APA (American Psychiatric Association) Caucus on CAM

This just in from CAM and Psychiatry authority James Lake, M.D., affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine: the APA (American Psychiatric Association) Caucus on CAM and integrative approaches in mental health care is up and running. The new Caucus (established May 2004) gathers together prominent psychiatrists exploring spirituality and mental health. Psychiatrists interested in participating in the Caucus should go to the new website at www.apacam.org . Below is the press release with more information. Thanks to James for a labor of love bringing these issues to the forefront. Together with other colleagues such as David Spiegel, M.D. also of Stanford University School of Medicine, James has been pioneering in helping to develop this area.

CAM Caucus Press Release (revised 8-06-04)

July 23, 2004

American Psychiatric Association Establishes Caucus on Complementary,
Alternative and Integrative Approaches in Mental Health Care

The decision of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to establish a special Caucus on Complementary, Alternative And Integrative Approaches in Mental Health Care is a timely and proactive response to the increasing use of non-conventional treatments in mental health care. The Caucus is the result of the shared interests and efforts of many psychiatrists who are committed to working within the APA to establish expert resources on complex clinical and research issues pertaining to uses of complementary, alternative and integrative approaches in mental health care. Caucus members will advise relevant APA committees (including the Committee on Research on New Treatments) on significant emerging research findings or safety considerations pertaining to complementary,
alternative and integrative treatments.

In recent decades there has been a growing trend toward the use of
complementary and alternative medical (CAM) approaches in mental health care. Patient surveys suggest that 60% of psychiatric patients,
especially those suffering from severe anxiety or depressive disorders, use some form of complementary or alternative treatment. Most patients who use popular non-conventional approaches to treat a mental health problem don't disclose this fact to their psychiatrists or family practice physicians. At the same time, increasing numbers of
psychiatrists and non-medically trained mental health professionals
believe that certain CAM modalities are valid and effective treatments.

Many psychiatrists have received training in or more areas of
alternative or complementary medicine, and treat patients directly
using one or more non-conventional approaches, including acupuncture and herbal medicines. Non-dually trained psychiatrists or family practice physicians actively refer patients to CAM practitioners for the treatment of mental or emotional problems while continuing to manage their care.

An organizing meeting for the Caucus On Complementary, Alternative And
Integrative Approaches In Mental Health Care was included as an
Official satellite activity at the May 2004 Annual Meeting of the APA in New York City. Twenty eight psychiatrists convened in a hospitality suite hosted by Darrel Regier MD, executive director of the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education (APIRE). A broad range of clinical and research interests pertaining to non-conventional treatments of psychiatric disorders was represented, including evidence-based uses of exercise, dietary supplements, Western herbs, Yoga, Taichi, and other mind-body practices, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, orthomolecular approaches, massage therapy, guided imagery, homeopathy, and other modalities. The diverse perspectives and backgrounds of psychiatrists who have chosen to join the Caucus reflect the widespread and increasing interest among conventionally trained psychiatrists in
complementary, alternative and integrative treatments addressing the
range of psychiatric disorders. Most are Board-certified clinical
psychiatrists. Some are full-time researchers, many have academic
appointments at Departments of Psychiatry at Columbia, Stanford,
Harvard, UCSF, Duke and other academic medical centers. Several APA.
fellows and distinguished fellows are committing their energy and time
to the goals of the Caucus. Following informal introductions, a draft
charter was reviewed and some initial goals were discussed. The central objective of the Caucus is the development of expert resources on complementary, alternative and integrative approaches pertaining to mental health care in order to provide psychiatrists, other physician specialists, and non-medically trained mental health professionals with accurate, clinically relevant information on safe and effective non-conventional treatments. Three broad goals were discussed:

1. Educating APA member and non-member psychiatrists, and non-medically trained mental health professionals about safe, evidence-based uses of complementary and alternative treatments in mental health care.

2. Conducting a survey of APA member and non-member psychiatrists in
order to characterize and quantify psychiatrists' beliefs and practices regarding uses of complementary and alternative treatments.

3. Establishing a research agenda prioritizing those complementary or
alternative modalities of great interest to psychiatrists, and which
hold great promise as treatments of psychiatric disorders.

An important immediate goal will be the design and implementation of
courses and symposia at future APA annual meetings on important
research and clinical areas in psychiatry. Including courses on topical CAM issues at future regional and national meetings will add to scope and breadth of a few excellent courses on Western herbal medicines and natural supplements that have proven extremely successful in recent years. The importance of developing evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for the use of CAM or integrative approaches in mental health care was discussed. Other important goals of the Caucus will include networking with the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), as well as professional organizations representing practitioners in diverse areas of complementary and alternative medicine. The APA has established an official list-serve to assist Caucus members in planning activities. The list-serve provides a forum in which Caucus members can exchange perspectives from their research and clinical experiences related to non-conventional treatments in psychiatry. A dedicated web-site has been created to provide a resource for clinical and research psychiatrists interested in staying current with the accumulating evidence base supporting uses of complementary or alternative treatments in mental health care. The responsible and ethical practice of complementary and alternative approaches in mental health care is a fundamental concern. We are pleased that Michael Cohen JD, MBA, Associate Professor of Medicine, Center for Integrative Medicine, Harvard Medical School, has agreed to consult with the Caucus to facilitate the establishment of legal guidelines for psychiatrists who treat patients using CAM modalities or
refer patients to professional CAM practitioners.

Psychiatrists interested in participating in the Caucus should go to
Our web-site at www.apacam.org , where you will be guided to a short survey and a registration page. Please note that it is not required to be an APA member to participate in the Caucus. The survey is an important task in our effort to identify psychiatrists' perspectives and interests pertaining to complementary or alternative approaches in mental health care. Your comments will permit us to plan educational activities that address shared interests. When registering, you may elect to receive e-mail updates of on-going and planned Caucus activities. If you wish to become a member of the caucus, please click on " Caucus Membership "
when registering. As a formal member of the Caucus, you are eligible
for participation in the online discussion groups, where you can
network with other members, express your professional interests, get involved with on-going projects, or propose new ideas.