11 Jul 2017

Nancy Sidun Wants Psychology to Help Prevent Human Trafficking

Nancy Sidun Wants Psychology to Help Prevent Human Trafficking
Nancy Sidun
APA Fellow Nancy Sidun's clinical work has covered international relations and women's issues as well as working with the military.

What Nancy Sidun, PsyD, loves about being a psychologist is that she gets to help people attain a better life than they might otherwise have—her patients, her colleagues and the subjects of her research.

"It's hokey but true," Sidun says. As a girl, "I saw that movie, The Miracle Worker, and I was so taken by the fact that Annie Sullivan didn't give up on Helen Keller. I wanted to be like Annie Sullivan. I wanted to spend my life investing in people others thought were disposable. That's the great thing about clinical psychology. Your job is trying to empower people to be the best they can be." 

 In her own career, Sidun has followed that goal into some tough areas. In 2014, she co-chaired the APA's Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls after chairing a similar investigation for Division 52. "They were the ones who gave me voice" for pursuing the issue, Sidun says of the  APA’s Division of International Psychology, but "it became clear that we needed the support of the full APA" to effect any real change. She first got involved with the issue a decade ago, in part because she had adopted a daughter from China. "My God, what if her life had taken a different path?" Sidun says.

She's excited about the influence organized psychology may eventually bring to bear on human trafficking, which the task force report defines as the "economic exploitation of an individual through force, fraud or coercion."

The International Labor Organization has estimated that 12.3 million people worldwide are now living in some kind of forced servitude. Far and away, most victims are women. While many are forced into agricultural work and urban industries like sweat shops, nail salons and domestic service, the overwhelming majority are exploited sexually. In the United States, when women are trafficked for sex, the coercion is most likely psychological, a "grooming" process whereby a woman is lured into a seemingly caring relationship with a man who will put her to work for his benefit in the commercial sex trade, Sidun says.

"Psychology can do so much to help, but we're very late to the table. Every other discipline has been attending to trafficking," Sidun says.

Psychologists can help prevent trafficking by backing empowerment programs for vulnerable women, working to change the public's perceptions about the commercial sex trade to reduce demand, championing the rights of victimized women and identifying at-risk individuals in schools and other settings. Psychologists can also develop effective therapeutic interventions that will address the "extensive and complex" needs of women for whom the very concept of trust has been shredded, and evaluate governmental and nonprofit programs that have been set up to intervene.

One of the most important roles for psychologists is to educate the public and officials in the criminal justice system. People need to know how to recognize trafficking when they see it, and how to follow up with appropriate action that will lead to freeing the women and prosecuting the traffickers. When coercion is psychological, it's not always easy to understand the dynamic without some familiarity with research that has been done on the topic, which psychologists can make available and digestible. They can also testify in court.

U.S. citizens are among both the victims and the perpetrators in the trade, and American Indian women are the most disproportionately trafficked of any U.S. group, Sidun says.

Research on trafficking can be "challenging" to conduct, as there is "no typical case," according to the task force report. What traffickers have in common is their utter willingness to exploit the vulnerable. Any instability creates an opportunity for them, notably poverty, natural disasters and political conflict. Orphans are at particular risk. Only about 6 percent of individuals trafficked into the commercial sex trade in the United States are male.

Sidun says trafficking "runs the gamut from mom and pop operations to organized crime," from sophisticated international enterprises to teenaged boys pimping out their girlfriends. One study that looked at 25 pimps in Chicago found that they often have been "born and raised in an environment where people were exploited. Trafficking is safer and more lucrative than the drug trade, and [pimps] are less likely to get arrested. They often think of themselves as the good guys, protecting the girls. It's quite disturbing," Sidun says.

A New Jersey native, Sidun spent most of her adult life in Chicago, but 17 years ago moved to Hawaii. In Chicago, Sidun taught at a number of colleges, but Hawaii didn't offer the same opportunities. She worked for several years in administration and direct service with Kaiser Permanente, and then went into "telehealth." In a state with a large military presence, Sidun now treats "100 percent" of her clients remotely, via secure clinical video-teleconferencing (VTC) systems. "Most of my clients are in Korea," others are in Japan, Guam, American Samoa, Alaska, and the far-flung islands of Hawaii. Virtually all are military dependents or personnel on active duty she treats through the Pacific Regional Tele-Behavioral Health Hub at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Sidun says.     

