The Tennessee Colleague Assistance Foundation: Providing Colleague Assistance for Psychology Professionals

The Tennessee Colleague Assistance Foundation (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 recently awarded a contract with the state of Tennessee's Board of Examiners (BOE) in psychology 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, the Foundation is able to develop a formal relationship with the BOE without creating potential liability issues for TPA.

TCAF's Board of Directors is composed of seven representatives from the three grand divisions of Tennessee. All are psychologists except for an attorney and a physician, both of whom are pioneers in developing services for their professional community. We will seek 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. Ultimately the plan is for TCAF to "absorb" the functions of the CAC. Also, we were fortunate to have the support of the Tennessee Medical Foundation (TMF), a successful professional monitoring organization developed in the 1980's to assist impaired physicians.

The Foundation has one part-time paid employee - Brian Wind, Ph.D., who will serve as the TCAF Director of Services. Dr. Wind will coordinate all the services of the Foundation. TCAF has seven unpaid regional representatives who are skilled in professional monitoring. Dr. Wind and at least two of the regional representatives will work with impaired professionals who are referred to our program. We also have two administrative support staff to assist with duties ranging from accounting to processing TCAF referrals.

TCAF's offices are located at 418 North Maney Avenue, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The staff can be reached by calling toll free (877) 895-2248. Our newly developed website can be found at www.tcafonline.org.

TCAF's service programs stand on three legs: information/education, prevention, and intervention/monitoring. Information contained in this article is focused primarily on our intervention/monitoring services. Later articles will focus on the information/education and prevention services.

The TCAF's intervention/monitoring program is modeled after other proven, successful monitoring programs (e.g., TMF and TLAP), and is run by trained, competent providers with experience in the field of professional monitoring. Some of the services that will be provided by the TCAF include:

  • Referral to qualified healthcare professionals for comprehensive evaluations of licensees.
  • Referral to qualified healthcare providers for treatment of substance abuse or behavioral health issues for licensees.
  • Random alcohol and/or drug testing where appropriate.
  • Monitoring for compliance with treatment and aftercare monitoring.
  • Provision of advocacy for licensees receiving services from the TCAF.
  • Referral to qualified healthcare professionals for comprehensive re-evaluations of licensees who have completed treatment and/or monitoring.
  • Provision of public awareness services for the purpose of education licensees and the general public about services available to treat substance abuse and/or behavioral health issues.

 

There is one particular component of TCAF's intervention/monitoring program that makes it unique. The TCAF is recruiting experts from around the nation to help with the development of 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, the TCAF is in the process of developing a detailed monitoring protocol that is specifically tailored to best fit the needs of psychology professionals who have had boundary violations. Furthermore, TCAF plans to develop protocols for the variety of other conditions that can impair professional functioning (e.g., physical/medical difficulties, aging, substance and process addictions, in addition to others). Such protocols will be based on empirical research and the "best practices" of the art and science of psychology.

The TCAF is excited about the opportunity to be a trailblazer in the field of intervention/monitoring of impaired psychology professionals. Our plan is to conduct ongoing research related to the effectiveness of our intervention/monitoring services, to be used both for informational purposes for the public and the profession of psychology, and for the BOE to use in the future as it re-evaluates its needs in the area of intervention/monitoring.

The members of our organization are appreciative to TPA for the support and guidance provided in developing our program, and we look forward to providing TPA with updates on TCAF's progress. To obtain more information about TCAF, or to work with the Foundation 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!

PLEASE NOTE: TPA has generously agreed to donate all of the proceeds from the silent auction at the 2008 TPA annual convention to TCAF. TCAF is busy putting together many items of interest, which we anticipate will go quickly. Some of the bigger items of interest include week-long vacations in Belize and Hilton Head, and a website designed by a nationally renowned web design company. The owners of the website design company will be on site to showcase their work. We will also have other items such as affordable jewelry, art, and gift certificates. Please be sure to look for the silent auction at the TPA convention - come on in and place a bid to benefit TCAF.

For Publication in TPA newletter, 2008