Psychologists Promote Health and Well-Being Throughout Our Nation
Psychologists treat mental health and alcohol and substance use disorders.
Psychotherapy. An estimated 22.1% of Americans aged 18 and older — about 1 in 5 adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Psychologists treat such disorders by providing psychotherapy, which in many cases is equally, if not more, effective than medication. Psychotherapy is effective alone or in combination with medication to address a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other disorders that can devastate an individual's personal, family, social, and work life.
Diagnostic Services. Physicians and other health care professionals turn to psychologists for their state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, including, for example, the detection and assessment of functional impairment, and for psychologists' rehabilitative services and treatment.
Diversity. Psychologists are trained to provide services to an increasingly diversified national population. Racial and ethnic minorities experience access-to-care and socio-cultural difficulties that must be addressed to ensure quality care. Women, children and adolescents, the elderly, persons of diverse sexual orientation, and the disabled also have unique needs that call for the interventions psychologists are trained to provide.
Training and Licensure. Psychologists receive a median of seven years of education and training beyond their undergraduate degree, including practica and internship training in hospitals and other health care settings. Professional licensure is generally uniform throughout the country, authorizing a psychologist to independently diagnose and treat mental and nervous disorders upon completion of a doctoral degree in psychology and a minimum of two years of supervised, direct clinical service.
In addition to mental health care, psychologists provide preventive, primary, and disease management services.
Preventive Care. The screening and assessment services provided by psychologists are key to detecting and identifying patients' mental health issues, and psychologists are trained to help patients develop coping strategies and healthy behaviors, which promote and maintain both mental and physical health.
Primary Care. Mental health services are critical primary care services, especially in rural and medically-underserved areas. As many as 70% of primary care visits are driven by patients' psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, and stress -- and 24% of patients who present themselves to primary care physicians suffer from a well-defined mental disorder. Primary care physicians increasingly rely on the vital and unique mental and behavioral health services that psychologists provide to patients. Increased access to psychologists in primary care improves the coordination of care and treatment planning, while reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental and behavioral health treatment.
Chronic Disease Management. Psychologists work in primary, acute, and long-term care settings to treat patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and conditions stemming from obesity, and patients with life-threatening illnesses, such as coronary artery disease and cancer. Psychologists help patients manage pain, cope with medical interventions and their effects, and address family needs and the intangible aspects of illness. Treatments include an array of individual, group, and family psychological interventions that are effective for depression, anxiety, pain, and adjustment issues associated with chronic illness.
Psychologists provide services in health care facilities and many other settings.
Outpatient Care. Psychologists deliver psychotherapy and other services as solo or group practitioners. For many patients and payers of care, outpatient psychology treatment is effective, cost-efficient, and more accessible than inpatient care. Psychologists treat the most serious mental disorders, but they also help people in all aspects of daily life, such as parenting, caring for elderly parents, other family issues, or sexual issues.
Inpatient and Other Settings. Psychologists are important providers of inpatient care in general hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, VA and military hospitals, and in settings such as community mental health centers, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities. Psychologists also teach and provide services in universities and colleges, medical schools, and university counseling and guidance centers.
Integrated Health Care. As experts in human behavior, psychologists work individually and on integrated interprofessional teams to prevent disease and promote the health and wellness of individuals across the lifespan. Psychologists provide early intervention and wellness services, including behavioral health assessment and treatment, to help individuals prevent and manage physical health conditions and a range of mental and behavioral health and substance use disorders.
Schools and the Workplace. Psychologists in elementary and secondary schools deliver prevention, intervention, and crisis services to students, along with psychological educational assessment and evaluation. Administrators and teachers turn to psychologists for help in resolving students' family issues and to help children and adolescents develop their resilience skills. Psychologists also consult on classroom management issues and school-wide programs. In the U.S. workplace, f our of the 10 leading causes of disability are mental disorders. Psychologists help employers make the workplace more psychologically healthy and productive and help employees deal with stress and other workplace issues through employee assistance programs and initiatives.
Criminal Justice System. About 16% of all inmates in state and federal jails suffer from a mental disorder, as do an astounding 80% of all children entering the juvenile justice system. Psychologists work in correctional and juvenile justice facilities, providing mental health services to criminal offenders with mental disorders. Psychologists also provide forensic evaluations and testimony and are leaders in innovative initiatives, such as mental health courts and community re-entry programs, to assist mentally ill offenders from reentering the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Psychologists help the victims of disaster or terrorist attack understand and cope with their experiences.
Disaster and Terrorism Response. In partnership with the American Red Cross, APA's Disaster Response Network of 2,500 volunteer psychologists, trained in disaster response, help communities prepare for disaster and offer assistance to relief workers, survivors, and families following disaster. Following the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, Red Cross chose select expert psychologists to offer emotional support to families and the community. They worked to validate reactions to this horrific tragedy and helped people to build their resilience skills. Numerous materials on managing distress related to disaster and terrorism are available on the APA Psychology Help Center.