"For the younger generation, it's the normal way of communicating," she says. "And some of the service members are not as comfortable with emotions, so they don't mind being in an office by themselves during a session. In some ways, for them, that [remote aspect] can enhance treatments. I don't get to read the full body language, but I really like working this way."

She finds the "military culture fascinating. You have to be aware of the culture to be effective [with military clients], and I've enjoyed getting to know about that. I'll say one thing: If I give my military clients homework, it's going to get done!" she says.

In the past, some active-duty personnel may have been concerned their careers might stall if they sought help for such work-related conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but Sidun thinks that now, "the military is trying to change that mindset. There are good treatments for PTSD," including prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). "They can help people," she says, adding that military officials definitely are beginning to recognize and encourage active-duty personnel to get the help they need.

Sidun is a past president of the Hawaii Psychological Association. She thinks activity in associations is "critical in protecting psychologists' interests. We watch bills in the legislature very closely, and advocate if we think we need to," she says.

Sidun also trains psychologists in self-care, and she's returning to using her early training in art therapy in this sideline. "We psychologists are bad at self-care," she says. "We take care of our patients, not so much of ourselves."

You could say Sidun is pursuing the role that led her into psychology, that of the dauntless teacher.

"I love supervision. I love training. It's my favorite thing," she says. "I think I'm a good clinician, but I have an opportunity to touch more people if I'm teaching."     

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05 Jun 2017

Expanding Opportunities in Women’s Specialty Care

Meet three practitioners who work hand-in-hand with medical professionals to keep new mothers, military veterans and other women healthy

The expectant mothers at Denver's Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital—a regional center for high-risk pregnancies—often have such high blood pressure that both they and their babies are at risk of complications or even death. On bed rest at the hospital for weeks or even months, they have little to do but worry—which can send their blood pressure soaring even higher.

That's where consulting psychologist Jennifer Harned Adams, PhD, comes in. She teaches the women visualization, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and other strategies they can use while they're stuck in bed. She'll also help them find relaxation apps on their cellphones or tablets so they can use the techniques whenever they need them.

"These moms are facing all these potentially scary outcomes for themselves and their babies, but can't do a whole lot physically to manage that anxiety," says Adams. "Being a part of the team is great so we can think about these moms in a more holistic fashion."

Adams's work with pregnant women is just one example of how psychologists are working with physicians and other medical providers to improve women's overall health. Adams and other psychologists are helping women transition to motherhood, overcome chronic pain, heal from sexual assault and explore their gender identities.

The Monitor spoke to Adams and two other psychologists working in integrated settings focused on women's health.

Jennifer Harned Adams is assisting new mothers

Dr. Jennifer Harned Adams specializes in treating pregnant women on hospital bed rest. Presbyterian/St. Luke's and the affiliated Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children brought Adams on two years ago, and she spends a quarter of her time consulting with patients at the hospitals. "They were seeing the need for greater support for families," says Adams, who spends the rest of her work week at her private practice. "They saw how having a psychologist would help improve the quality of the hospital stay and the transition into parenthood."

Her training prepared her well. After earning her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Houston in 2003 and doing an internship at the University of Texas-Houston Health Sciences Center, she had three years of postdoctoral training in reproductive health and psychosocial oncology at The University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On the antenatal side, Adams now spends most of her time helping women cope with extended bed rest. In addition to boredom, they're facing worries about their babies, the work they're missing and their families back home. They may be mourning past miscarriages or—in the case of multiple babies—the death of a twin or triplet. "Of course, they're also bringing in whatever was going on with their lives to begin with—relationship or financial difficulties or previous histories of depression, anxiety or substance abuse," says Adams.

