Three Reasons Why Psychologists Belong in Healthcare Settings

By David Martin, PhD, ABPP (Senior Director, APA Office on AIDS)

For most of my early career as a psychologist, I felt like most professional psychologists IHIV Specialist Cover knew outside my healthcare setting thought what I did wasn’t psychology because (a) it wasn’t traditional psychotherapy, (b) my approach was behavioral, and (c) I was working in a healthcare setting practicing clinical health psychology.

The December 2013 issue of the HIV Specialist provides a great example of why psychologists belong in healthcare settings and how they can and should retain their identity as psychologists even if they aren’t engaging in traditional psychotherapy. While the issue was written for healthcare professionals in HIV care, I encourage you as graduate students in psychology to read it because:

  1. It shows an understanding that mental and physical health are inseparable. It represents an effort to inform (primarily) non-psychologist healthcare providers of the important roles that psychology can and should play in the management of HIV disease, as well as in education and prevention.
  2. It highlights the unique expertise of psychologists in the healthcare setting. Psychologists working in HIV/AIDS have essential skills that benefit the sick. WeHealthcare have expertise extending well beyond traditional psychotherapy into areas such as pain management, treatment adherence, rehabilitation, and other important facets of treatment. Although the articles were intended for non-psychologist healthcare providers, if you think you may be interested in work in HIV/AIDS, these articles may provide you with an overview of some of the issues and help provide additional guidance as you move forward in your education and training.
  3. It shows that psychologists are part of integrated healthcare’s future. Last year, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reported data demonstrating the vital importance of integrated care in engaging and retaining people with HIV/AIDS in care. The issue illustrates implicitly how psychology can be useful in the context of healthcare in general, highlighting psychology’s role in the provision of integrated care. Many of the issues confronting people with HIV/AIDS mirror those of individuals facing other health challenges, and psychology can and should play a vital role in their management as well. Integrated healthcare is coming; these articles provide an illustration of what integrated healthcare can look like when psychology is included in the mix.

Check out these resources to learn more about psychology’s role in integrated healthcare: