Monitor on Psychology - June 2012 - (Page 5)

President’s COLUMN Psychology’s paradigm shift: from a mental health to a health profession? BY DR. SUZANNE BENNETT JOHNSON • APA PRESIDENT Health care in the United States has been characterized by mind-body dualism; mental and physical disorders are treated separately, with priority given to physical health. Most of our health-care dollars are devoted to infectious and chronic disease, with relatively low patient copays. In contrast, far fewer resources are allocated to mental health concerns, with poorer patient access to services and higher co-pays.1-4 Our training programs reflect this dualism with “mental” and “medical” health providers trained separately and greater resources and prestige assigned to medical training. This has resulted in an imbalance in numbers of well-trained, well-paid providers strongly favoring the medical profession5,6 and a failure of medical and mental health providers to work together to meet patients’ needs. The result has been poor quality, expensive health care in which mental health needs often go unrecognized and many patients are subjected to multiple tests and visits with specialists — at considerable cost — in an effort to diagnose the underlying physical disease. Even when patients’ mental health concerns are correctly diagnosed, they often go untreated because of poor access to well-trained providers, inadequate insurance coverage, higher co-pays or the stigma associated with a mental health condition.7,8 The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for depression screening in primary care is a case in point: “The USPSTF recommends screening adults for depression when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place to assure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and follow-up. The USPSTF recommends against routinely screening adults for depression when staff-assisted depression care supports are not in place.”9 In other words, if there is insufficient access to mental health, primary-care screening for depression is not recommended. In contrast, no such limitations are placed on recommended screening for breast or colorectal cancer.10,11 As part of health-care reform, there has been considerable emphasis placed on patient-centered care; the patient is viewed as a whole person cared for by an inter-professional health-care team that includes both medical and mental health expertise. There are many advantages to this approach, not the least of which is the opportunity to address the patient’s mental health needs in a non-stigmatizing environment. This approach is JUNE 2012 • MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY expected to yield higher quality care, at lower cost, with greater patient satisfaction.12 The implications of patient-centered care for psychological service delivery are considerable. Mental health services will no longer be delivered primarily by solo-practice mental health practitioners. Instead, mental health care will be routinely provided as part of larger inter-professional group practices and in institutional settings. Further, the mental health expert on the team will need a flexible armamentarium of interventions, and cannot rely solely on the traditional 50-minute psychotherapy session. In addition, the mental health expert must be able to address a host of other behavioral issues important to health and well-being — medical regimen compliance, pain management, coping with disability or a life-threatening diagnosis, lifestyle behavior change. If psychology is to become a significant player in patientcentered care, psychologist practitioners will need to become part of the larger health-care community. This will require adapting to a culture of evidenced-based practice and treatment guidelines, as well as communication and collaboration with a wide range of health providers from varying backgrounds. To be members of patient-centered health-care teams, psychologists will need to diversify and expand their skills. This will require substantial changes in our training programs as well as opportunities for psychologists to re-train in this new model of health-care delivery. Medicine and other health professional associations are already training students in patient-centered care and the delivery of health services through inter-professional practice teams.13 Professional psychology needs to embrace this paradigm shift if it is to have a role in the health-care teams of the future. If it does not, other mental health professionals will step into this role. Expanding psychology’s role in health is a core component of APA’s strategic plan, highlighting the important role psychology should play in the patient-centered care teams of the future. However, this will require practicing psychologists — including those who train them — to embrace an expanded role for psychology as health-care providers collaborating with other professions within a larger health-care system. I hope professional psychology can successfully navigate this paradigm shift; quality patient care depends on it. n References for this article are on page 72. 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - June 2012

Monitor on Psychology - June 2012
President’s column
From the CEO
Give an Hour founder is one of Time magazine’s ‘most influential’
APA treatment guidelines panels are being formed
APA supports ‘Speak Up For Kids’
In Brief
Time Capsule
Random Sample
Judicial Notebook
APA honors Howell
Science Watch
Science Directions
What you should know about online education
Speaking of Education
Psychologist Profile
Redefining masculinity
Miscarriage and loss
Something for everyone
Candidates weigh in
Division Spotlight
American Psychological Foundation

Monitor on Psychology - June 2012