Psychology: today, tomorrow and yesterday

Professor Simon Crowe FAPS 

Let me begin our first conversation by outlining a vision for psychology over the next two years and beyond. Share this thought experiment with me: it is star date 01.01.2020 and despite our well-founded concerns that we may have devastated the globe with our arrogance and errant behaviour, we have managed to make it to the end of the decade.

The future that many foresaw for psychology in the first decade of the 21st Century has come to fruition: psychology has become a prominent force in global society. Psychologists are in demand within a broad array of scientific, professional and political settings, and we now can truly say that psychology has become a household word.

Our discipline plays an essential role in developing and applying psychological principles across a wide range of societal, group and interpersonal situations. Healthcare is now comprehensively addressed from the perspective of mind/body integration and is based upon an understanding of the contributions of the psychological, cultural, societal and physical components of both health and disease.

Psychological practitioners are the primary providers of a comprehensive range of behavioural health care services including the provision of (and the power not to provide) psychopharmacological agents.

Some of these notions may seem far-fetched, but many are already well within our reach; we only lack the opportunity and the ambition to realise our potential. To achieve such an outcome, I believe we need to focus on three important aspects of the development of psychology:

  1. meeting the needs of psychology and psychologists in the 21st Century;
  2. working towards a true integration of the biological, psychological, social and cultural factors in psychological service delivery and research; and
  3. promoting psychology to the public.

To narrow the focus to progress we can make over the next two years, we need to:

  • Keep up the campaign for the maintenance of the diversity of our discipline and our practice. It is with great pride that I congratulate both the Community and Health Colleges of the APS for having achieved the inclusion of these specialties within the endorsement system of the Psychology Board of Australia. Despite this victory, the diversity of our discipline continues to be threatened and must be zealously protected.
  • Reconsider the benefits of membership of the Society and Colleges to ensure real value is added to that membership.
  • Maintain our strategy of respectful disagreement and appropriate correction of the distracting and destructive publicity from detractor organisations.
  • Sensibly clarify who does what to whom (in terms of differentiation between the generalists vs. specialists and within the respective specialties) for the education of the general public and referral sources.
  • Fully embrace new technologies and the benefits that these can provide to both the discipline and practice of psychology, including electronic record keeping, online continuing education, e-therapy and sensibly developed computer administered testing.
  • Re-envision our training model to move away from a focus on inputs (number of hours in class, number of cases seen, number of days on placement) to a focus on the outputs of training (can trainee clinicians actually do the things that we feel are important for them to do?).
  • Undertake an effective lobbying campaign for proper funding of professional training. We can never move beyond an apprenticeship-based model (i.e,. four plus two) until appropriate funding to universities encourages them to double their intakes into their professional training programs.
  • Develop clinical practice guidelines and agreed outcome measures for our interventions and assessments.
  • Increase our role and focus on patient-centred healthcare and encourage and train our clinicians to truly work in a constructive therapeutic alliance with GPs and practice nurses.
  • Cultivate our greatest asset, the strong support of the general public, and further educate them about the science of our discipline, including establishing psychology in the national curriculum.

With regard to issues of the past, I regretfully watch three of the Directors of the Society pass back into civilian life. It has been my great pleasure to get to know and work with Bob Montgomery over the last several years, and his fostering of many of the developments of the Society’s mission in his time as President has been inspirational.

He has been a tireless champion of many issues, including his masterful input into the disaster response preparedness area in the context of the Victorian bushfires, his powerful support for the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA), as well as his clear vision of an international focus for the APS through various memoranda of understanding with partners in Asia and North America, and the marvellously successful ICAP conference.

I feel sure he will not become what the American Psychological Association characterises their past presidents as, the ‘president neglect’.

Also leaving us are Anne Lipzker and Kate Moore. Anne has been a tireless campaigner for regional and rural psychology as well as for psychologists in the public sector. She has also been a great advocate of many issues of public interest. Kate Moore has been a great asset to the Board through her former life as an accountant, and as a result has kept a weather eye on the Society’s accounts.

She has also contributed through chairing our very successful Annual Conference in Darwin as well as the Cross Cultural Psychology Conference. Each of these people will be sadly missed, but hopefully, not neglected.

As a final note I would like to wish you and your family and friends safety, happiness and peace for the festive season, and hopefully you will neither eat nor drink too much, but just enough to make it festive! I look forward to a new year working with you in realising our shared vision for our discipline and our practice.