The Zeitgeist from the Eyes of Your President-Elect

When I was an undergraduate psychology major at St. Olaf College, I clearly remember learning a strange sounding word, zeitgeist, defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as “the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place.”  A Ph.D. and 28 years as a psychologist later, this word resonates with me once again.

Zeitgeist:  Reflecting on the spirit of the times, I have heard many psychologists describe this time as a scary yet exciting place for psychologists engaged in the science of psychology and its application.  For psychologists in a therapy or assessment practice, the times are a bit scary because psychologists have seen steady erosion in reimbursement rates over more than a decade.  The times are concerning because the decline in Medicare and Medicaid payment rates is leading psychologists to leave these programs and become highly selective in who they provide care.  Challenging because psychologists in Minnesota are faced with mandates to implement expensive electronic health records (EHR) or to submit outcome measures to a web portal so the results can be shared with the general public.  Yikes, should we all treat anxiety disorders with a more predictable treatment response?

On the other side of the coin, the times are exciting because there is growing attention and awareness of the role that psychologists have in the overall health and well-being of the population.  There is growing awareness that adverse childhood experiences (the ACEs) have a cumulative impact on the health and well-being of adults, and that by reducing these adverse experiences we can expect a reduction in related health and social problems.  Increased attention on the integration of behavioral health across the continuum of care is getting a lot of press with talk about the “triple aim” that includes 1) Improvement in the patient’s experience of care; 2) Improvement of the population health; and 3) Reduction of the per capita cost.

The Minnesota Psychological Association (MPA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) work hard on your behalf to help psychologists connect with each other, learn from each other, share knowledge with each other, and grow as a science and in practice through research, academics, and working with our legislators who try to define our role in a changing health care delivery system.

Important work is being done by your MPA.  For example in 2013, MPA was successful in a bill that allows psychologists to be reimbursed for consultation to primary care providers, and the bill’s primary author, Senator Julie Rosen, won the APA State Legislator of the Year Award for her work that improves the coordination and collaboration of care.  In 2014, MPA is working hard to make sure psychologists are listed as a profession that can direct a health care home.  Psychologists like Dr. Trisha Stark work on your behalf to make sure psychologists have needed support and connections to make informed decisions about your electronic health record system (EHR).

I am proud to be a psychologist and am proud to be a member of MPA.  If you are a member of MPA, thank you!  If you are thinking of becoming a member, join now and connect through one of the MPA distribution lists, education events, or by becoming more actively engaged in the Governing Council, committees,  divisions, or MPA task forces.  It is heartening to read communications where psychologists are sharing information, responding to questions, and helping each other succeed.  It is heartening to know that the scientist-practitioner model is alive and well, and psychologists engaged in teaching, research, and clinical practice can share data and information so we can have constructive and friendly debate.  As president-elect, it is my hope that our general beliefs, ideas, and the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, is shaped by psychologists for psychologists and is based on the evidence from psychologists.  MPA wants your help and involvement to make this happen.

Save the Dates: Mark your 2014 calendar now for one of the Friday Forums, the APAIT Conference on Ethics and Risk Management on September 19 (Minneapolis), the 6th Annual Rural Behavioral Health Conference on October 24 (University of MN – Morris), and the MPA President’s Conference on November 10.  Details will be coming soon on the MPA web page under the events tab.

Scott Palmer, Ph.D., is the Director of the Behavioral Health Clinic at St. Cloud Hospital, an assistant adjunct professor at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, and is President-Elect of the Minnesota Psychological Association.  He is a volunteer member of the Red Cross, where he provides psychological first aid to survivors of local or national disasters.  He is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) and uses MI in his practice to help people move toward positive change.

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