And since patients come from as far away as Wyoming and Nebraska, many are also isolated. Adams helps the women problem-solve and helps prepare them and their families for potentially bad outcomes. If their stay is long enough, she might even delve into more traditional psychotherapy.

Adams also works with mothers and other family members in the neonatal intensive care unit. For many patients, ending up in the unit is a traumatic surprise following an unexpectedly premature birth or delivery complication. "Women and families can be overwhelmed," says Adams. "It can be very unsettling to feel out of control." Adams helps them find a sense of control where they can, settle into a routine and work through the trauma.

The work is fluid and fast-paced, says Adams. "I love being able to walk down a hall and have a nurse tell me she's feeling worried about a mom and being able to troubleshoot or help make a plan," she says, adding that rounds and case planning meetings offer more formal collaboration opportunities.

Adams also helps educate nurses and other health-care professionals, offering trainings on understanding grief and loss in their patients and themselves and on preventing compassion fatigue and burnout in their professional roles. "I urge them to look for opportunities for self-care for themselves and others just in the course of their day and also to make aggressive self-care—exercise, massage or other practices—a regular part of their lives," says Adams, who has also worked with the Wishbone Foundation to train more than 300 nurses in nine hospital systems how to support families who've lost their babies.

The training also helps nurses work more effectively with patients, adds Adams. Often, she says, there are communication problems because patients and their families are interacting angrily with nurses and other providers. "I help providers reframe that anger as fear, which helps them respond differently," she says.

Kelly Huffman is helping patients overcome pelvic pain

Dr. Kelly Huffman specializes in treating pelvic painKelly Huffman, PhD, specializes in another type of care for women: treating pelvic pain. "Women are overrepresented in chronic pain populations," says Huffman, a psychologist at a pelvic pain clinic "by and for women" within the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Neurological Restoration.

Pelvic pain can have many causes. No matter what the etiology, it can leave women depressed or anxious about what's wrong with them. Pelvic pain can also cause sexual dysfunction and thus relationship problems.

And psychological distress can make pain worse, says Huffman, who did a postdoctoral fellowship in psychology and pain medicine at the Cleveland Clinic after earning her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2008.

"If you have a lot of stress, depression, anxiety and other things going on in your life, it can amplify pain perception," she says. The opposite is true, too. "If you don't have a lot going on in your life, pain can become front and center in your life because you have nothing else to focus on."

When patients with pelvic pain come to the clinic, they consult with Huffman, plus a physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist and other team members who create individualized treatment plans. For some, that might mean surgery; for others, pelvic floor therapy, a type of physical therapy designed to rehabilitate pelvic floor muscles. The clinic also weans patients off opioid analgesics, if necessary. For patients who need more help, the clinic runs a three-week, full-time rehabilitation program.

Huffman's role on the team is to address any psychological issues. She might counsel couples on relaxation techniques they can use to enhance sexual functioning, for instance. Or she might help a sexual assault survivor work through the trauma that's contributing to her pain.

Working collaboratively can prevent unnecessary medical interventions, says Huffman. One patient, for example, had such severe pain with intercourse that she was scheduled for a vestibulectomy—surgical removal of some flesh at the vagina's opening. When Huffman talked with the patient, however, it turned out that it wasn't a physical problem that was holding her back but instead uncertainty about her sexual orientation. "If you don't have a partner you're attracted to, of course it would make intercourse difficult," says Huffman. The surgery was canceled.

Because many patients are convinced they need opioids to manage their pain, Huffman also provides psycho-education. "The common perception is, ‘If I have pain, the answer is to take opioid analgesics,'" says Huffman. Addiction isn't the only danger of opioid use: Opioids can also make pain worse. "Most patients don't know about acute versus chronic pain," says Huffman. "Opioids are actually contraindicated for chronic pain."

This kind of integrated approach works, Huffman and her colleagues have found. In a study of 36 patients with pelvic pain, Huffman and co-authors found that interdisciplinary treatment including medication management, occupational and physical therapy, and individual, group and family therapy significantly improved pain severity, disability, depression, anxiety and "catastrophizing" (Journal of Pain, 2016).

