Call for specialist registration for all psychology specialities

The Australian Psychological Society has called for specialist registration for all the specialty areas of psychology, including health and community psychology, in order to maintain standards and protect the community.

The Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council has just announced the new national health practitioner standards to be established under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Seven areas of specialist endorsement for psychology practice (clinical, counselling, forensic, clinical neuropsychology, organisational, sport and exercise, and educational and developmental psychology) were announced.

"While we welcome arrangements to enable the public to recognise specialist psychologists under the new Registration Scheme, we are concerned that the Ministerial Council hasn't gone far enough," Executive Director of the Australian Psychological Society Professor Lyn Littlefield said. "Two important and established areas of specialist psychology practice, namely health psychology and community psychology, have not been included in the areas of practice endorsement.

"Recognition of all of the established prominent areas of psychological practice is required to protect the community from practitioners who may hold themselves out to be specialists in a particular area but do not have the advanced skills and knowledge required to competently fulfil specialist roles. In addition to community protection, recognition of these two additional areas of specialist practice is vital to support a comprehensive range of health initiatives across Australia."

"In health and community psychology we are looking at two speciality areas of psychology that contribute enormously to community health and wellbeing," she said. "In Australia, we now have an enormous disease burden created by chronic illness, an ageing population and preventable lifestyle behaviours.  The particular areas of health and community psychology contribute enormously to the health sector."

Professor Littlefield said both health and community psychology were ideally placed to make major contributions to the Federal Government's primary health and preventative health strategies. Health psychologists are experts in providing evidence-based strategies to address chronic illness, including problems with adherence to health regimes, and specialise in assisting the behaviour change that is needed to deliver both preventative and management interventions for chronic disease. Community psychologists have expertise in devising system-wide changes across the population, with a special emphasis on promoting social inclusion and reducing health inequalities among more marginalised groups.

"I can't see a health system, especially with the current emphasis on primary health care and preventative health, without a health psychology workforce," she said. "It's likely that expertise will be lost, as will training opportunities in  both community psychology and health psychology, without recognition of these areas of specialist psychological practice under the Scheme."

An additional concern regarding the Ministerial Council's announcement identified by Professor Littlefield is that the Council has determined that specialist psychologist recognition will be provided through endorsed areas of practice, rather than through the mechanism of specialist registration that will apply to doctors, dentists and podiatrists under the new Scheme.

"The APS supports specialist registration and we feel a consistent registration system across the health professions offers the community the best protection by clearly defining those who have specialist training in the same way," she said.

The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 18,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to peoples' lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Lynne Casey
Senior Manager, Communications and Public Interest
T: 03 8662 3370
M: 0435 896 444