APA president outlines priorities for 2010

By Ami Albernaz
March 1st, 2010

Like most assuming a leadership post, Carol D. Goodheart, Ed.D., the relatively new president of the American Psychological Association, has a big agenda. In 2010, she hopes to help devise a useful framework for evaluating psychological service outcomes and to bring awareness to and develop resources for family caregivers. She is testing out a Wiki platform that will help psychologists more easily locate useful resources and even plans to add a few friendly touches to this year’s APA convention, including a “bring-the-family” event and collaborative workshops.

A former nurse and longtime health psychologist who lives and practices in Princeton, N.J., Goodheart advocates working more closely with primary care doctors and others in the medical field. “Integrative and collaborative care are the wave of the future,” she says. “We see different providers working together more and more and we know collaborative care improves adherence to medical treatments.

That three-quarters of people with depression seek help from primary care doctors first is strong evidence that links with psychological services are needed, she adds.

Goodheart’s years of helping chronically ill patients and their families cope with disease have shown her the importance of offering support for caregivers, who often see themselves as helping out temporarily or filling a normal role as a family member.

“We [a task force on caregivers] think that caregivers are an under-served population,” she says, adding that many long-term caregivers experience depression, anxiety or insomnia. The “Family Caregiver Briefcase” that will be available on the APA’s Web site will offer practical resources – assessment tools, interventions, fact sheets – on how to help psychologists recognize and address family caregivers’ needs.

Over the last two decades, Goodheart has held many roles in APA governance, including chair of the APA Presidential Task Force on Evidence Based Practice in 2004-2005. She believes that building a framework for evaluating outcomes that is realistic – based on what psychologists do – can help psychologists better demonstrate the value of what their work does and can be particularly useful in tough economic times.

“In a tight healthcare marketplace, with its focus on reining in cost, psychologists need to be able to show good outcomes,” she says. “They have them, but they need to be able to show them.” She acknowledges that many psychologists are uncomfortable with the outcomes developed by managed care organizations and that the Presidential Task Force on Advancing Practice will examine what criteria are used in outcomes measures and how data is used.

When Goodheart started out as a psychologist in the late 70s, fax machines were not yet widely used. Keeping up with technology and recognizing the ways in which it can help psychologists work more effectively is important, she says. With the new Wiki platform (called PsycLink – The Practice Wiki), the advancing practice task force hopes both to help psychologists track down resources more efficiently and to give them an opportunity to share resources that they have found useful.

Technology, though, is just one example of the types of change to which psychologists should be willing to adapt, Goodheart believes. Practice models will likely continue changing over time and certain specialties, such as gero-psychology, will see increases in demand.

“There are many people who say ‘I don’t want to work with children’ or ‘I don’t want to work with old people,’” she says, “but psychologists work well when they’re able to identify opportunities and meet them.”

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