And word is getting out, says Huffman. "The pelvic pain clinic has only been open for about a year," she says. "At this time, we have more volume than we can handle."

Rosalie C. Diaz is helping veterans heal

Dr. Rosalie C. Diaz treats female veterans in a women’s healthcare clinicIn the military, seeking mental health care can be especially stigmatizing. That's one reason why psychologist Rosalie C. Diaz, PsyD, is happy to be treating female veterans in a stand-alone women's clinic at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. "Having a psychologist be part of their primary-care team isn't seen as stigmatizing by our veterans," says Diaz. "I'm just part of the team."

The VA began emphasizing coordinated, co-located care in 2010 as a way of decreasing stigma and improving access to care, says Diaz, who did her predoctoral internship at Louis Stokes in 2003 and started her current position in 2013. "It's also seen as cost-effective because you're being more preventive," she says. A physician or other provider might be worried about a patient's depression, substance use or cognitive capacity, for example, so Diaz meets with the patient, screens for the problem and works with the provider on treatment recommendations. Other patients may have mood disorders, insomnia or difficulties with medical compliance. Infertility, pregnancy loss and post-traumatic stress disorder are also common.

Military sexual trauma—and the wide range of psychological emotions that often accompany it—is another big issue. "If you review their records before they see you, they'll sometimes deny to a provider that there has been any assault," says Diaz. "Then you're seeing them for therapy, and they'll share something that they've never confided before."

On an individual level, a veteran might also need Diaz to accompany her to gynecological exams to help her cope and avoid panic, for example. More broadly, Diaz and others are also working to raise awareness of military sexual trauma among patients and providers alike with an annual monthlong education campaign. For the veterans, she says, the campaign emphasizes that they're not alone and that there's an advocate for them. For providers, the message is that trauma is often hidden. "The provider might see anger in the forefront, but underneath there's fear or vulnerability," says Diaz. By working alongside the physician or other provider, Diaz can help ensure the patient gets the care she needs.

Diaz also works with the center's transgender clinic, which addresses physical, social and mental health issues. As part of that interdisciplinary team, she helps patients manage their transitions and explore their gender identity. She also helps screen patients to see if they're candidates for hormone therapy. Many of these patients have experienced bullying and harassment and may feel depressed, anxious or just uncertain. "We're looking at stability, support and their use of coping skills," says Diaz, who works alongside a primary-care physician, a psychiatrist, nurses, a social worker and another psychologist.

The biggest challenge with providing collaborative, multidisciplinary care that involves so many specialty providers in the same place at the same time is that it requires a good amount of time and space for them to collaborate on the best plans of care for their patients, says Diaz. "We have a lot of providers ready and willing to see veterans, but sometimes it's hard to coordinate with all the different disciplines and find rooms because we're growing," she says. "That's probably a good problem to have."

More on integrated care

Every 2016 issue of the Monitor features a profile of a psychologist on an integrated-care team. To access the full series, visit our digital edition at www.apa.org/monitor/digital.

By Rebecca Clay

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01 Jun 2017

Working with an Accountable Care Organization

Working with an Accountable Care Organization

Arnold D. Holzman and his practice are joining forces with hundreds of physicians.

Ask Arnold D. Holzman, PhD, how he sees the future of psychology, and he lays out a vision of psychologists working side by side with physicians in accountable care organizations — groups of health-care providers who come together to provide care for a particular patient population and enjoy bonuses for keeping their patients healthy. That's why Holzman quickly agreed when an accountable care organization called the Community Medical Group asked his practice for help last year.

The idea behind the accountable care organization was to better serve patients in Connecticut's New Haven and Fairfield counties. But the several hundred physicians involved soon realized they couldn't go it alone.

"They kept coming back to the need for high-quality psychological intervention," says Holzman, co-founder and managing partner of Behavioral Health Consultants, LLC, in Hamden, Connecticut. "Many of the problems that bring individuals to physicians' offices, particularly primary-care offices, are psychologically based."

