What’s in a Name? Name Changes for Subspecialty and the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine

Psychiatric TimesVol 35 No 3
Volume 35
Issue 3

The name of the subspecialty Psychosomatic Medicine has become Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. And the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine has changed its name to the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Here's why.

Dr. Rundell is President, Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine.

In October 2017, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), acting on recommendations by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), American Psychiatric Association (APA), and Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine (APM), voted to change the name of the subspecialty Psychosomatic Medicine to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. The following month, APM voted to change its name to the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. The Academy’s name change will be effective on April 16, 2018.

The Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine initiated the name change process after hearing from its members for many years that the name Psychosomatic Medicine was problematic.1 Many expressed the concerns that the name had a pejorative connotation, had a negative impact on recruiting into the field, and was not widely used by actual clinicians and academic departments. The name Psychosomatic Medicine had been selected by the ABMS for the official approval of subspecialty certification during deliberations conducted between 2000 and 2003.2,3 From the beginning, there was controversy and general dissatisfaction with the chosen name, although there were ongoing efforts to improve the brand of the name.2,4

The APM conducted several surveys to determine whether there was a consensus for a name change. In early 2016, APM members were asked for their opinion whether an alternative name should be chosen for the field. Of the 780 respondents, a majority of Academy members, 68% supported a name change, 16% were neutral, and 16% disagreed with changing the name. A second survey was conducted later that year, focused on how APM members were currently describing their field. Of the 350 responses received, the majority (55%) said they were using the name “Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry;” only 17% said they used the term “Psychosomatic Medicine.”

In December of 2016, a final survey was conducted in which members were asked: “If other key national organizations were in favor, would you support changing the name of the field to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, which would include also changing the name of the Academy to mirror that term?” Of the 668 respondents, representing more than half of the Academy's membership, 81% endorsed the name change.

The APM then requested and received the support of the APA Board of Directors in December 2016. The next step was to petition the ABPN; the organization within ABMS that oversees accreditation in psychiatry. In February 2017, the ABPN Board of Directors voted to the support the name change request. The ABPN then took this request to the ABMS. The ABMS held an open comment period and then approved the name change at their annual meeting in October 2017. Finally, following this official name change of the subspecialty, APM’s Council recommended to Academy members that they support changing APM’s name to the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, and the vote to change the name was approved at the November 2017 annual meeting.

The Academy’s “go-live” date for its name change is April 16, 2018. This date provides sufficient time for all preparations and initiates the formal name change before the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The Academy will use the large stage of the APA 2018 annual meeting to market and brand the name change.

Over two dozen specific tasks need to be completed to be ready for the go-live date, for example:

• Change the name in Academy documents and publications

• Coordinate with the Academy’s journal, Psychosomatics

• Identify branding opportunities, including at the 2018 APA annual meeting

• Integrate the name change into plans for the 2018 Academy annual meeting

• Coordinate with the Academy’s foundation

• Complete new incorporation documents

• Update the website

• Notify sister medical organizations in the US and abroad

• Consult with fellowship program directors

The Academy’s Council hopes to take advantage of this opportunity of a name change to prioritize the branding of the field of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and the organization. The “new name” is actually the subspecialty’s old name. It comes from a time when most of the clinical work was in inpatient medical-surgical units. Much has changed since then and the Council is focused on finding ways to market an expanded brand that captures a broad and deep set of practice settings when seeing or hearing the word “liaison.” The word liaison will be branded by the Academy to mean integrated care in primary and specialty outpatient care settings, in addition to the important work done integrating psychiatric care into inpatient medical-surgical, critical care, and rehabilitation units.

The theme of the 2018 Annual meeting in Orlando (November 13-17, 2018) is “Branding Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, Defining the Breadth and Depth of our Subpecialty.” The meeting will highlight the clinical, academic, and research work done in outpatient and inpatient clinical settings. The meeting sessions will be presented by the Academy’s Special Interest Groups that represent areas of expertise within the field. These groups are incredibly active and represent the breadth and depth of knowledge in several areas of outpatient or inpatient practice at the interface of psychiatry and medicine.

Information about the Academy, its Special Interest Groups, and the upcoming annual meeting, can be found on the Academy’s webpage-www.clpsychiatry.org!

Acknowledgements-The author acknowledges the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine for helping to bring this article to fruition. The Academy is the professional home for psychiatrists providing collaborative care bridging physical and mental health. Over 1200 members offer psychiatric treatment in general medical hospitals, primary care, and outpatient medical settings for patients with comorbid medical conditions.


1. Montalvo C, Robinson DM. What is psychosomatics? Lessons learned regarding the importance of a name. Psychosomat. 2017;58:215-216.

2. Gitlin DF, Levenson JL, Lyketsos CG. Psychosomatic medicine: a new psychiatric subspecialty. Acad Psychiatry. 2004;28:4-11.

3. Lipsitt DR. Consultation-liaison psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine: the company they keep. Psychosom Med. 2001;63:896-909.

4. Ali S, Ernst C, Pacheco M, Fricchione G. Consultation-liaison psychiatry: how far have we come? Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2006;8:215-222.

[Editor’s note: Members of The Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine are frequent contributors to Psychiatric Times. Articles and authors can be seen at www.PsychiatricTimes.com/authors/academy-psychosomatic-medicine]

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