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InPsych 2016 | Vol 38

April | Issue 2

Cover feature : Psychology education and training

Psychology education and training: A future model

Based on the paper given by Professor Lyn Littlefield on behalf of the APS at the Psychology Education and Training National Forum in December 2015

This Forum was held jointly by the APS, the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA), the Heads of Department and Schools of Psychology Association (HODSPA) and the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC), and involved more than seventy academics from across Australia.

Over the past decade, there have been a number of challenges and opportunities presented to the discipline and profession of psychology. To meet the growing demand for psychological services, Australia needs a sustainable supply of practising professionals and researchers to ensure the continuation of the valuable contribution of the profession to the community. Increasing demand for psychologists’ services and expertise is currently outpacing the level of supply. While this may be absorbed for a period of time, shortages in the psychology workforce over the longer term could potentially lead to substitutions in the marketplace for psychological services, ineffective and unsafe practices, and a decrease in the quality of services.

The National Forum on Psychology Education and Training, held in December 2015, brought together leaders across the profession, education, regulation, accreditation and government to discuss reforms to the pathways to psychologists’ registration and area of practice endorsement (AoPE) that have the potential to streamline the training of psychologists and ensure a skilled and sufficient workforce supply into the future.

There are a number of factors that need to be considered in relation to the context for a discussion of reform to the psychology pathways. The first issue is the funding of the higher education system. With recent political attempts illustrating the difficulty of reforms in this area, there is limited leverage to influence the levels of higher education funding. It is also in the interests of universities, students and the profession to identify innovative solutions that help make psychology education and training more efficient overall, to improve productive output whilst at the same time minimising overall costs.

A second factor to consider is the confusion in the community around the knowledge and skills of different types of psychologists, both between ‘generalist’ and ‘specialist’ psychologists and between psychologists with different areas of practice endorsement. This confusion exists for members of the public, other health professionals (especially general practitioners), employers and governments, and is another illustration of the need to simplify and clarify pathways to registration.

There are a number of alternative levers available to increase the supply of psychologists and improve the efficiency and clarity of pathways to registration, including innovation in accreditation and education and training pathways. This article will focus on the latter topic.

Education and training is a critical component of sustaining the supply of psychologists. In turn, the psychology education and training pathways depend on the ongoing availability and capacity of academic staff and practice supervisors, to ensure that new generations of psychologists meet and maintain the standards of intellectual rigour, safety and quality that are the hallmark of the psychology profession.

Academic context of psychology education and training

The past few years have seen considerable uncertainty around higher education funding, with several stalled attempts at national reforms to Commonwealth funding and student contributions. This uncertainty has come at a time of transition, with adjustments still being made by higher education providers in response to past reforms to uncap the number of Commonwealth Supported Places.

While the uncapping of undergraduate places had the desired effect of increasing undergraduate enrolments, the ever-higher numbers of students entering courses have placed greater demands on resources, increased class sizes, and led to higher workloads for academic staff. As a response, universities are increasingly placing lectures online and reducing laboratory classes and tutorials. In many universities, the number of salaried academics has been reduced and the delivery of programs is reliant on engaging sessional and/or casual staff. The high workload in universities is likely to be impacting on the capacity of departments/schools of psychology to employ and retain academic staff with appropriate qualifications and areas of expertise.

At the postgraduate level, student numbers in higher education professional programs remain virtually capped, with the number of psychology training places estimated to have only slightly increased from 2,045 in 2008 to 2,161 in 20151 (Grenyer et al, 2010). As will be outlined further below, this has exacerbated the bottleneck between undergraduate and post-graduate psychology study on the pathway to professional registration. In effect, there is a very real incentive for universities to accept many more undergraduate students than there are post-graduate places in psychology in order to subsidise the high running costs of Masters and Doctorate professional programs. This is reflected in university course offerings, with undergraduate courses representing around 70 per cent of all courses in psychology.

