ABCT SIG Guidelines

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Convention 2019

SIG Guidelines, Activities, and Information on How ABCT Helps SIGs

The basic purpose of ABCT's Special Interest Groups Program is to form and maintain forums for open, regular communication among professionals sharing an interest in a particular area of the field. It is ABCT's intent to facilitate the creation and continuation of Groups that, in turn, have as their primary intent the easing of interactive communication and other professional activity among behavior therapy professionals around a particular topic of special interest to the members of the Special Interest Group.

This page offers information on:

How does ABCT Help SIGs

Once a Group has earned Special Interest Group status it is afforded several opportunities that are financed by the Association and reserved for Special Interest Groups. The Special Interest Group's name is included in the listing printed in the first annual dues renewal mailing whereby ABCT members can reconfirm their interest to remain a SIG member or to join as many SIGs as they desire. It also is printed in the Special Interest Groups section in the Association's Web site (where the Group Chair's name and address also is listed). In addition, the Group is included in the Special Interest Group notebook shared with prospective members at the ABCT Information Booth during each Annual Convention. Finally, a one-time broadcast email will be sent at the Association's expense for a brief announcement of the Groups formal acceptance as an ABCT Special Interest Group to all members of the Association. Meeting space and time, scheduled by the Program Committee, is provided at the Association's expense during each ABCT Annual Convention. A Special Interest Group Chairs' Meeting is held during the Annual Convention to facilitate the sharing of strategies and concerns. The Association also arranges a Special Interest Group Exposition during the Annual Convention's Friday night Welcoming Cocktail Party. SIGs are encouraged to participate in this event and can present research or information about their particular SIG.

Communications are sent from the Central Office to the individual (usually the Chair) designated as the person to whom Group communications should be sent. These communications highlight both the activities of all Special Interest Groups and announcements of upcoming events and opportunities. Please keep in mind that due to financial restrictions, only one mailing can be sent per Special Interest Group. Advice and consultation is available as needed from the staff at the Central Office for activities such as recruiting new members, maintaining a mailing list, preparing a newsletter, or dues collection.

Special Interest Group Financial Support:

Direct financial support is not provided for the individual Special Interest Group's expenses by ABCT; most Groups finance their activities by collecting small ($3.00 -- $10.00) contributions or dues from their own membership. Dues must be adequate to meet all expenses of the SIG, because ABCT will not be responsible for such expenses.

Special Interest Group Activities

There is a great deal of diversity in the activities of the various Special Interest Groups. The two most common activities, which ABCT urges all Groups to engage in, are holding meetings during each ABCT Annual Convention and distributing semiannual or quarterly newsletters.


Meetings held during the ABCT Annual Convention often have two components: a business meeting (where officers are elected, Group goals are set for the coming year, and Group accomplishments over the past year are reviewed) and a substantive component (where new research or service programs are described, an invited speaker presents an address, or a conversation hour is held).

Special Interest Group meeting contents are determined internally by the membership of the individual Special Interest Groups, as are Special Interest Group contributions to the Special Interest Group Exposition Cocktail Party, held in conjunction with the ABCT Welcoming Cocktail Party. There has also been diversity across Groups' contributions to the latter event: some Groups have prepared displays publicizing the year's activities of their Group, while others have arranged for the presentation of internally solicited and selected research papers. Special Interest Group meeting content descriptions are publicized in the Special Interest Group section of the Convention Program and, when possible, in the Convention issue of the Behavior Therapist; Special Interest Group Exposition contributions are publicized through the Program Addendum that is distributed on-site.

Many Special Interest Groups participate in other aspects of the Annual Convention as well, with symposia, papers, and workshops provided by subsets of their members. These additional activities are not arranged autonomously. They grow out of the collaboration fostered by the communication that the Special Interest Group has arranged; they are submitted to, and reviewed by, the Program Committee, using the same selection/rejection criteria that are used in the case of submissions received from any individual or group of individuals affiliated with the Association. Activities that are submitted and selected in this manner are peer-reviewed Convention components and as such are included as regular entries in the body of the Convention Program.


Newsletters, financed most often by SIG members' contributions and secondarily by subsidies from Group members' employing institutions, are the second most common SIG activity. While newsletter content varies across Groups, it generally includes at least two of the following:

  • announcements concerning the Group's Convention meeting, including convention activities germane to the SIG;
  • current research of special interest to the Group's membership;
  • relevant news items;
  • announcements of employment and training opportunities;
  • Group business announcements or calls for information;
  • membership surveys;
  • announcements of meetings of related professional organizations.

