The future of psychology practice lies beyond the four walls of a clinician's office, said presenters at a 2007 State Leadership Conference session on psychologists in innovative and nontraditional roles.

"As we push psychology forward, it's important to look beyond the narrow view of psychology and really examine how we can optimize the functioning of individuals, groups, families, communities and organizations," said session chair David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, assistant executive director of corporate relations and business strategy in APA's Practice Directorate. According to presenters, the new frontiers for psychologists include:

  • Employee wellness. Clinical psychologist Laura Schopp, PhD, shared her experiences as director of the University of Missouri's corporate wellness program for employees of its four campuses and health-care enterprises. The three-year old program uses incentives--such as small prizes and insurance premium reductions--to involve more than 20,000 employees in health screenings, diet and exercise programs, and mental health awareness and stress-reduction workshops. Schopp said that psychologists, with their breadth of training in industrial/organizational and management issues, psychotherapy and psychopathology, data analysis and program evaluation, are uniquely suited to lead workplace health-promotion programs.

"[Psychologists] have a good understanding of interpersonal and group dynamics, and a good understanding of the fact that behavioral health risks drive health status," she said. "There's nobody better than us to do this kind of work."

  • Co-located services. South Carolina Psychological Association President Brian K. Sullivan, PsyD, discussed his interdisciplinary, collaborative private practice, Lifeworks, based in Charleston, S.C. The Lifeworks model co-locates psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches, certified financial planners and family law attorneys under one roof to help clients improve all aspects of their physical and mental health. Other professionals, including dieticians, physical and massage therapists and fitness trainers, could also be included in such a practice, said Sullivan. As the creator, owner and manager of Lifeworks, Sullivan has learned that he needn't be an expert in every area of business to be a successful entrepreneur. Instead, he advises psychologists who'd like to follow a similar path to liberally outsource their computer and phone systems, financial record-keeping and administrative needs to information technologists, accountants and office managers. "We understand the phrase, 'Spend money to make money,'" he said, noting that as a group, psychologists seem to see expenditures as losses, not as investments. He also encouraged psychologists to not be afraid of marketing and promotion. "Capitalism is not inherently evil."

  • Organizational consulting. Another entrepreneur, Tom Tyne, PhD, spoke about how psychologists can--and should--break into organizational consulting. Along with Russ Grieger, PhD, Tyne runs Organizational Consulting Associates of the Caribbean, based in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He consults with employees of large tourist hotels, cruise ships and other businesses to address issues such as staff morale and turnover. Tyne noted that psychologists' knowledge of conflict resolution, stress management, decision-making, emotional intelligence and team-building transfers easily into the corporate world. To not venture into this market would be a lost opportunity, he said.

"If you look at what business publications are addressing, most of it is psychological in nature," he said. "If we don't do this, other people will."

Panelists suggested that in the future, state, provincial and territorial psychological associations should integrate presentations on nontraditional roles for psychologists into their meetings to help educate members about their diverse career options.

--E. Packard

Further Reading

Read more about psychologists pursuing nontraditional paths at www.apa.org/monitor/jun05/paradise.html and www.apa.org/monitor/apr06/health.html.