Given the high popularity of psychology as a career and the number of students in undergraduate psychology programs, there is substantial demand from students wishing to undertake postgraduate study in psychology in order to achieve registration as a psychologist. This demand is largely unmet due to the severe restriction on places in higher education courses. A complex interaction of a number of factors is constraining capacity in the higher education system, which in turn is driving shortages in the psychology workforce. It is important to acknowledge, however, that many of the interacting factors affecting the higher education system are beyond the influence and control of the accrediting, regulatory, academic and professional bodies of psychology. This includes levels of Government funding for professional postgraduate psychology courses and higher education more generally.

In addition to the current bottleneck between fourth year and postgraduate professional courses, the universities face significant challenges in obtaining placements and supervisors for students that undertake postgraduate professional training programs. The burden occurs in relation to both practicum and research supervision commitments and the coordination and assessment of practicums. Increasingly, the public health sector is moving towards charging universities for student placements, which will place increased financial burden on postgraduate professional training programs.

The remainder of this article focuses on the current pathways to professional registration separately from those to academia and research in psychology, as well as the opportunities for increasing the number and diversity of psychology graduates progressing through those pathways. It also addresses the confusion experienced by Government funders and the public over different types of psychologists and their training, and proposes a simplified system which clearly distinguishes between ‘generalist’ and ‘specialist’ psychologists.

Current pathways to professional registration and higher education and research in psychology

Figure 1: Current pathways in psychology education and training (black arrow indicates eligibility for full registration)

4 + 2 (internship) pathway

Prior to national regulation, the regulatory system for psychologists was State-based, with each jurisdiction influencing the requirements to be met to qualify for professional registration and recognition. The most common education and training pathway during this time was the “4+2” or “apprenticeship” route, with around half of the psychology workforce in 2008 achieving registration through this route.2 (Mathews et al, 2010)

The establishment of the PsyBA in July 2010 saw revisions to the requirements for the 4+2 pathway applied to a national model producing higher standards and tighter requirements for the two-year internship to enforce consistency of content, supervision and assessment requirements across the States and Territories and to raise the standards to be equivalent to those in other pathways to registration. The PsyBA also implemented a national psychology examination in order to address the identified variability in the quality of internships as they occur outside the accredited tertiary education system.

However, the new guidelines have presented a number of challenges with implications for the viability and sustainability of the 4+2 pathway. The APS undertook extensive data collection with members (including provisionally registered psychologists and supervisors) to inform the PsyBA consultations on the Guidelines and reported the following issues3 (APS, 2012):

  • Difficulty in providing all professional requirements in the two-year internship, including the competencies across the lifespan
  • Difficulty in achieving the increased hours of psychological practice
  • Unrealistic burdens on employers, including onerous documentation and reporting requirements rendering the internship unattractive to employers
  • Challenges in meeting the supervisory requirements including limited willingness of supervisors to supervise due to increased demands and responsibilities rendering the program unattractive to supervisors
  • Increased professional development requirements.

The new requirements for the 4+2 program have presented major obstacles to employers, supervisors and students alike. It has been particularly problematic for the public health, welfare and education sectors to provide these internships and has been devastating for many students who have completed their fourth year and wish to become a psychologist. Many of these students have been unable to gain entry to a postgraduate professional program due to the limited number of places and/or financial, family, or geographical barriers but are not able to access a supervisor or position to undertake the two-year internship. This has affected all regions of Australia but has been particularly problematic in rural and remote areas where the traditional pathway to registration was through an internship.

There is now general agreement that the 4+2 pathway is no longer viable as a means to train psychologists within a reasonable timeframe and cost, and that it should be phased out in preference to other pathways. However, if the 4+2 pathway was removed, other pathways must be made more available and accessible within the higher education sector to cover the loss of this pathway and to provide the required net increase in places needed to produce sufficient psychologists to meet community demand. As they currently exist, the remaining pathways (“5+1” and professional Masters and Doctorate postgraduate programs) will be grossly insufficient to meet the growing demand for psychology services.

The 5 + 1 pathway

The 5+1 pathway (also referred to as the “3+1+1+1” pathway) comprises a three-year accredited psychology sequence at undergraduate level followed by an Honours (or graduate/ postgraduate diploma) fourth year. After completion of Honours, the 5+1 pathway features a one-year Graduate Diploma (increasingly called a Masters) of Professional Psychology followed by a one-year workforce-based internship. This pathway was introduced to increase the amount and quality of training in professional psychology compared with the 4+2 route by adding an extra year in the higher education sector solely focussed on professional practice. It was thought that employers would be more likely to take on these students in placements as they are better prepared for work than after an Honours year and they only require a one year internship. The long term plan was that the 5+1 program would be a transitional arrangement to replace the 4+2 pathway while other higher education pathways were developed. The development of the 5+1 pathway has been a significant step towards uniform nationally consistent high standards for practising Australian psychologists.

