MorgansmallIn 2013, the APA’s Health Service Provider Education Collaborative (HSPEC) proposed standards for a redefinition of the profession as Health Service Psychologists, a notion that was enthusiastically endorsed by the APA Council. Consequently,  the APA Council of Representatives is scheduled to vote early next week on new standards of accreditation for doctoral programs, pre-doctoral internships, and postdoctoral residency programs that train Health Service Psychologists.

This development is remarkable for several reasons. The first is the speed with which the profession has moved to adopt this new definition of psychological practice and develop new standards of accreditation. The second is the relative unanimity, so rare in our profession, with which we have embraced these new standards. How this remarkable unanimity came about is rather mysterious, given our past history of internal quarrels and lengthy, (sometimes seemingly interminable), debate.

My speculation is that the various stakeholders in professional psychology all realized that if we do not equip ourselves to be fully involved players in health service delivery then our role, however valuable individual patients find it, will be marginalized. Whether or not this conjecture is correct,  I’m sure we’ll all agree that this is a welcome step for the profession. You can find the proposed new standards of accreditation on the Commission on Accreditation’s section on the APA home page, or you can follow this link:  http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/accreditation-roadmap.aspx

For the National Register, of course, “Health Service Provider” is nothing new. We have been credentialing Health Service Providers in Psychology for the entirety of our existence. The Register was born 40 years ago (you’ll hear more about this later this year), when APA and what is now ASPPB determined that there was a pressing need for a definition of professional psychologists who were truly clinicians (i.e., not only those who were licensed but who had also received direct clinical training in working with patients).

As an organization devoted to providing evidence of quality applied education and training, we believe that the new standards represent a significant step forward. In response to trends in psychology, we have examined our own standards for conferral of the National Register’s Health Service Provider credential and are updating those as indicated. Given the robust nature of our standards, this does not involve much effort, but we will of course ensure that our future applicants meet and exceed the standards for education and training as set forth by APA and other entities that are involved in the re-evaluation of educational and practice standards for clinical psychology.

I have just returned from the biannual meeting of the Association of Psychologists in Academic Health Centers (APAHC), an organization dedicated to the needs of educators and clinicians in medical schools and hospitals. The current president of APAHC is Dr. Ron Brown, who also serves as President of North Texas State University – one of a growing number of psychologists who have been selected as university presidents. At the conference, Registrant and immediate past-APA president Nadine Kaslow presented some very compelling data as to why psychologists should become much more involved in integrated care – among these, data that indicate that patients in integrated care complete referrals to mental health at twice the rate of patients in traditional treatment settings.

Much of this month’s newsletter content reflects the heightened awareness among policymakers and public of the societal impact of mental health problems and the centrality of our profession in addressing this public health issue. Evidence-based practices for PTSD are now being disseminated to non-federal psychologists who work with veterans and their families. New grants funding for suicide prevention is made increasingly available. New business case models for the treatment and reduction of the public burden of mental disorders are being presented. These models are particularly important for the field, in that they look beyond the traditionally employed “medical cost offset” models to recognize that effective mental health intervention may have higher short-term costs but yield significant long-term benefits in terms of risk reduction and future service utilization.

I hope that all of these articles will be of immediate utility to you and your practices.  In the coming months, we’ll hear much more about the Affordable Care Act, advances in reimbursement for telehealth, expansion of psychology’s scope of practice, and related issues. I believe I echo the collective understanding of many leaders in the profession that we are at a transformative moment for professional psychology. We must act to become true members of health service delivery teams, either in integrated care or the specialty mental health service arena. We must be vigilant of policy and regulatory changes that either widen our opportunities or threaten our autonomy.

Via our monthly e-newsletter, social media outlets, and the Register Report, we will do our best to keep you informed, but, the responsibility for action and involvement, of course, rests with all of us.