Journal Title George Fox Journal Online

Holistic healthcare

by Sean Patterson

professor Mary Peterson (left) and student Venessa Casilla
George Fox is one of only seven evangelical Christian schools in the nation with American Psychological Association accreditation of its PsyD program.

When 6-year-old Amber's stomach problems couldn't be diagnosed despite medical tests and X-rays, the resident physician at an Oregon Health and Science University medicine clinic turned to George Fox's mental health consultation program.

After discussing the case with Clark Campbell, acting chair of the university's Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology, the doctor discovered the source of the discomfort: The girl was involved in a parental custody battle and her pain was related to stress associated with weekend visitation.

"I think we saved the girl from having costly and potentially painful additional tests by considering the whole life situation she was experiencing," Campbell says.

Campbell's assessment - that the girl's mental and emotional wellness was tied to physical health - illustrates the holistic approach of the department and the consultation program it runs at Providence Newberg Medical Center. The program promotes the fusion of medicine and psychology to treat the whole person, not just the illness.

"For years, medicine and psychology ascribed to the mind-body dualism articulated by Descartes, which led to the thinking that some problems are physical and some are mental or emotional," says Campbell, director of clinical training. "Unfortunately, research does not support this clear differentiation, and thus many health-related problems today are treated holistically with treatment efforts that target the body, mind, and spirit."

The principle also applies to the department's new pain clinic at Providence, which works in tandem with the health consultation program by offering individual assessment and therapy, group therapy, and collaboration with primary care and emergency department physicians.

illustration of pain in the head and stomach

Under the direction of Mary Peterson, the pain clinic serves as a referral option for the mental health consultants at Providence and for other health care agencies on an outpatient basis. After patients come in for consultation, those considered in need of further assistance are referred to the pain clinic.

There, patients are advised of methods to reduce pain through non-narcotic means. "The use of narcotics is only one aspect of pain management and has limited efficacy as patients often build tolerance to pain medication," Peterson says. "So, the pain management program provides adjunctive service and care."

Most of the patients referred to the pain clinic are those who have made repeated visits to the emergency department for treatment of chronic pain. Once referred, the patient receives free pain management consultation from George Fox interns, a service made possible by a joint agreement between the department and hospital.

The result: In the last year, consultation sessions have reduced recidivism in the highest users of the emergency department - those with more than six visits in a six-month period - by 40 percent.

Peterson sees the partnership of psychology and medicine as more than a trend. "The future of health care will be much more integrated than the current system," she says. "We anticipate many more opportunities for psychologists to work in hospitals and other health-care settings."

The department is also assisting at-risk youth in the community, partnering with Chehalem Youth & Family Services (CYFS) of Newberg to develop an internship site accredited by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral Internship Centers. The site provides free mental health services for community members who don't have the insurance to cover them.

Wayne Adams, department chair, helped secure the $112,000 grant that made the opening of the internship site possible. George Fox's connection to the clinic continued with Campbell providing accreditation guidance and CYFS Clinical Director Scott Ashdown joining the university's clinical faculty. Ashdown visits the clinic weekly to participate in the academic and clinical training of doctor of clinical psychology students.


The Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

George Fox is the only evangelical Christian school in the Northwest with American Psychological Association accreditation of its PsyD program - and one of only seven such schools in the nation.

In addition to its work at Providence Newberg Medical Center, the PsyD program annually sends 15 students to urban, suburban, and rural health-related clinical training sites that include Oregon Health and Science University, Kaiser medical clinics in Portland and Salem, Salem Hospital, and Salem Veteran’s outpatient clinic.

From there, many students earn nationally competitive internships in medical settings throughout the country. Students also are encouraged to pursue specialized training opportunities in health psychology. The curriculum includes courses related to this subspecialty, including health psychology, biological basis of behavior, neuropsychology, psychopharmacology, stress and psychophysiology, and substance abuse.

Of its eight full-time faculty, three members of the PsyD program have consulted in primary health settings in areas related to medical psychology and are formally affiliated with Providence.

In all, approximately 20 students annually participate in the department’s health psychology clinical programs, which include a pain clinic, cancer support groups, sleep lab modules, and educational forums that cover everything from childbirth and diabetes to Parkinson’s disease.

The Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology, begun in 1976 as part of Western Seminary in Portland, transferred to George Fox in 1990. The department secured APA accreditation in 1998.

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