As more medical practices implement a collaborative approach to healthcare, mental health patients receive better access to professionals with a social work degree, counseling degree, or psychology degree.

Collaborative Care: Increasing Career Options for Those With a Psychology DegreeIt’s estimated that only about 25% of the individuals suffering from depression and other common mental disorders are receiving the care they need.* This gap, coupled with the high costs associated with healthcare, has led many medical practices to adapt a collaborative approach to treatment—offering physical and behavioral health services, all under one roof.

Under the collaborative care model, primary care physicians, mental health providers, and case managers work together to care for patients. This collaborative approach helps to lower costs and ensure the services, medications, and treatments patients receive are well coordinated. As an added benefit, this model of healthcare has opened new doors for those contemplating a social work degree, counseling degree, or psychology degree—both in online learning and traditional higher education settings.

Unfortunately, not all collaborative medical practices currently include mental or behavioral healthcare coverage, though data has shown how beneficial it can be. One particular study examined the need for mental healthcare services to be integrated into a collaborative care model for Medicaid patients, and found that:*

  1. Of patients with mental health disorders, only 20% are in the care of a mental health specialist.
  2. When patients with more common mental health issues, such as depression, are cared for under a collaborative system, it is more effective and cost-efficient than conventional care.
  3. When patients’ antidepressant medications are prescribed by their primary care physician as opposed to a psychiatrist, only 20% show substantial clinical improvements.

The types of mental healthcare providers within a collaborative practice can vary, depending on the type of care needs, but might include professionals who hold an MS in Addiction Counseling, MS in Psychology, PhD in Social Work, Doctor of Social Work (DSW), or PhD in Psychology. By combining these highly trained behavioral health providers with a team of medical specialists, patients are more likely to receive care that might otherwise have been neglected. The result? Healthier individuals—both physically and mentally.

*The Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, Health Home Brief, The Collaborative Care Model: An Approach for Integrating Physical and Mental Health Care in Medicaid Health Homes, May, 2013. On the Internet at www.medicaid.gov/State-Resource-Center/Medicaid-State-Technical-Assistance/Health-Homes-Technical-Assistance/Downloads/HH-IRC-Collaborative-5-13.pdf.