now under way
APA’s first treatment guidelines will focus
on depression and obesity.
BY REBECCA A. CLAY
For APA, developing clinical treatment guidelines is an important way to ensure that psychology maintains its autonomy.
“It’s far better for psychology to be in the driver’s seat when
it comes to figuring out what guidelines about psychological
interventions are needed rather than waiting for someone else
to do it,” says Lynn Bufka, PhD, assistant executive director for
practice research and policy in APA’s Practice Directorate.
APA’s Council of Representatives voted last year for the
association to begin developing evidence-based treatment
guidelines for the first time. A long-term effort that will
involve both practitioners and scientists, the guidelines will
offer recommendations for treatment of specific disorders and
conditions. The steering committee overseeing the process has
decided what topics to tackle first: depressive disorders and
The goal is to produce patient-centered guidelines that are
useful to consumers as well as psychologists and other health-care professionals, says Steven D. Hollon, PhD, the Vanderbilt
University psychology professor who chairs the steering
“If you’re somebody who’s looking to be a good health-
care consumer, you want to know what your various options
are, what kind of empirical support they have behind them
and what the pros and cons are, so you can make an educated
choice,” says Hollon.
APA’s decision to develop guidelines was prompted in part
by changes in the health-care system.
Health-care reform has brought a growing emphasis
on comparing the effectiveness of various treatments. As
electronic records are developed, they’re starting to incorporate
treatment guidelines to help clinicians think through their
decision-making about the best way to help patients. Insurers
increasingly look to guidelines as they make coverage decisions.
And many organizations — including the Institute of Medicine;
federal agencies, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and
Quality and Department of Veterans Affairs; and professional
groups, such as the American Psychiatric Association — have
gotten involved in guidelines.
“Guidelines have become part of the health-care landscape,”
says Howard Kurtzman, PhD, deputy executive director for
science in APA’s Science Directorate. “If psychology wants to be
part of where health care is going, we have to develop our own
guidelines. No one else is going to develop clear and complete
guidelines for behavioral and psychosocial treatments.”
Kurtzman and Bukfa are members of a team of APA staff