Additional Group activities have included:

  • circulating and updating Group member directories;
  • systematically recruiting new members through personal invitations, announcements in other organizations' newsletters, and letters sent to potentially interested groups or organizations;
  • serving as an information clearinghouse on the Group's topic of interest;
  • sponsoring symposia organized for and accepted by other professional organizations' Program Committees;
  • maintaining regular communication with other professional organizations of special relevance to a Group's topical area, including holding meetings at their conventions;
  • networking with non-ABCT members who are leaders in fields related to the Group's topical area;
  • submitting extended articles for review to the Behavior Therapist; articles that provide detailed descriptions of Group activities or activity products (NOTE: descriptions of up to 200 words are published without review);
  • compiling an annotated bibliography of references related to the Group's area of focal concern;
  • compiling a directory of settings with programs relevant to the Group's special concern;
  • preparing a cooperatively written or edited paper or text;
  • maintaining a Web site;
  • sponsoring an Internet listserve.

Special Interest Group Guidelines

Special Interest Groups, like ABCT, are not certifying bodies. Membership in an ABCT Special Interest Group rests on, and reflects, only having an interest in the Group's identified topical concern. Groups may not establish exclusionary criteria for membership, except that Special Interest Group members must also be members of ABCT.

Special Interest Group Organizational Structures:

There has been, and continues to be, tremendous diversity in the organizational structures observed across Special Interest Groups. Some Groups elect Chairs (or, if the Groups are large and active enough, slates of officers with specific responsibilities, most often including Chair, Newsletter Editor, ABCT Convention Activity Coordinator, and Membership Director) at regular intervals, for specified terms of office, during the business components of their ABCT convention meetings. Others have nominations and elections by mail ballot. Still others have had appointed or self-appointed Chairs with indefinite terms of office.

ABCT recognizes that there are certain constraints that may preclude the use of a fully democratic process in electing Group leaders. Especially if Groups do not charge dues, for instance, it is often critical for the Group Chair to be limited to persons who can arrange access to freely usable duplicating and mailing sources (e.g., at present, universities and institutions often allow such use). In general, however, ABCT encourages building in as much democracy as is functional for a given Group. Where Chairs (or officers) are not elected, it is expected that volunteers interested in Group leadership positions will be publicly invited though announcements in the Behavior Therapist and announcements made during the business portion of the Group's annual meeting at the ABCT Convention. In no event shall one person remain Chair of a Group for a period exceeding three consecutive years.

Special Interest Group Responsibilities

The Special Interest Group Program is maintained by ABCT as a service to the Association's members. Special Interest Groups exist to serve subsets of the Association's members by fostering communication among those who share a specified common interest. Therefore, Special Interest Groups are accountable to their memberships. By virtue of the fact that Special Interest Groups are associated with, and therefore reflect on, ABCT and by virtue of the fact that many Special Interest Group opportunities are financed by monies approved and drawn from general ABCT membership dues, Special Interest Groups are also accountable to the Association.

A Group may be deleted from ABCT's list of Special Interest Groups at the initiation of either the Group or the Association's Board of Directors. Any Group may terminate its relationship with ABCT by a majority vote of its membership, with that vote communicated to the Association by the terminal Chair of the Group.

From the point of view of the Association, to remain an ABCT Special Interest Group individual Groups must meet each of three criteria, all of which are designed to index one of the two areas of the Group's accountability. Failure to meet any criterion for two consecutive years, except under extraordinary or unusual circumstances as evaluated by ABCT's Board of Directors, will result in the Group's deletion from the ABCT Special Interest Group Program.

Because the Special Interest Groups Program is supported by the dues of the general ABCT membership, the first criterion is having a minimum of 20 members, all of whom are current ABCT members. Groups will demonstrate that they meet this criterion by attaching a current list of their Group members, with addresses and ABCT membership status indicated, to their Group's Annual Activity Report.

A Special Interest Group, the membership of which drops below the criterion number, may request, and will automatically be afforded, except under extraordinary and unusual circumstances as determined by the Association's Board of Directors, a one-year Special Status period. During this year, more than the ordinary amount of assistance will be provided to the Group by the national organization, and the Association will send two broadcast emails to a subset of members who specialize in specific areas that are chosen by the Group's Chair.

The second criterion is providing a description of Group activities by returning the Annual Group Activity Report. These report forms will be distributed from the Central Office and must be completed and returned by the specified due date each year. All Special Interest Groups are required to send in a listing of their members at this time.