The five-year tertiary program was intended to provide quality training for generalist psychologists by focusing on broad professional practice content and professional skills development, with fairly minimal placement requirements (i.e., most of the practicum requirements were moved into the one-year internship) and allowing less intensive and an expanded range of “placement” options which were less demanding on staff. It was also planned to introduce work-readiness skills earlier into university-based coursework and training.

The Masters pathway

The “Masters pathway” (3 + 1 + 2) requires a three year accredited psychology sequence at undergraduate level followed by a fourth year of study (an Honours or graduate/postgraduate diploma) for entry into the Masters professional program, then completion of two years of coursework, a Masters research thesis, and practicum placements in a “specialist” field of psychology (one of the 9 Areas of Practice Endorsement (AoPE)). This pathway provides eligibility for registration as well as for enrolment in the registrar program (i.e., continuing professional development and supervised practice in order to gain an AoPE).

As currently configured, professional psychology Masters courses are very expensive to run. High costs are associated with running internal placements, supervision of individuals and small groups, and the logistics and administration of external placements for students (which universities are currently required to manage). These practical components (and their costs) set these psychology Masters courses apart from the traditional cheaper Masters programs in other academic disciplines, which don’t have such extensive supervision requirements. As previously indicated, funding for postgraduate professional courses does not cover the costs incurred in running the programs with the shortfall in the vicinity of $8,500 per EFTSL per year (with variability between 35 to 70 per cent).4 (Voudouris et al, 2010)

The current requirement for intensive placements during the Masters pathway constitutes a major challenge for higher education providers. The organisation of external placements is proving difficult and further limits the numbers of students that can be admitted to programs.

As a result of high running costs outstripping available resources, the number of places available in professional Masters courses are extremely constrained, and admission is highly competitive. In 2007, across 32 universities, the acceptance rate was below 50 per cent for all but four “specialities” and on average, was 38 per cent. While these data are 10 years old, there is no reason to assume this situation has improved.

The constraints on the number of places available in professional Masters courses has a flow on effect to the number of psychology graduates who are eligible for full registration through this pathway.

As previously indicated, the diversity of the profession is also being constrained by the narrowing of the range of available professional Masters courses. There are almost three times as many endorsed clinical psychologists as there are endorsements in all other AoPE combined, and this disparity is increasing over time. Undertaking the Masters route requires students to select a “specialist” area of practice upon which to focus. For a number of reasons most likely related to the current funding arrangements for psychologists under Medicare, the area of greatest demand is for Masters courses in Clinical Psychology. The number of Masters courses on offer in areas other than clinical psychology is decreasing, being reflected in a similar lack of growth in the number of psychologists with AoPE in areas other than clinical psychology. This creates a feedback loop where fewer psychologists with an AoPE in a particular “speciality” results in fewer supervisors for students in these areas, and in turn, reduced capacity to provide opportunities for registrarships leading to AoPE. In essence, market forces have already changed the landscape for professional programs by creating a homogenising of education and training content around clinical psychology, to the detriment of other areas of practice; the “standard” Masters professional training may become a program in clinical psychology.

In addition, the current requirements by APAC for low staff:student ratios and the requirements of the PsyBA for supervisors to have AoPE, effectively encourage departments and schools of psychology to contain costs by offering Masters programs in only one or two areas.

While there are very few “generalist Masters” courses currently on offer, it is notable that the first year of Masters (fifth year of study) often takes the form of “generalist” professional psychology studies. Masters cohorts in the first year of study (irrespective of area of “speciality”), are frequently combined to deliver education and training more efficiently in the core elements common to all areas of psychology, followed by more targeted work on the specific area of “speciality” in the sixth and final year of the Masters.

