College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Behavioral Science Training in Family Practice Residency Education: A First Evaluation

Document Type


Publication Date



Behavioral Sciences, Curriculum, Educational Measurement, Evaluation Studies as Topic, Family Practice, Internship and Residency, Social Medicine, Training Support, United States

Publication Title

Social Science and Medicine








Although behavioral science training is an essential component of family practice residency education, there have been few evaluations of its effects. In the present study, selected behaviors of 16 senior family practice residents and their patients in 2 family practice residency programs were compared. One program emphasized behavioral science and the other did not. The residents were administered the Attitudes Towards Social Issues in Medicine questionnaire and were questioned concerning their level of comfort dealing with patients complaining of depression, anxiety, or alcoholism. Patients were administered the Patient Satisfaction Scale (PSS), and their charts were audited for psychosocial diagnoses, resident counseling or mental health referral, and the nature of any psychotropic drugs prescribed. Residents in the more behaviorally oriented program had more positive attitudes toward both social factors in illness and the importance of a warm physician–patient relationship. These residents claimed to know more about nonpharmacologic treatments for depression and anxiety and felt more confident in their ability to handle them than their less behaviorally trained counterparts. Patients of residents in the program that emphasized behavioral science were more likely to receive a psychosocial diagnosis and resident counseling or mental health referral than patients of residents in the program that did not. On the PSS, patients of the 2 programs differed on only the subscale concerned with convenience of care.