Op-Ed

Psychological testing, therapy can light way to better health

McClatchy-Tribune

A recently published op-ed by Herald-Leader parenting columnist John Rosemond questioned both the science and regulation of psychology.

Rosemond made several unfounded assertions.

Decades of rigorous scientific research have shown that psychotherapy works. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a highly effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, ADHD, PTSD and anxiety disorders.

Research shows that most people who go to psychotherapy get significantly better. They report fewer symptoms, better well-being, and a higher overall quality of life.

Furthermore, psychotherapy is often a better long-term treatment than medication, and is often recommended as a first line of treatment for many mental health conditions including PTSD and insomnia.

Suggesting that people avoid psychologists for mental-health problems is like arguing that you shouldn’t go to an oncologist when you’re diagnosed with cancer. If you find yourself struggling with mental health concerns, help is available and it works.

The scientific evidence behind assessment and diagnosis of mental health problems is also strong.

Psychological testing and diagnostic interviewing to determine what you’re struggling with and how to help is key for a successful outcome.

Careful assessment is especially crucial to helping kids struggling with mental health issues get back on track. Tests assessing children’s intelligence, academic performance, mood concerns, anxiety and symptoms of autism all have strong research support.

Such tests undergo frequent revision to ensure accuracy and to make sure they stay up to date with the most current research.

A good assessment by a licensed psychologist can help parents answer questions about whether their child is struggling in school because of academic, developmental or emotional problems. Once a psychologist determines the appropriate diagnosis for a child through a psychological assessment, they can provide recommendations and a tailored treatment plan.

One example of a recommendation provided by a child psychologist after assessment and diagnosis includes informing school administrators on how to tailor an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan that will enable the child to be most successful in the school setting.

These evaluations often make recommendations to use psychotherapy in order to minimize children’ use of psychiatric medication when possible. It’s doubtful many parents would find these individualized recommendations and resources unnecessary, as Rosemond said.

As for the regulation of psychology, it is critical that the public be able to distinguish those with training in the assessment and treatment of psychological problems from those with no training or with other credentials.

The action taken by the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology against Rosemond had nothing to do with the so-called “common-sense parenting advice” he says he offers in his column. It had everything to do with the manner in which he represented his professional credentials.

This particular case may or may not have had any meaningful consequence for the citizens of Kentucky. But it is critical that our state licensing boards continue to defend professional practice.

What about the next time when some charlatan misrepresents himself as a doctor offering some dangerous cure for a painful or life-threatening malady? Won’t our friends and family members be pleased that our licensing boards are on the job protecting their health and well-being?

For more information about the effectiveness of psychotherapy and other evidence-based psychological practice, visit the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org/helpcenter and follow @APAHelpCenter on Twitter.

Jennifer L. Price is public education chair of the Kentucky Psychological Foundation. The column was also signed by foundation president Cay Shawler of Danville and other foundation leaders Brighid Kleinman and Brian Belva of Louisville, as well as Eric Russ of Louisville and the Kentucky Psychological Association.

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