This article was orginally published in InPsych, February 2012.

The establishment of the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and the introduction of the national registration scheme in July 2010 resulted in significant changes to training requirements for individuals completing the internship (4+2) pathway to obtain general registration as a psychologist. Changes to the requirements of the program include an increase in the number of competencies that need to be met and an increase in the number of hours of psychological practice, professional development and supervision that interns are required to attain.

These changes have caused considerable stress and difficulties for psychology graduates seeking to become interns, as well as onerous obligations for supervisors, and serious concerns for employers seeking to support a psychology workforce. 

According to the 2010 Australian Psychology Workforce Survey (Mathews et al., 2010), approximately 50 per cent of newly registered psychologists have been trained via the internship pathway. The significant increase in demands made on interns, supervisors and organisations employing interns since the introduction of the national registration scheme threatens to be a major obstacle to maintaining the psychology workforce and the ongoing retention of psychology positions in the health and education workforces particularly.

The APS acknowledges the benefits of a standardised internship program and commends the aims of setting high standards, clear goals and targets, and specified responsibilities for those involved. It shares with the PsyBA  a desire to develop experienced and competent registered psychologists. However, there is growing evidence that these ideals have in practice produced an unfortunate and unrealistic expectation of what is possible to achieve in a two-year program.

The APS has conducted consultation with potential provisional psychologists, current interns, supervisors and organisations, and it is apparent that the new internship program, as it currently stands, is not viable as a means to train psychologists within a reasonable timeframe and cost.  Many organisations and supervisors are no longer prepared to support this program, and this has serious ramifications.

As an outcome of these consultations, the APS has provided a submission to the PsyBA and proposed a number of major changes be made to the current internship guidelines to ensure the viability of this training pathway, particularly given the limited number of postgraduate training places available. These changes should enable the strengths of the new internship program to be retained, whilst reducing the extent of the requirements and allowing for more flexibility to achieve these standards.  Specifically, the APS has proposed:

  • Broadening the scope of what is defined as psychological practice
  • Reducing the requirements for direct client contact
  • Reviewing the requirement for “practice across the lifespan”
  • Increasing the flexibility for offsite supervision
  • Reviewing reporting and assessment requirements
  • Increasing the flexibility of supervision arrangements
  • Reducing the requirement for co-signing of all documentation.

APS advocacy in relation to this and other significant changes affecting the psychology workforce will continue.

You can read the full submission here.