The Role of the Licensed Psychologist in the Management of Rheumatic Disease

licensed psychologist

The licensed psychologist assesses the individual's and family's psychological status and ability to cope with the unpredictable nature and changing health status associated with rheumatic conditions. The psychologist conducts psychological tests and interviews that may be used to assess an individual's psychosocial status including;

  • adjustment to disability
  • adherence to treatment
  • coping style
  • family interaction/communication
  • emotional functioning, such as levels of anxiety and depression, as well as resilience factors
  • cognitive functioning
  • transition planning (adolescents)

What Does the Licensed Psychologist Do?

Based on an evaluation, the licensed psychologist tailors a treatment plan to meet the needs of the patient. The psychologist provides a wide range of interventions designed to enhance coping and overall psychological well-being. Such interventions could include cognitive behavioral therapy, pain, sleep and stress management, sexual and relationship counseling, family or couples counseling, and psychotherapy.

Psychological therapy may include short-term interventions for dealing with normal adjustment issues and/or improving symptom management and functioning, crisis management and intervention (involving persons high-risk for harm to self or others), or long-term psychotherapy for the treatment of more chronic psychological disorders. Treatment is usually provided in a private practice setting, hospital or outpatient clinic. In the rehabilitation setting, the licensed psychologist may be called upon for consultation in matters related to behavioral management, treatment adherence, and cognitive dysfunction.

The licensed psychologist may interact with rheumatologists and psychiatrists when combined psychological and medication treatments are needed. The psychologist may be involved in program planning, validation and research, as well as the development and validation of assessment measures. A neuropsychologist, who specializes in the functioning of the brain, may become involved with persons with rheumatic disease when there are questions/concerns about changes in cognitive functioning.

Licensed psychologists specializing in children and adolescents (school or pediatric) may get involved in preparing for and implementing school work transitions for teens with rheumatic disease. Psychologists work with persons of all ages.

Where Does the Licensed Psychologist Work?

Psychological interventions may be provided individually or in a group setting. The licensed psychologist works in a wide variety of settings, including private practice, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, transitional living centers, nursing homes, industry, and all types of educational settings.

What Kind of Training Does the Licensed Psychologist Have?

Supervised pre-doctoral internships are required to obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, neuropsychology and some other specialty areas of psychology. Degrees commonly conferred by doctoral training programs include Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).

PhDs are awarded after a minimum of three years of graduate level coursework and the completion of a dissertation involving an original research project. PsyD is an applied clinical doctoral degree (in clinical psychology) that does not necessarily require completion of a dissertation. Pre-doctoral supervised, clinical experiences and requirements are included in both the PhD and PsyD training programs.

All licensed psychologists have completed a national licensing exam and completed a range of specific state requirements to be licensed to practice as a psychologist in any given state. In many states, additional one to two-year postdoctoral training may be required to obtain licensure as a psychologist. Psychologists also may obtain certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology (abbreviated as ABPP) which is not required for clinical practice.

In a small number of states, psychologists may be allowed to obtain specialized pharmacological training in order to be licensed to prescribe neuropsychiatric medications for patients with mental health illness.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnoses and treatment of a medical or health condition.

© 2016 American College of Rheumatology