How Psychiatry + Therapy Work Together Towards Better Patient Outcomes

February 21, 2024 | Teletherapy

Across the country, organizations that offer mental and behavioral healthcare to communities in need have long found that providers can be hard to come by. A shortage of qualified providers has been a chronic condition the industry has faced, and in more rural areas, that lack of availability has been, and still is, experienced in a more exaggerated way than in more urban and suburban areas. 


All of this was true even before stigma surrounding mental healthcare began to wane and demand for care began to increase. Recent adjustments to payer reimbursements, however, could offer some game-changing flexibility for organizations in need of greater treatment capacity. 


Those changes allow for organizations to bring a wider range of provider types on board in a cost-effective manner, to better serve the needs of the communities for which they’re providing care.


And even beyond a broader reimbursement standpoint, for providers such as licensed clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors, additional providers on clinical teams facilitate greater access to care and an opportunity for improved outcomes for patients in need. 


Tanya Wozniak, an innovaTel psychiatrist who serves as Medical Director at two rural CCBHCs in Minnesota, said she welcomes the ability to easily collaborate around patient care with other providers — such as counselors or social workers — on her clinical team. 


If a patient of hers is also seeing another provider to engage in cognitive behavioral therapy, she appreciates the opportunity to review notes or directly converse with the provider about any changes or concerns regarding the patient. And that collaboration is made even easier when the provider is within the same organization, which is the framework for a number of innovaTel partnerships. 


“Working in the same organization with both sides of the table, it’s really easy to send a message about missed appointments or something, and the therapist can give feedback,” Wozniak said. “It allows for that collaboration as well as just review of documents that are available.”


After all, the time spent with a patient during a psychiatry appointment and a therapy appointment is different. Psychiatry appointments generally involve a review of what the patient is experiencing, a medical history and often medication evaluation and management. Therapy appointments are rooted more in emotional skill building, leaving room for additional context related to life events. 


Therapy appointments may also be more frequent than psychiatry appointments. It is with that understanding that Wozniak appreciates the perspective that a therapist or counselor may offer her when discussing the progress or setbacks for a  specific patient. 


“They see things I don’t, and vice versa,” Wozniak said of partners on her clinical teams. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of having everybody on a ‘think tank’ where everyone can come together as a multidisciplinary team for a patient to discuss what is happening and what resources are available.”


And most times, Wozniak said, patients experience better outcomes with a multidisciplinary approach to care — which underscores the importance of improved reimbursements for licensed professional counselors, especially when working in tandem with psychiatrists.


“Almost everything we treat is going to do better and have better outcomes with a combination of therapy and medications,” she said. 


Download our recent report Pairing Telepsychiatry with Teletherapy to learn more.

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