In Brief

A three-year effort by the APA's Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA) and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has produced a monograph detailing the features of effective colleague assistance programs, which help psychologists who may be experiencing work or personal difficulties become fully functional practitioners again.

ACCA and ASPPB collaborated on the monograph to encourage more state, provincial and territorial psychological associations (SPTAs) to develop such programs. A 2003 survey conducted by ACCA showed that of the 60 U.S. and Canadian SPTAs, about half maintain assistance programs for members, says Lynn Bufka, PhD, director of professional development demonstration projects in APA's Practice Directorate.

The monograph is intended to alert psychologists, SPTAs and licensing boards to the range of difficulties a psychologist might face and identify strategies to address those concerns before they impair professional practice, says Bufka, who served as senior staff liaison to the committee.

"If you can intervene earlier, you're much more likely to get someone on a better path," she says

By explaining how a formal colleague assistance program can be organized, ACCA and ASPPB want more assistance made available to distressed psychologists and intervention options improved, Bufka says.

The monograph specifies some of the suggested actions taken by an effective program, including:

  • Appointing a liaison between a state's association and its licensing board. The mission of state licensing boards includes protecting the public, including from psychologists who are not functioning well. State licensing boards can look to colleague assistance programs to help psychologists who have encountered difficulties get back to regular practice, says Mardi Allen, PhD, a Mississippi psychologist who worked on the monograph while serving as ASPPB president.

  • Establishing a "go-to" person within the state association who is well-versed on how the colleague assistance program works.

  • Assessing the nature of the problem causing performance problems for the psychologist.

  • Analyzing the underlying cause of the problem, whether it's a personal issue such as depression, or a shortfall in professional training in a specific area.

  • Designing an intervention plan to address the problem, such as therapy to help with depression, or identifying the education and training needed to improve professional performance.

  • Evaluating and tracking the intervention to measure progress and make sure the psychologist is back to fully competent practice.

The monograph will be distributed to the leadership of state associations and state licensing boards this year, Bufka says.

It is posted at APA Practice and at www.apapractice.org, a site available to licensed APA members who pay the practice assessment, under "Self-Care Resources" in the "Professional Development" section.

--C. Munsey