As a result, the accountable care organization turned for help to Behavioral Health Consultants, which has 11 psychologists and three master's-level clinicians on staff and subcontracts with other mental health professionals — about half of them psychologists — as needed.

Accountable care organizations are springing up in response to the Affordable Care Act, which is intended to improve care and reduce costs by encouraging reimbursement focused on the quality — not the number — of services provided. Physicians share accountability for the cost and quality of care delivered to a patient population, with insurers rewarding improved outcomes and lower costs. The organizations can not only develop their own treatment protocols but also share electronic medical records and back-office functions, such as billing and appointments.

Realizing that integrating medical and psychological services was key, Community Medical Group recruited Behavioral Health Consultants, whose providers already had relationships with many of the physicians in the organization, to provide the psychological services its patients need.

Behavioral Health Consultants and the accountable care organization are currently separate entities, but the two are discussing the possibility of co-located services. That way, says Holzman, patients will see psychologists as "a routine extension of their work with a doctor as opposed to something separate." He hopes that eventually his practice will be able to enjoy such benefits of integration as shared administrative and support services and electronic medical records, joint negotiations with payers, even profit-sharing. "This is a process that will take years," he predicts.

So far, the relationship consists of referrals.

"The problem with more traditional relationships, as many physicians have told us, is they'll often tell patients they should go see someone, but they don't know whom to refer them to," says Holzman. "And they don't know if they got there because there's no [follow-up] communication."

The physicians now tap Holzman and his colleagues when they suspect patients have emotional or behavioral problems that are impairing their health. One young man, for example, came to Holzman after tests could find no medical reason for his chest pain and other symptoms of a possible heart problem. The real issue turned out to be anxiety. "Once we reframed his symptoms as anxiety, we could approach the problem as a psychological one, not a medical one," says Holzman, who used cognitive-behavioral therapy to teach the man how to better manage the stressors in his life and the resulting anxiety.

But Holzman and his colleagues also assist patients with medical problems. In fact, they are developing the accountable care organization's protocol for treating patients who have diabetes along with depression, obesity or other problems, yet aren't following their physicians' recommendations. The protocol will lay out how referrals will be made, as well as guidelines for individual and group treatment and outcome measures so all of the providers can determine whether treatment is successful.

Holzman is also in discussions with insurers who may provide seed money for demonstration projects to show that adding psychologists' interventions keeps patients healthier. "They see our work as potentially reducing their financial exposure if patients get better sooner," he says.

He encourages other psychologists to get involved with accountable care organizations, either by developing relationships with physicians who are members of one or more organizations or by joining practices like his own that have already developed those relationships.

Holzman's background in pain management and health psychology prepared him well for working with an accountable care organization, he says. "When you're trained in pain management, communicating with physician referral sources is second nature," says Holzman, who earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1981.

Such integrated care, he adds, is not only good for patients. It's also good for the bottom line. Because of the new relationship with the accountable care organization, Holzman anticipates substantial growth and expects to bring on many more clinicians and subcontractors.

"That's really the motivation here: to provide high quality service and be successful at the same time," he says.

By Rebecca A. Clay 

This article was originally published in the May 2016 Monitor on Psychology

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24 May 2017

Primary-Care Practices Appreciate Having Integrated Behavioral Health Consultants

Primary-Care Practices Appreciate Having Integrated Behavioral Health Consultants
When a new patient burst into tears in his office at Mercy Heath's Springfield Family Medicine Clinic in Cincinnati, physician Douglas L. Hancher, MD, suspected she needed more help than she would admit, even though she denied she was suicidal.

"In the old days, we would have had to look at her insurance, check who was in her plan and seeing new patients and refer her to someone who might have been 20 miles on the other side of town," says Hancher. "Then it could take six weeks to get an appointment."

Not anymore. Thanks to Mercy Health's commitment to embedding behavioral health consultants in primary-care practices, psychologist Leslie Instone, PhD, was just across the hall and able to see the patient immediately. She discovered that the woman had tried to kill herself before and had a plan to try again soon. She sent the patient to the psychiatric emergency room, where she got the help she needed.

