Thanks to a new training grant, doctoral students in UNCG’s clinical psychology program are bringing innovative mental health care to at-risk populations, such as the elderly, young children, veterans and the homeless in medically underserved areas of Guilford County and across the state.

The focus of clinical psychology and the way patients receive psychological care is changing, and this grant gives UNCG students the hands-on training to tackle the field’s shifting landscape.

“The primary care doctor has become an important portal for caring for both physical and mental health,” said Susan Keane, UNCG professor of clinical psychology and grant principal investigator.

Patients are more likely to seek help from their primary care physicians than a clinical psychologist, so primary care doctors are referring them to in-house clinical psychology doctoral trainees rather than a psychologist’s office.These trainees are able to see patients immediately, often through “warm handoffs” from the physician with whom the patient has an established relationship. Through basic intervention strategies, trainees are often able to help patients achieve small gains and prevent the need for more intensive, long-term care down the road.

Because the integrated behavioral care model is still fairly new and relies on buy-in from primary care physicians, few psychologists have been trained in this method. UNCG’s program is especially unique, because the clinical psychology doctoral program is not housed within a medical school.

“Because UNCG doesn’t have a medical school, we’ve developed partnerships with primary care physicians and practices within the community,” Keane said. “It was a challenge that led to a community benefit.”

Students will work at Cone Health Center for Children, Piedmont Pediatrics,  Cone Pediatric Teaching Program, Cone Health Family Medicine Center and Residency Training Program, Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine, PACE of the Triad, and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Durham.

The grant, “Behavioral Health/Primary Care Integration: Reducing Barriers in Care to Underserved Populations,” will enable UNCG to provide $25,000 stipends to 24 doctoral students over the next three years as they complete 400-hour traineeships across the local community.The grant is funded by the U.S. Human Resources and Services Administration through its Graduate Psychology Education Program. Dr. Rosemery Nelson-Gray, Dr. Gabriella Stein and Dr. Blair Wisco are co-investigators on the project.

For more information, contact Susan Keane at spkeane@uncg.edu.

 

Story by Jeanie McDowell, University Communications