Professional Competencies and Training Needs of Professional Social Workers in Integrated Behavioral Health in Primary Care


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

The Affordable Care Act has led to a widespread movement to integrate behavioral health services into primary care settings. Integrated behavioral health (IBH) holds promise for treating mild to moderate psychiatric disorders in a manner that more fully addresses the biopsychosocial spectrum of needs of individuals and families in primary care, and for reducing disparities in accessing behavioral health care. For behavioral health practitioners, IBH requires a shift to a brief, outcome-driven, and team-based model of care. Despite the fact that social workers comprise the majority of behavioral health providers in IBH settings, little research has been done to assess the extent to which social workers are prepared for effective practice in fast-paced primary care. We conducted a survey of social workers (N = 84) in IBH settings to assess the following: (1) Key competency areas for social work practice in IBH settings and (2) Self-rated preparedness for effective practice in IBH settings. Online snowball sampling methods were used over a period of 1 month. Results indicate that social workers feel prepared for general practice in IBH settings, but would benefit from additional training in IBH-specific competency areas identified in the survey. Findings can help guide social work training to improve workforce preparedness for practice in IBH settings in the wake of health care reform.

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