The Australian Clinical Psychology Association has expressed grave concerns about people with inferior training working as Clinical Psycholgists to the Minister of Health
The President of the Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA), Judy Hyde, has written to the Federal Health Minister, Tania Plibersek, to "express grave concerns about the lack of clarity within the psychology profession on the varying training qualifications psychologists can have". She says the variances can lead to serious consequences for the public.
Hyde, who is also Director of the Psychology Clinic at the University of Sydney School of Psychology, says Australia has the lowest standard of training for generalist psychologists in the Western world.
“Around 75% of Australian psychologists would not be permitted to practice as psychologists in any other Western jurisdiction. The confusion and blurring of psychological qualifications for those who have, and have not, obtained training in recognised areas of practice endorsement is of grave concern and need to be identified
and clarified, ” she says.
Her letter to the Minister outlining the ACPA concerns follows.
The Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA) has previously expressed grave concern about the grandparenting into clinical psychology endorsement those psychologists who have not undertaken the required accredited post-graduate training in
clinical psychology, as laid down by the Psychology Board of Australia. Our concern has been for the safety of the public.
We believe that the public has been put at risk by the by the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) recognition of a very large number of psychologists as clinical psychologists who have not undertaken the required accredited clinical psychology
training, in order for them to obtain the higher clinical rebate from Medicare.
These psychologists have been grandparented into endorsement as clinical psychologists with some very serious consequences.
Although the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) does not now permit endorsement of psychologists, without the requisite accredited post-graduate professional training, to become endorsed under the National Law, but were obliged to grandparent into clinical psychology endorsement those psychologists previously recognised by the APS as clinical psychologists without the training required.
This formal recognition of psychologists without post-graduate training in the areas of endorsement extended to other areas of endorsed practice, as demonstrated in the following case of Dr Ross Colquhoun.
A finding from the NSW Health Care Complaints Tribunal was handed down last year against Dr Ross Colquhoun who, while highly qualified in many respects, had not undergone accredited post-graduate professional training in either health psychology or
However, Dr Colquhoun was recognised as a health psychologist by the APS and grandparented into endorsement as a health psychologist, giving him recognition for training in this area of endorsement that he had not undertaken.
He practiced in the scope of clinical psychology, calling himself a Clinical Health Psychologist. This creation of unrecognised titles that imply expertise in endorsed areas of practice causes great confusion for the public.
It is common amongst those psychologists who wish to promote themselves as having specialised skills in areas covered by endorsement, but have not undertaken the requisite accredited post-graduate training to legitimately obtain this recognition.
This is not legitimate under the National Law that protects the titles of Areas of Practice Endorsement to clarify expertise for the public and referrers.
Dr Colquhoun’s registration has been cancelled in response to his poor clinical practice that led to the admission to intensive care of one patient and the death of another. This latter case will be investigated by the Coroners Court in NSW.
Dr Colquhoun’s professional practice was well below that expected of a clinical psychologist, which is not surprising given his lack of accredited clinical training.
In 2010, Charmaine Dragun’s death was investigated by the Coroners Court of NSW. It's been found that her misdiagnosis by psychologist Dr Belinda Khong contributed to her death.
Dr Khong too was practicing with endorsement in counselling psychology obtained via the APS, but without the accredited qualifications required by the PsyBA for practice as a clinical psychologist. The Coroner commented that few of the cases in which suicide occurred under these circumstances were investigated by the Coroners Court.
We are deeply concerned about the consequences of the lack of recognition of qualified clinical psychologists as referrers and the public are unable to make informed choice as to who to turn to for clinical psychology services.
We hope you will support specialist recognition for clinical psychologists with the requisite qualifications to enable this distinction to be made.
Hyde says the ACPA is still waiting on a response from the Minister.