Speaking of Education

I recently teamed up with Dr. Susan McDaniel to provide a workshop on primary-care psychology for the Oregon Psychological Association. We have collaborated on this topic before, and it brought back fond memories of the joys and challenges of practice. It was also enjoyable to work with Dr. McDaniel (winner of the Cummings' PSYCHE Prize for her leadership in primary care), and to see Dr. Esther Lerman Freeman, who represented APA's Div. 42 (Independent Practice) in our previous collaboration on the primary-care curriculum, published several years ago.

Interacting with workshop participants also renewed my commitment to advocacy for psychology in primary care, a topic I addressed at the recent Santa Fe conference on advocacy spearheaded by Elaine Levine. At that meeting I offered my top 10 reasons why advocacy for psychology in primary care is important, and how advocacy for education and training in psychology is related to that agenda. Those reasons are:

  • 10.) Developing skills in advocacy enhances effectiveness in multiple arenas: client advocacy as well as federal, state, local, campus and workplace advocacy. When I speak with faculty who continually advocate for their theories, ideas and perspectives, I point out how many of these skills are the same and easily transferable. Any program director or department chair is by necessity an advocate.

  • 9.) Primary care is the de facto mental health system in this country. It has been well documented that most individuals with mental health problems are not seen by mental health professionals, and that the majority of all psychotropic medications are provided in primary care.

  • 8.) Psychology is more than a mental health profession; it is a health profession. For over 30 years I have advocated for understanding how behavior and health are inextricably intertwined and how 100 percent of medical visits have psychological/behavioral components.

  • 7.) Federal recognition of psychology as a primary care profession is essential to psychology's inclusion in an integrated health-care system. We have made progress in this area; Dr. Nina Levitt led our efforts resulting in psychology being recognized as one of the primary-care professions in federal legislation, and for the use of community health center funds for behavioral and mental health services. The federal community health center program is central to our future in this regard (see "A window of opportunity").

  • 6.) Psychologists need education and training to work competently in primary care. Education and training provides infrastructure for our profession's growth. We must prepare a work force capable of interprofessional care for the problems seen in primary care. The development of a primary-care curriculum has been central to these efforts, as is training in the competencies required of all health professions for the 21st century (e.g., informatics, quality-improvement methods, evidence-based practice).

  • 5.) Federal support for education and training of psychologists recognizes psychology as a public good. Established in 2002 through our advocacy efforts, the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program supports training of health service psychologists in primary care. The importance of this recognition alone cannot be overestimated, but GPE has insufficient funds to meet the needs of our education and training institutions. We must redouble our efforts to obtain adequate federal appropriations, and need our members' participation if we are to be successful.

  • 4.) If federal policy supports education and training for a profession, it is more likely to support federal policy that reimburses that profession for the services rendered. Others might make this statement stronger: Federal funds will not be used for services provided by professions not deemed worthy of federal support for training.

  • 3.) Support for psychology trainees in federal programs requires the availability of licensed psychologists as supervisors. For the training of future psychologists, there must be qualified practitioners. Many of our initiatives such as GPE and the Defense GPE program have resulted in new hires of practicing psychologists, as well as provided support for program evaluation research. Education advocacy floats all boats.

  • 2.) Psychology education and training does meet national needs. Although education and training requires time, effort and resources, many facilities value training programs because they help recruitment, enhance quality of their professional staff and expand service capability. We also know that 36 percent of psychologists who graduated from GPE-funded programs began practice in underserved areas, compared with 24 percent of all other professions supported by Title VII funding.

  • 1.) It is the right thing to do! Advocacy for psychology in primary care and for education and training in psychology is the right thing to do, as a psychologist, and as a citizen. It serves the public welfare. Please get involved!

Note from APA: The appearance of advertisements for educational programs on this site does not constitute endorsement by APA. Programs that describe themselves as accredited may be accredited by another body, but are not accredited by APA unless so stated.

Further Reading

To learn how to get involved in APA advocacy efforts, visit http://capwiz.com/apapolicy/home.