Cover Story

Though he's still primarily a traditional practitioner, Robert Buri, PhD, has begun to diversify by providing services at the Innovative Pain Center in Watertown, S.D. He'd been in practice at a medical clinic for 10 years when anesthesiologist Pat Retterath, MD, asked him to join him at the center, where patients are treated for pain associated with such conditions as degenerative disk disease, chronic lower back pain or fibromyalgia.

Providing services in such areas as pain management, weight loss or smoking cessation has become a thriving arena for psychologists seeking to break out of the therapist's office.

"Even in a rural area like I live in, it's becoming more commonplace to have psychologists involved in medical care, like pain management," says Buri.

He conducts a psychological evaluation of every patient who comes in the door to determine if they'd benefit from such pain treatments as steroid injections, spinal cord stimulation or traditional medications.

"The research has found that patients with higher levels of depression and anxiety, as well as those who focus on their pain, are less likely to have positive outcomes with traditional pain treatments," Buri explains. Such clients may need other types of psychological interventions before the anesthesiologist can address their symptoms.

Buri has been working at the clinic for one to two days a week since August.

"It's a good match for me," he says. "I like the idea of treating the whole person, rather than separating out a psychiatric problem or a medical problem. I think the medical community could certainly benefit from more psychologists in these types of areas."