A refugee from Burundi sees a physician at Cherokee Health Systems in Knoxville, Tenn., for pain in her stomach and arms. The physician finds nothing
physically wrong, so she calls in a psychologist stationed steps
away. After interviewing the woman, the psychologist learns
she’s endured genocide-related trauma in Burundi. Over the
next few months, the psychologist works with the woman to
treat her traumatic stress until her symptoms resolve.
If a psychologist had not been located in the same primary-care clinic, this woman would likely never have received
psychological services, says psychologist Parinda Khatri,
PhD, Cherokee’s director of integrated care. That’s why the
network of community health centers uses an interdisciplinary
teamwork model for its services to underserved people, offering
social workers, psychologists, pharmacists, cardiologists and
physical therapists all in the same place.
“This model is nothing new, but it’s being driven by
the growing body of robust literature showing benefits of
simultaneously addressing physical and behavioral health — in
heart disease, for example, psychological factors affect physical
factors and vice versa,” says Khatri.
Health-care reform is also pushing the interprofessional
team model to the fore with its focus on patient-centered
and community/population-focused care, safety, quality and
outcomes, says Catherine Grus, PhD, APA’s deputy executive
director for education. The movement has taken solid root in
academic and community health primary care and is spreading
to private settings, say industry observers.
But do psychologists have the skills needed for
interprofessional practice? It depends. Some doctoral,
internship and postdoctoral psychology programs are set up to
provide such preparation, and other programs in psychology
and other disciplines are working to adopt more of it, says Grus.
A national effort to encourage more interprofessional education
recently bore fruit with the launch of a new Web-based resource
portal, she adds.
In addition, a directory of education and training programs
offering training in primary care, an APA strategic plan
initiative, has been completed ( www.apa.org/ed/graduate/
primary-care-psychology.aspx). Meanwhile, a growing trove
of competency-building guidance is catering to practitioners
already in the field — one recently published report spans the