Higher degree pathways (4+DPsych, 4+Masters/PhD)

Two additional higher degree pathways are the Doctor of Psychology (DPsych) and the combined Master of Psychology/Doctor of Philosophy (MPsych/PhD) routes. The DPsych programs require both additional specialised coursework and practicum compared to the MPsych (1,500 as compared to 1,000 hours practicum), as well as a significantly larger thesis, equivalent to two years of full-time research work. The combined MPsych/PhD programs typically have the same coursework and practicum requirements as the professional Masters courses but require research equivalent to a 3-year full time PhD thesis. Graduates with DPsychs are now required to complete a 1-year registrar program for AoPE whereas graduates of MPsych/PhD programs have to complete an 18 month registrar program to attain AoPE.

Since changes were made to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) in 2011, resulting in an increase in the research component of the DPsych, it has been difficult for students enrolled in these programs to complete their degrees in a 3-year time frame, with many requiring four years to complete all requirements. Consequently, a number of universities have discontinued these previously popular doctorate programs.

On the other hand, the combined MPsych/PhD programs are not only relevant for the practitioner workforce but also provide a pipeline for a future academic workforce in psychology.

Summary of issues in current education and training pathways for psychology practitioners

It can be argued that there is a growing gap between the supply and demand of psychologists in Australia (as articulated in my February 2016 InPsych column). This situation is likely to increase in the future. There are a number of constraints on the existing education and training pathways to psychology registration that make it very difficult for the profession to meet community demand. These constraints are summarised here:

  • A number of funding and regulatory challenges over which there is limited control
  • Increased demand on Department/Schools of Psychology to meet the requirements of the high undergraduate enrolment loads
  • A bottleneck between undergraduate and professional post-graduate training programs, with many more students applying than places available
  • Challenges in obtaining external placements contributing to the need for limits on intake to professional courses
  • Government funding of professional courses not covering the real costs to Departments/Schools of Psychology of running these programs, requiring high undergraduate enrolments to subsidise postgraduate professional programs or offering these programs at a financial loss
  • A non-sustainable 4+2 pathway

An alternative model: The European Certificate in Psychology (EuroPsy)

The European Certificate in Psychology (EuroPsy) was established by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) and has been rolled-out since 2010. It represents the minimum qualification standard for competence for independent psychological practice in Europe. It is based on curriculum specifications as well as the specification of competences for professional psychologists. All 36 EFPA member countries are eligible to participate, with around 20 currently participating and at least seven other countries planning to adopt the model.

More specifically, the EuroPsy is a competency-based approach to psychology education and training, based around 20 primary competences5 and nine enabling competences6. In this way, the EuroPsy seeks to achieve a balance between the high standards of academic rigour required of psychologists and the professional skills needed for the psychological training for practice.

The structure of the EuroPsy model is six years (3+2+1) of full-time psychology education and training, comprising three Phases:

  • 3 year Bachelor degree (or equivalent)
  • 2 year Masters (or equivalent) and
  • 1 year full-time (or equivalent) supervised practice in a particular area of professional psychology.

The requirements of the EuroPsy phases are expressed in terms of units of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). The ECTS is a standard for comparing the study attainment and performance of students of higher education across the European Union and other collaborating European countries. One academic year is equivalent to 60 ECTS credits or 1500-1800 hours of study. The EuroPsy requires 360 ECTS credits overall (with 180, 120 and 60 credits in each of the Phases) – equivalent to a 6 year program (see Table 1).

Table 1: Requirements of the EuroPsy model

ECTS Min ECTS Curriculum component
1 year PHASE 3 Supervised practice 60 60
2 years PHASE 2 Masters or equivalent 120 60 (50%) Theoretical courses, seminars, assignments, etc
15-30 Internship/Placement
15-30 Research project/thesis
3 years PHASE 1 Bachelor or equivalent 180 125 (~70%) Orientation
Theory and practice (60 Individual; 20 Group; 20 Society)
Academic skills
30 (~15%) Methodology
15 (~10%) Non-psychology theory

In Phase 1 (or the Bachelor’s component), around 70 per cent of course content must be on orientation, theory and practice in psychology, and academic skills. There is more psychology-specific content than is provided in Australian undergraduate psychology degrees. Within the theory and practice curriculum, 60 units must focus on individual psychology. The behaviour of people in groups and society receive a minimal coverage of 20 units each. This phase also has minimum requirements for tuition in psychological methodologies and non-psychological theory.

