Psychology practitioners' future success will require them to make big changes—such as developing treatment guidelines and revamping the way the public sees them—according to preliminary recommendations from the 2009 Presidential Summit on the Future of Psychology Practice Task Force.
The recommendations, announced during an APA 2009 Annual Convention symposium, follow up on the May Presidential Summit on the Future of Psychology Practice in San Antonio, where 100 psychologists and 50 leaders from other fields met to shape a new vision for psychology. (See July/August Monitor for a full summit report.)
The task force is now building on the summit ideas and encouraging further input from all psychologists as it finalizes its recommendations this fall.
"We have great opportunities for the future, and psychologists are well-positioned to take advantage of them, but it will require that we change the way we operate," said APA President James H. Bray, PhD, who with APA President-elect Carol D. Goodheart, EdD, and Margaret Heldring, PhD, led the task force.
Among the group's recommendations were calls for psychologists to:
• Develop treatment guidelines. "By not having them, we are shooting ourselves in the foot," said Bray. Such guidelines—principles to promote best practices—will demonstrate to policymakers and the public that psychologists' treatments have a strong, evidenced-based foundation. APA will appoint a committee of top researchers and science practitioners who will work with the association's governance and staff to oversee the process for developing treatment guidelines. That process will include identifying, selecting and reviewing treatment guidelines and selecting panel members and other technical experts. Goodheart emphasized that the guidelines would be flexible: "A treatment guideline is not a manual," she said. "It has to be useful and adaptable."
• Develop models for integrated care. With health-care reform efforts focused on the revitalization of primary care, psychologists are perhaps better positioned than ever to improve patient care by promoting healthy behaviors and helping people better manage their conditions. To succeed in the new system, psychologists will need to develop integrated care models, just as the Department of Veterans Affairs did in the 1990s when it revamped its health-care system, said task force member and VA psychologist Robert Gresen, PhD. "In the VA, you find a psychologist basically anywhere you see treatment—in cardio rehab, the spinal cord injury program, nursing homes, and the list goes on and on," he said.
• Address the mobility and licensure barriers. With the growth in telehealth as well as the work psychologists do for multistate, even multinational companies, the nation's patchwork of licensure requirements are becoming increasingly troublesome for practitioners. "To sum up licensure in three words, it's education, experience and examination, and there's no consistency in any of those things across any of our jurisdictions," said task force member Emil Rodolfa, PhD. To allow psychologists to practice in different regions, he said, psychologists must determine how to increase consistency across licensing boards—a significant challenge since all practitioners are trained differently.
• Market psychologists' uniqueness. Psychologists are in danger of being lumped together with other mental health professionals, said Bray. Task force member Tammy L. Hughes, PhD, urged the symposium attendees to think about the value psychology provides people they serve and the public at large. "Stop talking to yourselves and start sharing your ideas," she said.
• Revamp psychology's training programs. Graduate programs are still training for traditional practice, not the new world psychology finds itself in, said Heldring. "Our training programs are fantastic, but they are training for a fading way of doing things," said Heldring. "We're going to have to undergo a pretty major overhaul of how we train if we are going to be involved in systems that are new to us."
MEMBERS OF THE 2009 PRESIDENTIAL SUMMIT ON THE FUTURE OF PSYCHOLOGY PRACTICE TASK FORCE
APA President-elect Carol D. Goodheart, EdD (co-chair)
Margaret B. Heldring, PhD (co-chair)
Robert Gresen, PhD
Gary Hawley, PsyD
Tammy L. Hughes, PhD
Jennifer Kelly, PhD
Jana N. Martin, PhD
Susan H. McDaniel, PhD
Thomas D. McNeese, MEd, MA
Emil Rodolfa, PhD
Sandra L. Shullman, PhD