Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Plans

What is continuing professional development? Isn’t it just a fancy new name for continuing education?

Traditional continuing education (CE) usually refers to more formal classroom experiences such as workshops, seminars, and formal classes where an expert teaches certain concepts or skills. Continuing professional development (CPD), in contrast, is considered a broader concept than traditional CE and encompasses a wider set of experiences that contribute to the competency of a professional. As a means of increasing competence in practicing professionals, CPD is focused on the practitioner’s development rather than the content of formal educational experiences. Ideally, CPD begins in graduate school and continues throughout an individual’s professional career. There has been a recent move toward adopting, or at least considering adopting, requirements for CPD to obtain or maintain a license to practice psychology.

What is a CPD plan?

Because CPD is more than just taking a CE course, it depends upon the individual creating a plan for professional development that is specific to that individual’s needs and experiences. According to the ASPPB Guidelines for Continuing Professional Development (2012, 2014), a CPD plan “should be informed by a combination of self-reflection on the psychologist’s own practice experience, input from peers and mentorship groups, and developments reported in the professional and research literature. The plan should include areas of focus identified by self-reflection, proposed CPD activities, timelines for completion of those activities, and a means to evaluate the impact of the CPD activities on the psychologist’s practice.” The CPD plan allows an individual to be intentional in identifying areas for growth and activities that will contribute to the professional development of the provider.

Why would I need a CPD plan?

States that have adopted a CPD framework for mental health providers may require providers to create a CPD plan for each licensure cycle. Colorado, for example, utilizes a CPD model for licensed professional counselors and social workers (but not for psychologists) which requires that they map out a learning plan and identify the activities that will fulfill that plan to meet the CPD requirement for licensure.

How do I create a CPD plan?

Each provider’s CPD plan will be different based on that provider’s experience, needs and interests. Start by identifying your own areas of practice, the populations with which you work, and any new developments in these areas. This can help focus the CPD plan on topics that will be relevant to your practice. Once you have identified these areas, spend time considering the difference between your current knowledge and skills in these areas and your desired level of knowledge and skills. Did you run into certain clients that presented challenges? Are there new types of assessments or updates to instruments used in the area? Has there been new research into treatments for certain clients that you serve? Are you interested in expanding into new treatment areas?

Once you have considered the differences between where you are now and where you would like to be, you can flesh out a specific plan for your professional development in the coming licensure cycle. For example, if there is a new assessment tool that is relevant to your practice area, you might focus on taking a formal class on the measure, locating and reviewing relevant journal articles, and/or consulting with peers who utilize the tool.

As you develop a CPD plan, it is important for you to understand how you best learn and what types of CPD activity will be most beneficial to you, and tailor your plan accordingly. CPD will encompass more than just formal CE courses and allow the flexibility of engaging in learning activities that work well for you. Finally, if your jurisdiction requires a certain number of credits in specific topic areas such as ethics, this must also be accounted for in the CPD.


Guidelines for Continuing Professional Development. (n.d.) In Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Retrieved from