Training Needs for Mental Health Professionals - Improving End-of-Life Care: Talking Points by James L. Werth, Jr., Ph.D.

Current Status of Training Activities

  • Research on the training of medical professions has been conducted
  • No equivalent research on mental health professionals is available
  • It appears as if graduate school training and opportunities for continuing education are minimal

Why Training Is Important

  • Providing Care
  • Problem recognition
  • Proper assessment and diagnosis
  • Appropriate treatment selection and implementation
  • Evaluation of effectiveness
  • Conducting Research
  • Ethical and methodological concerns
  • Areas needing to be researched

Steps to Improve Training of Mental Health Professionals and Students

  • National commissions need to begin including psychosocial issues in their analyses and reports.
  • Funding needs to be made available to develop state of the art educational packages.
  • Only a very small percentage of the funding - both private and public - has targeted mental health professionals.

Methods of Improving Training

  • Model courses on psychosocial issues near the end of life
  • Modules that will allow for the incorporation of end-of-life issues into various courses
  • Continuing education programs for presentation in person and via the Internet

Recent Congressional Activity

  • Conquering Pain Act (S.1024), sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (OR) and cosponsored by Senators Gordon Smith (OR), John D. Rockefeller, IV (WV) and John Breaux (LA)
  • Conquering Pain Act (H.R.2156) sponsored by Representative Darlene Hooley (OR) and cosponsored by Representatives Nancy L. Johnson (CT) and Jim Greenwood (PA)


  • To provide comprehensive, effective, quality end-of-life care to the terminally ill, we must attend to the psychosocial aspects of the dying process. . .
  • "[Further, to] appropriately address comprehensive pain and symptom management, we must incorporate [psychosocial issues] into our overall thinking about mental health, quality of care, and health system structures." (Wyden, 2000, pp. 580-581).

Key References

  • Improving Palliative Care for Cancer [See especially chapters 7 and 9]
  • APA Working Group on Assisted Suicide and End of Life Decisions Report
  • Ron Wyden. (2000). Steps to Improve Quality of Life for People Who are Dying. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 6, 575-581.
  • Working Group to Improve Psychosocial End-of-Life Care