Professor Lyn Littlefield OAM FAPS
I have returned to work in the National Office with renewed energy after the Christmas break, which allowed time for reflection on the important matters to address in the coming year. There are three key issues which deserve significant attention this year – a review of the model of psychology education and training in Australia, greater recognition of the diversity within the psychology profession, and promotion of psychology’s expertise in behaviour change in addressing challenging community issues.
The APS has recently established an expert group, the Psychology Education and Training Advisory Group, to ensure that the profession of psychology is fully prepared to meet any challenge to revise training requirements in Australia. There is growing pressure to change the education and training requirements for psychology from a number of forces, including a push for uniformity with international standards, significant current and emerging workforce shortages within the Australian health industry, increases in demand for psychological services driven by the introduction of Medicare rebates, the impending consolidated national registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals, and changes to higher education related to the influence of the Bologna model. The Advisory Group will be focused this year on examining the model of Australian psychology education and training to ensure that it is based on psychology as a science and enables graduates to attain the highest standards of psychological research and practice.
It is essential that there is adequate recognition of the broad spectrum of expertise of the psychology profession, so that the far-reaching applications of the discipline of psychology can continue to exert a significant influence on our world. Over the last eighteen months with the introduction of Medicare rebates, mental health and clinical psychology have necessarily had an increased focus and it is important that other specialisations within psychology now receive similar attention. The diversity of the psychology profession is recognised through the APS College structure and I will be working closely with the Colleges to focus the Society’s attention on supporting and encouraging the various sub-disciplines. In addition, the academic sector requires special support as the result of chronic Government underinvestment in higher education. Advocacy and support for this sector are particularly important, as academic psychologists provide the ‘engine room’ for training the workforce of psychological practitioners and undertaking research to inform their practice and build the scientific discipline.
The cornerstone of the psychology profession, despite its diversity, is the understanding it brings to human behaviour. The value of psychology in developing evidence-based behaviour change interventions across a range of domains is well recognised, but these interventions are significantly under-utilised in addressing pressing issues across the Australian community. In particular, psychology has much to offer in addressing lifestyle issues associated with chronic disease risk factors such as obesity, poor fitness, poor diet, and drug and alcohol abuse. In this area, health, sport and counselling psychology have much to contribute. Similarly, psychology is ideally positioned to inform a response to the critical area of climate change, where much of the focus is on scientific and infrastructure solutions rather than community change through psychosocial means. This often depends on individuals' attitudes and behaviour change. Here, community psychology is well placed to inform initiatives to foster sustainable behaviour supported by community systems.
The APS has recently completed a Budget submission to the new Australian Government, providing a number of costed initiatives to address issues within the two arenas of health and climate change which have been identified by the Government as priority areas for improvement.
The APS submission highlighted the effectiveness of behavioural interventions in addressing lifestyle issues in chronic disease, thereby reducing future demands on the health system. The submission proposed the provision of funding for psychological
intervention programs for people with chronic disease or risk factors associated with obesity, poor fitness, poor diet and drug and alcohol abuse.
Two other proposals within the health area aimed to address health workforce shortages to increase the number of appropriately trained psychologists. Given the ageing of the population and the demonstrated effectiveness of behavioural interventions for addressing problems in older people in residential care, it is evident that there will be a growing need for psychological expertise within the aged care sector. The APS proposed a scheme to enable the placement of supervised postgraduate psychology students in residential aged care facilities to provide much needed services to the aged community. This would provide sound training and orientation of trainee psychologists and is likely to encourage greater participation in future employment within the aged care sector. The other proposal in the workforce area was improved funding for postgraduate psychology degrees to increase universities' capacity to train and educate the next generation of psychologists.
The new Australian Government has demonstrated its determination to tackle the urgent issue of climate change, and immediate action is required to address the central importance of human behaviour change. The APS submission proposed national community-based action to deliver behaviour change interventions, with psychologists as integral members of consultative teams working with communities. Complementary to this community-based approach is the need to develop guidelines to educate children for social and environmental responsibility. The APS submission highlighted the central role that psychologists can play in identifying the best models for promoting sustainable values, attitudes and behaviour for individuals and communities.
The APS Federal Budget submission 2008 is the first of a number of planned activities for a concerted effort to promote the value of psychology to the new Australian Government.
Application fees for Medicare clinical psychology provider assessment set to increase
From 1 May 2008 a new processing fee structure will be implemented for the assessment of eligibility for membership of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists for the purposes of accreditation with Medicare Australia as a clinical psychology provider.
The process of assessment of eligibility is undertaken by the APS and has previously been funded through application fees which were heavily subsidised by additional funding from the Australian Government. The Government subsidy has now ceased, so it is necessary to increase the application fees to ensure that the costs of application processing are covered.
A new fee structure has been established which is operable from 1 May 2008 and reflects the differential processing time for various categories of application, taking into account processing that has already been completed in attaining APS College membership.