A Slice of the Integrative Pie: The role of Sierra Tucson’s Psychology department in cultivating Integrative Mental Health
“As we come to acknowledge the multifactorial nature of mental health issues (which I often refer to as ‘‘not occurring in a vacuum’’), it is imperative to integrate mental health programs to combine a variety of therapeutic approaches to treat the myriad issues affecting the whole person.”
– Dr. Antoinette Giedzinska-Simons, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Medicine
Integrative mental health is a term that isn’t tossed about lightly at Sierra Tucson. Despite current tendencies for many initiatives to toss around “Integrative Medicine” or “Integrative Mental Health” as colloquial buzz words, for Sierra Tucson the buzz really is all about what integrative care can accomplish. Our practice model – the Sierra Model – is based on bio-psycho-social-spiritual principles of healing the whole person and not solely the disorder or symptoms, which is an adaptation of integrative medicine. By definition, the principles of Integrative Medicine are to (a) treat the whole person, (b) engage the patient collaboratively in treatment decision making, and (c) use appropriate treatments – whether allopathic or naturopathic – to promote optimal health. The Sierra Model thus comprises an amalgamation of primary and integrative therapies which are implemented through multidisciplinary collaboration among treatment teams, made up of a core team (psychiatrist and primary therapist) that is joined by other program and integrative therapists.
Clearly, Integrative Mental Health represents a new paradigm of treating the individual. And this paradigm is fitting for a place like Sierra Tucson, because nearly all patients who admit here for treatment are suffering from comorbid psychopathology. Thus “one size fits all” treatment approaches will not be as effective to treat those who suffer from multifaceted nature of mental health issues as are those programs which emphasize a tailored and integrated approach. Because we expect that patients will present more often with “coexisting disorders” or “comorbidity” as the norm today, it therefore becomes our prerogative to provide a complexity of therapies that are synergistic to provide holistic healing.
The ultimate recovery goals at Sierra Tucson are that patients will achieve optimized health, better quality of life and long standing recovery through personalized evidence-based clinical care, family involvement and continuing care after the formal in-residence treatment concludes. We utilize a diverse range of appropriate therapeutic approaches that are informed by research evidence. And by joining modern medicine with proven practices from other healing traditions, integrative practitioners are better able to relieve suffering, reduce stress, and maintain the well-being of patients. So how might you formulate treatments of this complexity?
Collaboration: Sierra Tucson Psychology
One of the key ingredients for successful Integrative Mental Health is Collaboration. The Psychology Department at Sierra Tucson plays an active role in collaborating with the treatment teams at the initial start of patients’ admission. With psychologists on board as full-time committed staff, they meet with patients within the first few days of admissions to contribute to the multidisciplinary evaluative process. The main objective of psychometric assessment during the first few days of treatment is to provide essential psychological profiling that will inform the treatment teams to ultimately tailor and augment patients’ treatment plan. Because not all patients are created equally, cookie-cutter treatment programming will not suffice. Therefore, psychological feedback is essential toward making sure each approach towards healing the whole person is tailored to that individual. This is Integrative Mental Health in action.
Psychological conceptualization does not stop, however, at the first week but remains available to patients and their doctors, alike, throughout their treatment stay. Therefore, the process of psychometric assessment will be implemented through a multi-tiered approach. The first “tier” will comprise every patient completing a Comprehensive Psychological Profile (CPP) as standard protocol within the first few days of admission. The CPP is comprised of standardized, reliable, and valid psychometric assessments, specific to mood, psychopathology, quality of life, stress and resiliency, and sensitive to accurately measure any changes over time. The CPP is practical for routine clinical use. Once the data are gathered and analyzed, psychologists will meet individually with each patient to discuss their findings. The information gathered during this clinical feedback is compiled with the CPP profile and the psychologist provides their “patient conceptualization” comprising clinical impressions, diagnostic indicators and recommendations for treatment planning and further testing when needed. These conceptualizations are provided to the treatment teams, which promotes further collegial collaboration among therapeutic staff. The end goal is to ensure that patients’ overall treatment is tailored and optimally formulated for the best integrated treatment toward their recovery.
Further psychological testing will take place in a true collaboration between psychologist, patients, psychiatrists, and primary therapists. The secondary and tertiary tiers of psychometrics will serve to solidify psychiatric diagnoses, differentiate symptomology, explore potential underlying issues, and provide further clarity to patient profiles. Patients can expect that their treatment teams are working in concert with one another to assure that their treatment needs come first and are the focus of many program team meetings which are attended by all of their key integrative practitioners caring for them. Integration, collaboration, communication, and consistency of care. These are elements that underlie the Sierra Model; and are the daily mainstay of all our practitioners here.
Partnership: Behavioral Medicine
The Psychology department at Sierra Tucson has recently joined forces with the department of Behavioral Medicine. This latter formation is a relatively new development in order to promote the interdisciplinary nature of recovery through the integration of behavioral, psychosocial, and biomedical science knowledge and techniques relevant to the understanding of mental health and illness. The aim of Behavioral Medicine is to provide opportunities for the many clinical disciplines represented within the Sierra Tucson family of practitioners to network for psycho-education, collaboration on common orientation and research, and integration of mind-body-spirit modalities related to enhancement of recovery, rehabilitation, and resiliency. Behavioral Medicine at Sierra Tucson, like many departments of this nature throughout the country today, serves to weave various threads and patterns of systems together resulting into a strong, cohesive, and beautiful fabric. Behavioral Medicine departments are essential in today’s modern medicine focus on Integrative Mental Health systems.
By weaving in Psychology into the Behavioral Medicine fabric, what emerges is an interconnection between Psychology and PsychoNeuroPhysiology. This will allow for an intra-department integration of services, aimed to further psychological profiling and conceptualization for the benefit of Sierra Tucson’s treatment teams and patients. Click here to read a recently published article outlining the PsychoNeuroPhysiology program at Sierra Tucson.