As you know, liability concerns have greatly altered organizations' services and activities for their memberships. Accordingly, because the activities of individual Special Interest Groups reflect on the Association, the third criterion is engaging in activities that are compatible with the aims, purposes, and practices of the Association. Where there is concern about the appropriateness of a Group's activities, final determination will rest with the Association's Board of Directors.


At the present time no ABCT Special Interest Groups are incorporated. While there are pros and cons for incorporation, it should be noted that if a Special Interest Group is not incorporated, its members or organizing individuals may be held personally liable for torts and contractual obligations of the Special Interest Group they represent. Issues for which a Special Interest Group could be held liable might include a broken hotel contract for meeting space and/or sleeping rooms, an attendee falling at a meeting, or a member not being listed in a Special Interest Group membership list. We recommend at a minimum that each Special Interest Group officer and/or director carry personal liability insurance that covers their professional activities.

ABCT has criteria that each Special Interest Group must comply with on an annual basis:

  • ABCT requires that Special Interest Groups engage only in activities that are compatible with the aims, purposes, and practices of the Association. Where there is concern about the appropriateness of a Group's activities, final determination will rest with the Association's Board of Directors.
  • Each Special Interest Group is required to complete an Annual Activity Report and include a current membership listing (of which all of the members are also members of ABCT) annually. Officers should be specified in the report. Failure to comply with this request will result in the SIG being placed on suspension the first year and failure to comply with this request the second year will result in the SIG automatically being dropped from the ABCT Special Interest Group Program.
  • Special Interest Groups with an annual budget over $25,000 per year shall submit an annual financial report. The format of such report shall be as simple as possible and submitted with the Annual Activity Report. Federal law states that any organization whose gross receipts exceeds $25,000 must file an annual income tax return along with a Form 990.
  • No Special Interest Group may release any position or policy statements on public policy matters in the name of ABCT. Only the current President of ABCT can act as the Association's official spokesperson. Furthermore, statements in the name of a SIG shall contain a disclaimer clause, making it clear that the SIG is not speaking for ABCT or any other SIG of ABCT.
  • Special Interest Groups are permitted to use the Association's logo only if the materials have been reviewed and approved by the ABCT Publications Committee.
  • The following statement must be included in all Special Interest Group publications (newsletters, brochures, or membership directories):
    "Published by (name of the SIG). The contents of this publication have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies."
  • Special Interest Groups that are in full compliance with all of the SIG requirements outlined in these guidelines may use Web site URLs that are formatted as www.abct-(name of the SIG), but must post the following disclaimer on their site:
    "Posted by the (name of the SIG) Special Interest Group (SIG). The contents of this Web site have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT). ABCT disclaims any responsibility for information and materials posted by any of its SIGs. Such information and materials do not necessarily reflect the values, attitudes, or opinions of ABCT and its members and staff."
  • No ABCT SIG may license or certify its members.
  • No ABCT SIG may obligate the Association to any financial commitments.
  • No ABCT SIG may publish a referral directory. However, SIGs may publish a membership directory that indicates the members' specialty areas, populations served, and other appropriate biographical data. The following disclaimer must be included:
    "This directory is intended to provide a list of members of the (name of the SIG), to facilitate exchange of information among its members concerning the common interest of behavior therapy. It should be noted that this Directory is not intended to provide a list of individuals who are considered qualified by (name of the SIG) to practice behavior therapy. (name of the SIG) is not an accrediting agency."
  • In order to maintain status as a SIG, a statement signed by a member of the group's leadership must be returned to the ABCT Central Office annually, along with the Annual Activity Report, indicating agreement with and understanding of the Guidelines for ABCT Special Interest Groups.
  • The leaders of each ABCT SIG must acknowledge that any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to their activities is their sole responsibility and should be settled by arbitration in the city of their leader's residence, in accordance with the American Arbitration Association and judgment upon the award rendered by the Arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. ABCT is in no way responsible for any contractual agreements a SIG enters into of its own accord.
  • Special Interest Groups planning to engage in lobbying efforts must notify the ABCT Special Interest Group Chair and the ABCT Executive Director before undertaking any lobbying activities. They must also inform these individuals of the issue(s) they will be addressing, the course of action they plan to pursue, and the amount of financial resources (to determine legal and tax liabilities) they intend to put into the effort.

We believe it is important that you are aware of potential liability issues not only with regard to ABCT, but also with regard to individual groups and the members of their leadership. We will continue to inform you of our findings in this area and we reserve the right to make changes in our Special Interest Groups Program as new information comes to light.

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies is eager to assist individuals and groups interested in developing Special Interest Groups. Please feel invited to contact us to discuss your interest in establishing an ABCT Special Interest Group.


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