In Phase 2 (or the Masters component), at least half the course content is focused on theory and coursework. The other half comprises a combination of an internship or placement7, plus a research project or thesis. Students have flexibility in the emphasis of their studies within this Phase, but must undertake at least 15 credits on each task (i.e., a student could undertake an internship for 15 credits, a thesis for 15 credits and Coursework for 90 credits, or alternatively a 90 credit thesis, with 15 credits each for coursework and internship).

Phase 3 is supervised practice within a particular area of professional psychology as a practitioner in training. This can take place either as part of the university curriculum, but is more commonly undertaken outside of universities, such as in hospital or clinic settings, private practice, schools and educational institutions and community services. To complete the third Phase, the student must produce evidence of supervised practice of 1 year and at a satisfactory standard (as assessed by their supervisor against competences using standard rating categories), and complete a systematic self-evaluation of level of skill in relation to the EuroPsy competences. As with Australian pathways, there are minimum standards required of EuroPsy supervisors in terms of their work experience, field of expertise, level of supervisor training, and level of assessed supervisor quality. Supervisors must have worked for two of the past three years (full-time or equivalent) as an independent psychologist within a field of practice, be recognised by the relevant National Awarding Committee, and have completed at least some supervisor training.

The EuroPsy model also provides a pathway to higher qualifications through the completion of Specialist Certificates after completing the EuroPsy (currently available in two ‘fields of practice’: psychotherapy, and work and organisational psychology).

Could the structure of the EuroPsy model be applied in Australia?

As an internationally accepted standard, the EuroPsy could be a valuable model to consider incorporating into pathways for psychology education and training in Australia. Phase 1 of the EuroPsy would be largely similar to the existing three-year undergraduate degree, but with additional psychology content modules. It is the second Phase in which the most differences are apparent between the EuroPsy and existing Australian models, particularly in terms of the EuroPsy having far less requirements for practicum. Although the proportions of coursework, research and practicum are relatively comparable, the EuroPsy allows more variability amongst these components, for example requiring less practicum. The third Phase would consist of an internship and would have to meet the remaining PsyBA practicum requirements for registration. Not all of the differences between the EuroPsy and the PsyBA requirements are material or insurmountable, and many can be relatively easily reconciled. Figure 2 presents the current pathways to registration.

Figure 2: Current pathways to registration

The introduction of the EuroPsy model would most likely result in the eventual removal of the 4+2 pathway, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Addition of ‘EuroPsy’-type pathway to registration

Universities could then offer either or both of the two 5+1 pathways. Over time, it is hypothesised that students would prefer to enrol in the EuroPsy pathway, as it results in the conferral of a Masters degree. Thus, student demand could result in universities eventually only offering the EuroPsy pathway, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Future pathways to registration

Inspection of Figure 3 indicates that the major difference between the EuroPsy and Australian models is that the EuroPsy pathway (3+2+1) does not specify the Honours degree as a separate stage in the pathway. However, a rigorous piece of research (at least at Honours-level) is a core requirement of the 3+2+1 pathway and would be incorporated into the new ‘generalist’ Masters degree. Because there is just one thesis in the EuroPsy pathway, there would be large savings to universities in the costs of research supervision but provide a research thesis equivalent in standard to an Honours thesis. In addition, the Phase 2 of the 3+2+1 pathway could be sequenced so that research is undertaken in the fourth year of study, much like the existing Honours study. This also provides flexibility for students who commence this professional pathway but who later wish to transfer to a research-oriented pathway. The flexibility of the EuroPsy is an important advantage of the model as it enables students to easily articulate between the professional training pathway and a research pathway by simply swapping to a higher degree pathway after finishing the thesis (which could be undertaken in fourth year of Phase 2). This is identical to what currently exists in Australia with students moving from fourth year to higher degrees. It is acknowledged that, consistent with existing approaches, students would need to undergo a rigorous selection process for aptitude and suitability.

