Tennessee Colleague Assistance Foundation

TPA Newsletter Article – Mar 3, 2015

As awareness has risen regarding impairment in the profession of psychology, many in our profession have recognized the need for the development of colleague assistance programs to address this critical issue.  However, nearly two thirds of the states in the US do not have a colleague assistance program. Tennessee is fortunate to have progressive, forward thinking minds on our Tennessee Psychological Association (TPA) Board and the Board of Examiners (BOE) in Psychology. The boards of our state and state association recognized the value of having colleague assistance in Tennessee many years ago, and as a result Tennessee psychologists have the benefit of having the Tennessee Colleague Assistance Foundation (TCAF) in their corner.

TCAF was developed by psychologists, for psychologists. TCAF is an independent, non-profit Tennessee corporation developed specifically to provide education, prevention, intervention, rehabilitation, and, monitoring services for impaired psychology professionals. Founded and chartered by Dr. Murphy Thomas and Dr. Brian Wind in 2005, TCAF was awarded a contract several years ago with the state of Tennessee’s BOE to provide services for psychology professionals across the state.

For over 20 years, services for impaired psychology professionals were provided by the Colleague Assistance Committee (CAC) of TPA. The CAC helped many of our colleagues over the years, but never had a formal relationship with the BOE. Since TCAF is legally independent of TPA, it has been able to develop a formal relationship with the BOE without creating potential liability issues for TPA.

TCAF’s Board of Directors is composed of representatives from the three grand divisions of Tennessee (east, middle and west). All are psychologists except for an attorney, who serves as an “at large” member. We have sought a balance between “old timers” and “new blood”; between those “in recovery” and those who are not so identified; and between men and women. No board member is paid for his or her services.

Throughout the process of developing TCAF’s charter, mission statement, by-laws, policies/procedures, and monitoring protocols, we relied heavily on the support and guidance of respected TPA leaders who have experience and expertise regarding professional impairment. Dr. Kent Cox and other CAC members were involved with the development of the TCAF. TCAF ultimately “absorbed” the functions of the CAC in 2006, and several CAC members remain actively involved in TCAF.  Also, we are fortunate to have the support of and work side by side with such organizations as the Tennessee Medical Foundation (TMF), a successful professional monitoring organization developed in the 1980’s to assist impaired physicians. TCAF’s intervention/monitoring program is modeled after other proven, successful monitoring programs and is run by trained, competent providers with experience in the field of professional monitoring. Some of the services that are provided by TCAF include:

      • Referral to qualified healthcare professionals for comprehensive evaluations
      • Referral to qualified healthcare providers for treatment
      • Random alcohol and/or drug testing
      • Monitoring for compliance with treatment and aftercare monitoring
      • Provision of advocacy and support with the BOE
      • Provision of public awareness services for the purpose of education related to professional wellness in the field of psychology

There is one particular component of TCAF’s intervention/monitoring program that makes it unique. TCAF has worked to develop detailed monitoring protocols for psychology professionals with specific types of impairment. History has shown that the majority of impaired psychology professionals do not have a substance use disorder as their primary problem. Instead, boundary violations seem to be the most frequently seen “occupational hazard” when it comes to psychology professionals. As such, TCAF has developed a detailed monitoring protocol that is specifically tailored to best fit the needs of psychology professionals who have had boundary violations. Furthermore, TCAF has worked to develop protocols for the variety of other conditions that can impair professional functioning (e.g., physical/medical difficulties, aging, in addition to others). Such protocols are based on research and the “best practices” of the art and science of psychology. We have had a significant amount of national interest in our model, and some states have contacted us to request our services to help replicate TCAF’s model in their state.

I have the pleasure of serving as the TCAF Director of Services, coordinating all colleague assistance services with the help several trusted Associate Directors of Services in various regions throughout Tennessee. We also have administrative support staff to assist with duties ranging from accounting to processing TCAF referrals. Having just finished a term as a member and co-chair of the American Psychological Association’s Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA), I realize how fortunate we are to have a quality program such as TCAF to assist psychology professionals in our state.

The members of our organization are appreciative to TPA for its ongoing support and guidance, and we look forward to providing TPA with updates on TCAF’s activities in the future. To obtain more information about TCAF, or to work with us in this exciting venture, please contact us by telephone or e-mail.* Also, please check your TPA membership renewal application for an opportunity to make a financial contribution to our Foundation. We need your help!