Politicians: Please stop this madness

The APS will be remembered in the (limited) future of Australian psychology as divisive who ignores a majority of psychologists and neglects the impact of its actions on the Australian public.  

The action of the APS in writing the green paper and in implementing the recommendations that Knight alludes to, is fraught with danger to the Australian public.  Many registered, qualified and brilliant psychologists will not be able to provide psychological services to millions of Australians in need.

Most Australians cannot afford to go to psychologists without a decent rebate. The only decent rebate is provided by clinical psychologists. That will increase delays for Australians seeing qualified and registered psychologists.

All other psychologists, no matter their experience, expertise, training, and qualifications will be limited in their provision of services, as Australians will want higher rebates to limit their out of pocket expenses.

Are we to accept that a recent clinical Masters graduate with little real world experience will be able to treat a person with complex PTSD, anorexia, personality disorders and all the other ‘severe’ illnesses, BETTER than a fully qualified psychologist, who has had ongoing training, experience and practised successfully for 15, 20, 30 years? These APS psychologists who have been doing this work for many years will be unable to do category 3 (severe) work – as they will not be able to get a rebate, unless they are clinical or endorsed – disregarding their experience, knowledge, study and expertise.

This is preposterous.

And the phrase which is most misleading by Ros Knight is this:

‘The White Paper will be an evidence-based, robust and future-focused vision to show the Government’

Knight and the APS have provided NO EVIDENCE of superior outcomes by clinical psychologists.

The only evidence is “trust me I’m the APS” – from a clinical psychologist.

Yet in their 2014 article (Submission -The Australian Psychology Accreditation Council Consultation Process – The College of Clinical Psychologists, The Australian Psychological Society), Knight and Cichello stated that there were many clinical courses which had inferior elements (pages 3-5 – ‘Where course teaching have (sic) been combined at the University of New South Wales for Clinical and Forensic Psychology and at Macquarie University for Clinical and Clinical Neuropsychology, the objective and outcomes for the students in each program differ…Where students transfer between universities from one Clinical Psychology program to another, little credit can be given as programs are differentially organized and differing aspects of the knowledge and skills are taught in differing ways and areas, leading to a lack of equivalence of training in various areas at different stages of training….This lack of equivalence and overlap has serious consequences for the Bridging or Conversion Programs into Clinical Psychology and Advanced Credit being awarded for prior learning in the Extended Master or Doctoral degrees leading to the AoPE of Clinical Psychology.

Yet those who graduated from those ‘inferior’ clinical courses still receive the higher rebate, and are now defended as clinical psychologists by Knight.

The White paper having been ‘robust’ is very also misleading.

It cannot be so if there was a ‘lack of consensus’, and then despite ‘robust’ discussion, a paper which could not be agreed upon is then put forward as a White Paper to present to government.

This will be presented as a paper on behalf of 24,000 psychologists, of whom there are fewer than 8,000 clinicals – yet they are the only beneficiaries – not the Australian public.

Knight states the Green Paper has been Through rigorous discussion and much compromise – this must be misleading.

The ‘Expert Committee’ consisted of a disproportionate number of clinical psychologists. Clinical members in recent years have had a majority influence on all issues in psychology – not considering what is best for all psychologists  and most importantly, what is best for the Australian public.

The lack of agreement by the ‘expert committee’ is concerning.

As the only really contentious area that feedback has been about is Recommendation 8, then we must guess that is the problematic area.

Thus ‘rigorous’ discussion took place – but compromise must be due to non-clinical members being outvoted – that is not a compromise, that is an abuse of power.

And Knight stated: Those recommendations that did not receive consensus will be further explored as the APS Board carries this process forward to the development of the White Paper.

Now we have the biggest problem.

The APS Board is overweighted with clinical psychologists.

The APS states it has 24,000 members. Clinical numbers are approximately 8,000 (33%) Yet the 12 member Board has 5 clinical members (45%): Knight, Carey, Bradford, Frost, Lee);

Whilst the non-clinical members may vote no to the white paper – the previous Board in 2018 obviously voted yes and sent the APS submission to the Medicare review (which the current green and proposed white paper is based on).

And the current Board set up the Expert Committee, with the membership skewed towards the clinicals.

So, the likelihood of the Green and White Paper being voted as yes by the APS Board is almost a foregone conclusion.

The above is the problem.

No matter what discussion takes place, there is always a disproportionate number of clinical psychologists on the Board – to vote YES to the white paper which will advantage ONLY clinical psychologists. It would take a very brave clinical psychologist to vote for the APS membership overall.

It will NOT benefit the Australian public (as they will be receiving fewer sessions from other registered psychologists). The Australian public’s choice will frequently be limited – by financial constraints – in seeing a psychologist of choice. If that psychologist is receiving a much lower rebate, then many will be forced to go to clinical psychologists. GPs often currently choose psychologists for their patients based on the rebate – NOT for the experience, skill, expertise, training, knowledge, areas of specialty.

The Australian public will NOT benefit from these changes.

Although the APS is supposed to represent ALL members it is promoting the benefit only for clinical psychologists.

This will change the study of psychology in Australia as purely for clinical psychology and psychologists – and that is not the only psychology. There are currently 42 Clinical Master courses around Australia, but hardly any Masters courses left in Counselling, Education or Health.

There are 2 weeks of the electoral campaign remaining. You MUST get in touch with your MP’s politicians, and health candidates.

As Hunt and King both stated in the debate, they will accept the White paper. If the politicians are not aware of the shortcomings and misdirection of the White paper – the Australian public, and the profession of psychology – will suffer greatly. We may even say (non-Clinical) Psychology – R.I.P.