The Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine just launched a Diplomate in Behavioral Sleep Medicine certification.

Behavioral sleep medicine professionals: Your credential is finally back.

On June 1, the Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine launched its new behavioral sleep medicine (BSM) Diplomate certification. Candidates who meet eligibility requirements and pass an exam will earn a Diplomate in Behavioral Sleep Medicine (DBSM) credential, the first time such a certification has been available in about four years.

Between 2003 and 2014, the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) offered a behavioral sleep medicine certification exam for psychologists. Through the ABSM, more than 200 people became certified in behavioral sleep medicine. ABSM current president David Kristo, MD, says, “The ABSM supports behavioral sleep medicine certification and encourages qualified candidates to apply for the new exam.” Kristo observes that the sleep field needs more behavioral sleep medicine specialists, particularly for the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

The breath of candidates eligible for the new credential is wider than it was for the old one. The new credential is multidisciplinary (inclusive of a broad range of health-related fields), open to both masters and doctorate holders, and available to licensed candidates beyond practicing clinicians (that is, researchers, scientists, and other behavioral sleep medicine roles)—changes that Michael Schmitz, PsyD, LP, president of the newly created Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, notes were recommended by a Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine certification task force and survey of members.

Another difference is the new credential requires renewal every 5 years; the old one was for a lifetime. Renewal will require, among other things, continuing education credits. “The new DBSM follows current standards that certification needs to be renewed, demonstrating that clinicians are remaining current in their field,” Schmitz says.

The new credential has been in the works for several years. “We knew from the outset from our membership that it was important to establish an independent board, separate from the professional society to increase the credibility and viability of the new credential,” he says. “Part of the process was working on an implementation task force to create the new board, set it up as an independent nonprofit entity, and contract with a professional testing corporation to help administer and conduct the analytics for the new examination.” Schmitz himself led the transition group, and at the completion of his term serving as immediate past president of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine was named the first president of the new Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

There was also the matter of establishing its footing separate from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which previously handled the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine’s administrative tasks. “The first year was to stabilize, name a new administrative executive director, determine some basic strategies for growth of the organization, and reinvigorate the committee structures,” Schmitz says. The following year work on the new behavioral sleep medicine credential began in earnest.

The Board of Behavioral Sleep Medicine doesn’t have a specific goal for how many people it hopes to credential in the first year but is particularly cognizant of all the professionals who have been waiting years for the opportunity. “We are learning as we go along,” Schmitz says. “We are in the early phase of planning around how to support the certification and develop an outreach strategy to those who are interested and eligible to become certified.”

The first seating, for which the application window just closed, begins Sept 15. The next exam period is in March 2019, and that exam window is currently open. For now, individuals holding the prior CBSM can apply to obtain a DBSM without taking the exam, if they meet certain criteria. For candidates who are new to a behavioral sleep medicine credential, details of a standard and alternate pathway are available on the newly launched website

Longer-term goals include working on accreditation of the credential via an organization such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). “After we’ve had a chance to assess the analytics of several exams and review initial experience with administration of our policies and procedures, we want to present the data with an application for accreditation to a credentialing organization. Our belief is that having a credential with an accreditation program strengthens the credential with health care organizations and insurers,” Schmitz says. In the meantime, the board says the new credential conveys a certain level of expertise. Schmitz says, “It helps the public identify individuals who demonstrate a level of competency in the field that makes them suitable to provide behavioral sleep medicine care and also represents to healthcare organizations a verification of the DBSM holder’s knowledge and skills.”

Sree Roy is editor of Sleep Review.