Letter to the Editor: Australian Financial Review

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Lisa Allen and Mark Davis’ article ‘Mental health plan may have side effects’ (Australian Financial Review, 23 March 2006 PG 6) painted a rather narrow view of the role and capabilities of psychologists, in light of the Government’s expected mental health funding package.

The article warned of possible fee rises and posed the threat of “underqualified psychologists” cashing in on Medicare changes. When one considers the amount of training and ongoing professional development many psychologists undertake, the term “underqualified psychologists” could be deemed somewhat of an oxymoron.

Registration is mandatory for psychologists in Australia. The registration process involves four years tertiary academic training plus a further two years of supervised experience.

Many psychologists, including members of the Australian Psychological Society, have also undertaken specialist degrees. They are required to adhere to a Code of Ethics and engage in continuing professional development to ensure provision of high quality services to those who require mental health treatments.

In light of these facts, AMA Vice-President and psychiatrist Choong-Siew Yoing’s proposal that psychologists have extra training in clinical work and undergo ongoing professional development is redundant.

On an economic level, rather than, as the article suggested, allowing psychologists to “cash in”, overseas research has long shown that the inclusion of psychological services in health care schemes reduces the overall cost of the scheme. Instead of psychologically troubled people becoming life-long consumers of drugs, they can be effectively helped by evidence-based psychological treatments within a relatively short timeframe.

While Allen and Davis’ article tended to focus on the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of mental health care, perhaps our collective energies as mental health care providers are better spent in ensuring the Government’s new commitment to mental health provides the best outcomes for all Australians.

Amanda Gordon
The Australian Psychological Society