Another apparent difference to the existing Australian pathways is that the EuroPsy model shifts the majority of the practice and placement requirements into the sixth year (in Phase 3). The benefits of doing so are two-fold. First, by prioritising coursework and research in Phase 2 and streamlining placements into Phase 3, economies of scale are created, including efficiencies in reducing the need for universities to procure placements as well as in course administration and delivery. This would have the significant advantage of enabling more students to be enrolled (and thus potentially increasing the supply of generalist psychologists) as there is less practicum than is in the current Masters degree and less research supervision than in both this route and in the 5 + 1 route. Further the type of practicum would be less intensive and more diverse as the EuroPsy-type Masters being proposed for Australia is a ‘generalist’ Masters. These efficiencies mean that a greater number of fourth and fifth year enrolments should be achievable within existing resources. Secondly, offering students a ‘taste’ of professional practice in Phase 2 provides experience that equips students to make informed choices about whether to continue on to Phase 3 or to take some other pathway, for example, by transferring to a higher research degree. In this way, the EuroPsy approach may provide a level of flexibility and more informed decision-making than is currently available through existing pathways.

What are the implications of the EuroPsy structure for area of practice endorsement?

The EuroPsy-type Masters degree, as applied in Australia, is proposed be a ‘generalist’ Masters degree (as indicated in Figure 4), rather than containing specialist areas of training as in Europe. ‘Specialist training’ in Australia, leading to AoPE, would occur through the 3+1+2 or higher degree pathways (see Figure 4). Recently, in Europe, it is possible to obtain specialist certificates through the completion of specialist certificates in certain ‘fields of practice’ (currently in psychotherapy, or work and organisational psychology). These specialist certificates require additional study, additional hours of supervised practice and supervision, demonstration of competencies, and personal development. These specialist certificates thus have similarities and differences to the requirements for AoPE in Australia.

A shift to a EuroPsy-type model in Australia that resulted in a Masters degree in ‘generalist’ psychologist practice, would necessitate consideration of pathways to AoPE. Figure 5 shows that initially, the pathway to AoPE would continue to be through the existing 3+1+2 and higher degree pathways that would remain the entry requirements for the existing registrar programs.

Figure 5: Professional education post-graduate and registrar program components required as part of the progression to area of practice endorsement

To further simplify the pathways, it would be possible to streamline the ‘specialist’ pathways by removing the 3+1+2 pathway such that the specialist route was achieved only by completion of a doctoral-level qualification. This option has a significant advantage in that the conferring of the title ‘doctor’ would clarify the distinction between generalist and ‘specialist’ psychologists as previously described, overcoming the confusion that currently exists among not only the general public but also other health practitioners and the government. Figure 6 depicts how this model might operate.

Figure 6: A possibility: Streamlining the ‘specialist’ pathway

Figure 7 extends the options by streamlining the pathways even further by removing the Bachelor Honours component that would enable a more efficient route to ‘specialist’ status. It is acknowledged that removal of this component may require a change in AQF requirements for entry into doctorate programs.

Figure 7: A possibility: Further streamlining the ‘specialist’ pathway

How do we increase the workforce capacity and diversity for ‘generalist’ and ‘specialist’ psychologists?

There are currently nine areas of practice endorsement in Australia. As previously described, clinical psychology programs are overwhelmingly the most available courses to support the pathway to AoPE. There is widespread concern over the diminishing diversity of the profession in Australia, compounded by poor distribution of existing programs across the various jurisdictions.

Increased workplace capacity and diversity could be promoted through the increased use of bridging programs to enable a second AoPE to be attained. Entry to all existing programs is extremely competitive with insufficient places for the number of applicants, and only three bridging programs are currently available to acquire an additional AoPE. Bridging programs delivered by distance education are particularly needed to enable access to be extended across Australia. Greater access to bridging programs could substantially improve the diversity of the workforce and should be able to be easily facilitated given the substantial overlap between the programs across the various areas of psychology.

Figure 8 depicts how this could be extended to address the current loss of diversity in the profession in Australia. The bridging program to attain a 2nd AoPE would be completed after the attainment of the 1st AoPE.

