Date of Award

Summer 8-24-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology

Department

Professional Psychology and Family Therapy

Advisor

Laura K. Palmer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Donna Rasin-Waters, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John E. Smith, Ed.D

Committee Member

Brian Cole, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Cruz, Ph.D.

Keywords

Veterans, cancer, mental health, integrated care, psychological distress, attitudes

Abstract

Studies analyzing mental health care utilization in veterans with a co-occurrence of a medical and psychological diagnosis are still underrepresented in the literature. The primary purpose of this study is to examine psychological screening methods of veterans diagnosed with cancer and determining when these veterans are more likely to endorse psychological symptoms. This information can contribute to the discussion of effective ways of integrating mental health screening in specialty care settings. A correlational, causal-comparative research design is employed to answer the study research questions and hypotheses. The participants include Vietnam, Korean, and World War II veterans seeking oncology services at a VA hospital in the Northeast. Results from the current study indicate: (a) veterans diagnosed with cancer are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety on the day of their initial oncology appointment rather than three to seven days later, (b) veterans had a more favorable attitude towards seeking professional psychological help after having an encounter with mental health professional during their initial oncology appointment, (c) the screening tools that are currently used to screen for psychological distress in this population are both valid and reliable, and (d) war era does not have a significant impact attitude towards seeking psychological help nor report of psychological distress. The findings from this study can help inform approaches to planning effective and time-sensitive interventions. The findings also lend insights to the utility and practicality of integrating mental health screening in primary care settings. These findings suggest that screening veterans during their oncology appointments rather than having a separate appointment at a later date is feasible, builds better rapport with mental health providers and may provide a better clinical picture of the veterans’ psychological state.

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