Disastrous Results For the Psychology Profession in Australia

This past weekend has been another nail coffin in the profession of psychology in Australia if the APS has anything to do with it. The new president elect is Tamara Cavenett – a recent past national chair of the college of clinical psychology of the APS and the 12th clinical psychologist in a row as president/president elect of the APS since 1997. This means that for 22 years clinical psychologists have headed up the APS despite only representing fewer than 8000 of the over 24000 that make up our profession – with disastrous results for psychologists and members of the public needing psychological services.

Some examples of the bias in representation include the clinical faction pushing for the higher Medicare rebate in 2006 supported by the majority clinical Board have pushed for a damaging and disastrous non-representational White Paper from the APS to government – leading to changes in university courses and flow on effects in Centrelink Guidelines, private health insurers and the department of Veterans Affairs, to name just a few.

How the clinical college and representation of the APS has been allowed to take over the profession is an indictment on the APS, supposedly the peak body for all psychologists. That it continues is unforgiveable, particularly as the APS president clearly stated at the AGM on 26 October 2019 that there is and will be a shortage of psychologists in Australia. The solution to this has always been obvious (at least to non-clinical practitioners), namely, bringing in a one-tier system where members of the public could access the same rebate irrespective of the psychologist they see. This has always been within the ability of the APS to bring about but with the clinicals in control it has never happened. Self-interest prevails.

The APS has always rationalised their inaction by talking about bridging courses that would allow psychologists to “upskill” to clinical status. Aside from the insult to non-clinicals, the so-called bridging courses have never eventuated with the exception of 8 places in WA in 2020. Apparently, the APS failed to discuss their plans with the universities who have indicated that bridging courses are not economical to run so they will not be offered.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is that for the foreseeable future only clinical psychologists, and maybe those with AoPE, are skilled or qualified enough to practice to allow clients to receive higher Medicare rebates. Other psychologists will not be recognised irrespective of education and experience. It is not only the profession that suffers but also the Australian public many of whom urgently require psychological care. The APS does not care about this and continues to serve the interests of only the clinicals.

RAPS urges all psychologists to continue to speak up at the government level, with colleagues and in the community. Those who are still members of the APS might also want to consider whether their membership fees are being well spent or used to perpetuate the continued inequality. There is strength is numbers and if enough psychologists speak up and/or take action (eg by withdrawing support from the APS, joining other organisations) maybe it is not too late to turn the tide and change the direction the psychology profession is headed in.