Health service psychologists wanted! How do we get there?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a greater need than ever for psychologists in integrated health care. But what is integrated health care? A comprehensive definition from APA is here, but basically it reflects the growing interdisciplinary nature of the health-care system and recognizes the need to develop  comprehensive treatment — and prevention — plans to meet patients’ psychological, social and medical needs.

Many psychologists are interested in working collaboratively in a medical setting, but how do we ensure that psychologists are ready upon graduation?

A symposium panel, chaired by Dr. Emil Rodolfa, answered that question by discussing several important areas. The first was competencies. Dr. Stephanie Wood of Alliant International University outlined the competencies health service psychologists need. These include:

  • Interprofessionalism: The ability to work collaboratively with others in a medical team, including speaking the same language (e.g., what is a electronic medical record?)
  • Leadership: Positioning psychologists to be in an ideal situation to lead effectively in medical settings. This includes not being afraid to ask physicians questions and working to ensure psychology remains an integral part of integrated care teams.
  • Cultural competence: Raising the level of knowledge around who seeks care and why.
  • Use of evidence-based interventions: Teaching psychologists to effectively review the literature and implement only interventions that have a robust evidence base.

The good news is that there are already programs in place for this sort of health services training, particularly at the clinical internship level.

Dr. Jeffrey Baker, the executive director of APPIC, reported there are 226 internship programs that provide experiences in integrated primary health care. Others provide more specialized training. Also, there are as many as 63 APPIC postdoctoral programs that offer ample experience. Check out the APPIC website for more details.

The medical system is changing and there is a true need for trained psychologists that can navigate health care and deliver psychological treatments to those in need.

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