Becoming a certified optometric vision therapist is a difficult process, culminating in a certificate awarded by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. You must first meet the eligibility requirements, then pass a question-and-answer stage before taking a multiple choice exam and an oral exam.
A vision therapist uses exercises and specialized equipment to improve vision problems without surgery. This can include treatment for eye problems, such as lazy eye, double vision and certain reading disabilities. A patient will typically receive in-office therapy once or twice a week, sometimes coupled with home exercises or corrective equipment, such as lenses, eye patches and filters.
To apply for certification, you must be practicing as a vision therapist, working under a member of the COVD and have 2,000 hours of related job experience. If you lack the job experience, you can substitute an associate degree or higher in vision development or behavioral science and 1,000 hours of related clinical experience. You must meet all deadline requirements and pay the required fee in order to complete the certification process.
Guided Study Phase
The first part of the certification process involves answering nine open-book questions about vision therapy. Each answer must be approved by your COVD mentor. The questions cover topics such as eye movements, accommodation and stability. You'll need to explain technical concepts regarding specific types of lenses, binocular functions, the use of prisms and treatment options for specific impairments. You will also need to explain therapy goals and practices along with methods for motivating patients. Each answer will have to reference specific methods used in your optometry office.
The multiple choice exam is 50 questions and 90 minutes long. You're graded as pass or fail based solely on your own scores, not on a curve. The test can cover a variety of topics, such as eye movement, refractive conditions, binocular vision, strabismus, ambylopia, visual information processing and tools used in vision therapy. You can either take the test in August at a local university, supplying your own proctor, or at the annual COVD meeting.
The oral part of the certification process lasts 20 to 30 minutes. This exam is a private meeting between you and two board members. Your questions will focus on the answers you submitted to the guided study questions and how reviewers responded. Sometimes, a second meeting is requested. The interviews take place during the COVD annual meeting.
Once you're awarded a certification, your work isn't done. To maintain your certificate, you'll have to keep working for a fellow of the COVD and take six hours of continuing education classes annually. The certification only lasts five years, after which you must recertify.