MEET A SBSM FOUNDER - RYAN WETZLER, PSYD, C.BSM, APBB
As one the founding board members and a past president of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, I was asked to introduce myself and share some thoughts on the field. My work in behavioral sleep medicine began in 2002, when I was a 4th year health psychology graduate student at Spalding University. I had accepted an invitation to develop an insomnia treatment program for a local sleep disorders center. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
In 2002 there was little guidance on how to set up such a program. We also did not have nearly the degree of scientific support that we have today. I recall meeting with one of the sleep physicians to discuss project and being handed a copy of the book “No More Sleepless Nights” by Peter Hauri and Shirley Linde. Apparently, the insomnia program involved handing a patient this book. The insomnia program definitely needed some work.
I continued to dabble in the sleep field through a behavioral sleep minor rotation that was developed during my internship with the VA Medical Center in Danville, Illinois from 2003-2004. I really enjoyed the sleep work and wanted to try and make a career out of it. In 2004, I was hired to develop a behavioral sleep program within an independent sleep disorders center in Louisville, Kentucky. Around this time, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine began offering a Behavioral Sleep Medicine Course. There was also an idea floating around that the AASM might begin to require sleep centers to have a behavioral sleep specialist in order to qualify for sleep center accreditation. In 2005, the NIH identified behavioral intervention strategies as a first-line treatment for insomnia. This was a very exciting time! It seemed like every year I was meeting new clinicians who were hired to develop behavioral sleep programs within sleep disorders centers. These behavioral sleep programs were being developed in a variety of healthcare systems and independent sleep practices. Each year we would meet up at APSS to share ideas, discuss challenges, and create solutions. The move toward integration of psychology and medicine was flourishing within the sleep field!
Over the years, the field of behavioral sleep medicine encountered challenges. The AASM ultimately retracted from requiring behavioral sleep specialists for sleep center accreditation. Sleep study reimbursement declined and many sleep centers closed. When sleep became an official medical sub-specialty, sleep psychologists and other PhDs lost the ability to interpret sleep studies. Adding insult to injury, some began advocating for the utilization of non-mental health trained providers to offer psychological services. The integration of psychology and medicine had hit a speed bump and the proliferation of behavioral sleep programs appeared to slow. It was time to form a new society to advocate for the behavioral sleep specialist and to move forward efforts to integrate physical and mental healthcare. The Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine has not only survived, it has flourished. Although the decision to separate from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine was difficult, it sure seems as though it was the right thing to do. We now have an independent voice for behavioral sleep specialists and there are no constraints on what this group of devoted professionals can accomplish. When I was asked to write this article, I revisited my letter of intent to run for President.
I believe the goals are still relevant today:
- The Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine is now established, yet needs to be maintained
- Although the research base for behavioral sleep has made tremendous strides forward, practitioners of this science remain few. Securing a clinical base is a critical next step. • Each new provider will have challenges to overcome and would benefit from having a guide. The Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine can serve as this guide.
- The Society should take a more proactive role with insurance carriers through development of collaborative relationships and serving as a resource for optimal management of sleep disorders. During my earlier years in the sleep field I had the privilege of meeting a number of incredible clinicians. These practitioners were successful in moving behavioral sleep from the bench to the bedside. They all have successful practices, many of which have expanded to include multiple providers.
These unsung heroes of the behavioral sleep field are those who I call whenever I encounter a clinical or practice-related challenge. They include:
- Anne Bartolucci, PhD, CBSM—Owner, Atlanta Insomnia and Behavioral Health Services
- Michael Scherer, PhD, CBSM—Director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine, The Center for Sleep Medicine
- Michael Schmitz, PsyD, CBSM—Director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Services at Fairview Health Services
- Robert Glidewell, PsyD, CBSM—Founder and Clinical Director, The Insomnia Clinic
- Jonathon Cole, PhD, ABPP—Owner, Bluegrass Health Psychology, Inc.
- Emerson Wickwire, PhD, CBSM, ABPP—Director, Insomnia Program at University of Maryland School of Medicine.
- Michelle Drerup, PsyD, CBSM—Director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic
- Kelly Byars, PsyD, CBSM, ABPP—Professor of clinical pediatrics for Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
In recent years, behavioral sleep has gotten a lot of great press. CBT-I is now recognized as a first line treatment for chronic insomnia by the American College of Physicians. There is renewed interest in behavioral sleep medicine and there are many new graduates interested in starting a behavioral sleep practice. The aforementioned list of providers have all succeeded in doing just that. If you are interested in starting a practice, I would encourage you to reach out to those on this list or to the SBSM leadership. With the sage guidance of the SBSM leadership, board, and committees the society appears poised for progress. There is new energy and the time is right for another push towards integration. Looking forward to seeing everybody at the SBSM Educational meeting and Bootzin Awards and Recognition Meeting on June 2nd!