"I would have felt terrible if I had missed someone who was suicidal and she went on to commit suicide," says Hancher. "Having a back-up is good."

Stories like that are one reason why Mercy Health—one of the nation's 10 largest nonprofit health systems—is moving aggressively to integrate behavioral health consultants into its family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric clinics in Ohio and Kentucky. The goal is to achieve the triple aim of better health, lower costs and enhanced patient satisfaction, says Martyn Whittingham, PhD, the psychologist who launched the initiative in 2014 as chief of clinical integration and research at Mercy's Behavioral Health Institute. (Whittingham has since left the organization.)

According to Mercy Health's preliminary data, Hancher isn't the only physician who appreciates having a behavioral health consultant as part of the team. In a survey of 100 physicians and staff members at seven Cincinnati practices involved in the integration project, participants gave almost everything at least four points on a five-point scale:

  • Access to care. Providers and practice staff, such as practice managers and care coordinators, gave an average rating of 4.7 when asked how helpful integration has been for patients and how it has increased ease of access to behavioral health services for patients. That's an especially important figure given Mercy's mission of serving the underserved, says Whittingham.
  • Helpfulness. The survey also asked questions aimed specifically at providers. When asked how helpful having a behavioral health consultant was in terms of providers' ability to do their own jobs, for example, the average rating was 4.5.
  • Improved work flow. Providers gave a 4.2 average response when asked how much the integrated behavioral health model improved the work flow in their day-to-day practice. "The behavioral health consultant could have been seen as invasive or blocking work flow," says Whittingham. "Instead, they improve work flow, even in this really early stage."
  • Satisfaction. The 4.7 average score for a question about how likely providers are to recommend behavioral health integration to their colleagues is a key indicator of success, says Whittingham. "That's the final test," he says, adding that momentum is building as participating physicians like Hancher share their experiences with behavioral health consultants with their colleagues. "Physicians are coming to us and asking, 'When am I getting mine?'"

There are already 14 behavioral health consultants—primarily psychologists, plus a couple of social workers—in 24 of the system's 150-plus primary-care clinics. Another three are under contract but haven't yet started. And the system plans to hire many more this year. About 25 percent of the system's 600,000 patients already have access to a behavioral health consultant. It has been a challenge to find enough psychologists ready and willing to work in these fast-paced, integrated settings. "There aren't enough people trained in primary-care integration," says Whittingham, who earned his doctorate in counseling psychology from Indiana University in 2006. "I've visited multiple universities and told deans, 'If you train them, we have positions they can apply for.'"

To make up for that lack of preparation, Mercy Health has developed an intensive training regimen for new hires. In addition to watching training videos, new behavioral health consultants "shadow" more seasoned consultants in their own practices for a week. Then they flip positions, moving into their new settings with their colleagues alongside them to supervise them for a week.

On the medical side, physicians are discovering that behavioral health consultants can help not just with psychological problems but with physical problems, too, including medication adherence, exercise and smoking cessation, says Mbonu N. Ikezuagu, MD, MBA, the attending physician for the internal medicine residency program at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.

"Integrating a behavioral health consultant into our office has moved us closer to achieving our goal of delivering amazing patient care," says Ikezuagu, adding that both the attending physicians and 36 residents use the service on a daily basis. "This is the wave of the future."

By Rebecca A. Clay

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24 Feb 2017

Adventures in Integrated Care Collection Booklet

Adventures in Integrated Care Collection Booklet

Improving the health of people requires that they have access to effective and efficient psychological services for the prevention and treatment of a wide range of emotional and behavioral conditions. Psychologists are actively involved in clinical treatment, health system design, and the implementation of innovative approaches to health care.

To illustrate this important connection and promote the valuable role psychology plays in health care, the Monitor on Psychology published Adventures in Integrated Care, a yearlong series of articles that showcase psychology practitioners who work on a variety of medical teams, reporting on what these practitioners do and how they got the education and training to do it.

We have placed all these articles into a collection booklet for you to read in one convenient place. Please enjoy.

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