APA Center for Psychology and Health works to expand psychology's role in health care

Among its accomplishments over the past year, the center has created partnerships with other health groups, advocated for fair reimbursement for psychological services and has produced briefing sheets on psychology's role in addressing many health concerns.

The APA Center for Psychology and Health has as its core mission to expand psychology's role in the nation’s evolving health care system, including advocacy and educational efforts that promote psychological expertise on integrated, interprofessional health care teams, involvement in interdisciplinary health research and policy formation. One of the center’s initial priorities is to emphasize psychology’s contributions to health promotion and disease prevention.

The center was created in January 2013 by APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD. The ongoing operations of the center are managed by APA Senior Policy Advisor Ellen Garrison, PhD. A senior leadership team composed mostly of APA executive directors helps to carry out its mission. The center includes an Office of Health Care Financing, directed by Randy Phelps, PhD, which advocates for federal and commercial payment policies to sustain and promote access to psychological services, including in primary care.

During 2013, the center focused its work in four areas: education and training, advocacy, public awareness and member communications. Developing partnerships with APA divisions, as well as with allied groups and organizations, will be a key factor in the center’s success. Such partnerships are already underway with the APA Interdivisional Healthcare Committee and the Society of Behavioral Medicine, among others. APA is also a member of the executive committee of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, which promotes the implementation of interdisciplinary team-based health care.

The center’s Office of Health Care Financing and the APA Practice Organization completed a multi-year process through the American Medical Association and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to redefine and revalue psychotherapy services in health care. This work resulted in the first increase since 2005 in the total funds reserved by Medicare for payments to psychologists in 2014. Work to increase the value of psychological services for physical health conditions and to gain reimbursement for team-based services in integrated health care is also underway. 

As part of its work to educate the public and allied professions about psychology’s essential role in promoting good health, the center produced a series of health care briefing sheets in collaboration with APA’s Interdivisional Healthcare Committee. The briefing sheets address a range of concerns, including obesity, cancer, heart disease and chronic pain. A brief about the role of psychologists in integrated health care (PDF, 100KB) more broadly is based on a review of the scientific literature, with particular attention to research addressing psychologists’ contributions to improved patient outcomes and the importance of attention to behavioral and psychosocial factors in those settings. This material will also help inform the initiative of 2014 APA President Nadine Kaslow, PhD, on patient-centered medical homes with a family and cultural perspective. 

In 2014, the center will continue to build working partnerships with other health professions and educate the public about the contributions of psychology to health. The center and APA’s Center for Workforce Studies will also survey APA members and create a database of psychologists who provide interprofessional health services and conduct interdisciplinary health research.