The role of psychologists is changing as overall mental health service needs and service systems change. Separating medical health from mental health is not always so clear cut. With advances in the medical fields, psychologists must also embrace a new way of looking at overall mental health. Wahass (2005) noted that health was “seen as the absence of diseases or injury and their presence meant ill health.” This approach was suggestive of there being a solution to the malady. However, over time, the connection between the mind and body began to shift the traditional medical model (illness and its corresponding cure) to a more dynamic view, a biopsychosocial perspective on approaching maladies.
The biopsychosocial model integrates the biological, psychological and social factors that interact independently or in concert with each other to sustain a healthy or unhealthy status. (Wahass, 2005) This is particularly important to keep in mind as we encounter clients from culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse background. As psychologist we must have an awareness of and become champions of not only serving in a clinical role, but advocating for it as well. Our work is not limited to assigning diagnoses; rather, our responsibility to is act as a liaison between our clients and their communities.
Wahass identified several areas of focus, including clinical, health/medical, counseling, rehabilitation and community psychology. Many of the quotidian responsibilities may overlap; however, each has distinct demands and expectations, which not only allow for a more robust treatment of our clients presenting problems, they also encourage a more meaningful understanding of the person behind the list of concerns.
Chang, Ling and Hargreaves explored the relationship between scientist and practitioner and the effectiveness of graduate programs in preparing psychology students for the real life demands of the various roles psychologists assume. Results revealed that there is not one predominant stance, in part because depending on the setting (e.g. hospital, private practice, community bases setting, etc…) there are distinct demands on a psychologist.
As the approach to medical and mental health issues evolves, we must also look to our training program to ensure that developing clinicians are able to respond to the demands placed on psychologists in the real world.
Chang, K., I.-Ling, L., & Hargreaves, T. A. (2008). Scientist versus Practitioner-An abridged meta-analysis of the changing role of psychologists. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 21(3), 267-291. doi:10.1080/09515070802479859
Wahass, S.H. (2005) The Role of Psychologists in Health Care Delivery. Journal of Family and Community Medicine, 12(2)), 63-70
Jennifer Roman, M.A.
WKPIC Doctoral Intern