Putting President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health's recommendations into practice will take center stage at APA's 2005 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Aug 18-21. The session, "The role of psychology in transforming services for individuals with serious mental illness," is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20, at 2 p.m.
The commission's recommendations urge mental health professionals to develop rehabilitative and recovery-oriented systems for people with serious mental illness that are based on the needs identified by consumers and their families. Such systems should include evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, assertive community treatment, supported employment and social skills training, many of which have been developed by psychologists.
"The recommendations are a 180-degree change in the way in which professionals direct services," says symposium chair Mary A. Jansen, PhD, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "We're changing from a system that is driven by professionals to one that is driven by consumers and their families."
The changes are in line with the work of the APA's Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice Task Force on Serious Mental Illness and Severe Emotional Disturbance, Jansen notes. Over the last few years, the committee has focused psychology's attention on the need to reorient services for those with serious mental illness to be more rehabilitative and recovery-oriented.
Jansen believes that the president asked four psychologists to serve among the 22 commissioners because he recognized that psychology has much to contribute to the service-delivery system for those with serious mental illness. As a result, Jansen thinks that psychologists should be at the forefront of the effort to change the system to conform to the commission's recommendations.
Putting the patient first
The session will showcase work by such federal agencies as the Center for Mental Health Services and the National Institute of Mental Health to promote policy changes that can improve the chances that the commission's recommendations will be put into action. The session will also highlight work by psychologists in several private think tanks and universities who are conducting research and developing training programs for the next generation of mental health professionals.
In doing so, the session's participants, which include commission member Larke Nahme Huang, PhD, of the American Institutes for Research, will examine how the changing focus of serious mental illness care will alter mental health care and the field of psychology, from postgraduate training programs to clinical practice to National Institutes of Health research.
Focusing the system on rehabilitation and recovery, Jansen says, will allow consumers to gain or regain the skills necessary to prosper in their communities.
"When you ask most people with serious mental illnesses what they want most, they often respond, 'To live a normal life and to work and live in my own community,'" she says.
As a result, Jansen expects the recommendations to benefit both consumers and psychologists.
Joining Jansen on the panel are the following psychologists and national policy leaders:
Kathryn Power, director of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will present "Transforming the mental health service delivery system to better serve those with serious mental illness."
Junius Gonzales, MD, acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health's Division of Service and Intervention Research, will present "NIH and the science to service initiatives."
Richard Hunter, PhD, chair of the APA's Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice Task Force on Serious Mental Illness and Severe Emotional Disturbance, will present "Changing our focus: Improving outcomes by asking a different set of questions."
Steven M. Silverstein, PhD, a University of Illinois at Chicago psychiatry professor, will present "A model training program in serious mental illness for postgraduate mental health professionals."
Larke Nahme Huang, PhD, a member of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, will present "Transforming mental health care for children and families."
Larry Davidson, PhD, of the Yale University School of Medicine's Program for Recovery and Community Health, will present "Recovery in serious mental illness: What it is and how psychologists can promote it."