Figure 8: Inclusion of bridging program to enable conversion from one AoPE to a second AoPE

Workforce capacity and diversity could also be expanded by the implementation of bridging programs to enable upgrade from generalist registration (following the 3+2+1 pathway) to hold an AoPE. The current pathways make movement from generalist registration to ‘specialist’ status difficult because of the limited number of places and competitiveness for positions in postgraduate professional programs. The existence of an upgraded pathway to generalist registration that is primarily undertaken within accredited higher education facilities would support the development of a new type of bridging program that builds on the strong core content in the generalist program. One possibility would be to develop a one – one and a half year Graduate Diploma program in the area of specialisation, followed by the 2 year registrar program, as illustrated in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Inclusion of bridging programs to enable conversion of generalist registration to AoPE

There would be many ‘generalist’ psychologists who would be interested in undertaking this type of program at some time in their career.

A way forward

This article has outlined the current state of play in psychology education and training and the implications of the current pathways for the psychology workforce. The discussion has highlighted the EuroPsy as a structure for possible introduction in Australia. It is largely compatible with existing processes, and would bring substantial improvements and efficiencies to the education and training of psychologists.

In summary, the advantages of introducing the EuroPsy include:

  • Decreased duration of higher education provider-based education and training (reduced costs)
  • One thesis instead of two (decreased research supervision costs)
  • Supervised practice placements outside of university management (reduced costs and administrative load for higher education providers)
  • Opportunity to increase student numbers in higher education pathways, and hence increase the supply of the psychology workforce
  • Higher quality of training for generalist psychologists
  • Alignment with international standards leading to better international professional recognition and mobility
  • Greater access to pathways to AoPE
  • Increased flexibility through bridging programs between AoPEs, and between ‘generalist’ and ‘specialist’ training, fostering diversity of the profession
  • Clearer separation of ‘generalist’ and ‘specialist’ workforces with fewer pathways and less confusion for purchasers of psychological services

Increasing the capacity of the psychology education and training pipeline, the EuroPsy structure offers an avenue to secure the diversity and sustainability of the psychology workforce. The APS recognises that introducing the EuroPsy structure would require coordination of change across a number of system requirements, including regulatory and accreditation bodies, government and educational institutions, and amongst the profession itself. However, achieving in-principle support for this reform is an important first step.

As a collective, the APS, the Heads of Departments and Schools of the Psychology Association (HODSPA), the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) and the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) have an opportunity and indeed, a responsibility, to come to a common understanding of the current problems, opportunities and challenges presented by various options for reform, and the development of solutions. The costs of not doing so are too great, with significant implications for psychology as a discipline and profession.


  1. The number of postgraduate psychology training places can be estimated by reducing by two thirds the number of provisional psychologist registrants: Grenyer, B.F.S., Mathews, R., Stokes, D.L., & Crea, K. N. (2010) The Australian Psychology Workforce 2: National Profile of Psychologists Education, Training, Specialist Qualifications and Continuous Professional Development. Australian Psychologist, 45(3),168-177. (DOI: 10.1080/00050067.2010.482108)
  2. Mathews, R., Stokes, D.L., Crea, K.N., and Grenyer, B.F.S. (2010) The Australian Psychology Workforce 1: A national profile of psychologists in practice. Australian Psychologist, 45(3), 154-167. (DOI: 10.1080/00050067.2010.489911)
  3. APS (2012). Guidelines for the 4+2 internship program: An APS submission to the Psychology Board of Australia. Available at: APS-submission-internship.pdf
  4. Voudouris, N. & Mrowinski. V. (2010). Alarming drop in availability of postgraduate psychology training. InPsych, 32(2): 20-23.
  5. The 20 competencies are grouped under six functional categories: Goal specification Development, Assessment, Intervention, Evaluation, Communication.
  6. The nine competencies are: professional strategy, marketing and sales, self-reflection, professional relations, practice management, account management, research and development, quality assurance, and continuing professional development.
  7. Note that the second Phase placement (or internship) does not qualify as supervised practice for the purposes of the third Phase, and that responsibility for this component of Phase 2 is shared jointly between the university and/or the national professional psychological association and/or the relevant bodies for the accreditation of the training.

Disclaimer: Published in InPsych on April 2016. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment. The information provided in InPsych does not replace obtaining appropriate professional and/or legal advice.