recommendations. Good judgement includes increasing the probability that professional activities will benefit and not harm individuals, families, groups, and communities receiving psychological services.
Diligence involves consistently attending to one’s knowledge, skills, and judgement as they are applied in professional activities and being careful to consider client needs. Diligence involves a willingness to work hard to provide the best service possible for each and every client, honestly evaluating one's skills, and seeking additional training when appropriate. A diligent psychologist seeks out professional standards and guidelines that identify the knowledge, skills, and judgement essential to practice. Being diligent also incorporates self-awareness of any circumstances that might diminish one’s competence.
In summary, the above components are required for achieving the minimum level of performance expected of a psychologist. The knowledge, skills, judgement, and diligence considered basic to being minimally competent are not static. Keeping abreast of new developments in psychology in order to maintain competence is critical. Equally important is that psychologists as people are not static. Knowledge, values, and attitudes also change as a function of aging and life/professional experience. One must continually evaluate how these changes affect our competence.
Psychologists must continually monitor their practice relative to the state of the profession. When developments occur that “raise the bar,” the extent of the gap between current knowledge, skills, judgement, and professional activities must be repeatedly reviewed. It is also necessary to continually self-monitor to assess how changes affect one’s skills and judgement, and take appropriate steps to maintain competence or limit one's practice.