I graduated from Monash University with a PhD/Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology (2017), after achieving first-class Honours (Psychology) in a Bachelor of Behavioural Neuroscience (2010).
Together we’re stronger
I believe in unity, compassion and understanding. I strive to be inclusive, open-minded, incisive and useful.
While I adore them, my life hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns. I’ve had my head down for some decades now, working hard to be who I am, do what I do, and do it as best as I can.
As an early career psychologist, I’m relatively new to the profession and have balanced family and work with extended study and training for some years. I believed that the APS would always be a voice for me, would represent all registered psychologists, would support all psychologists in the face of government cuts, wouldn’t undermine my skillset or work capacity.
But unfortunately, instead of unity, I see “us and them” mentalities abounding (both sides), personal and generalised slurs (both sides), frustrated psychologists asking for answers, hopeless psychologists abandoning ship, and a bigger picture hinted at, but not plain to see.
I truly believe that it doesn’t serve us to be split along training-pathway-lines. We’re got a better chance of tilting the rudder of the larger societal ship if we act as one.
Australia needs us united and serving their needs.
Uncertainty is rife. Our youth are experiencing serious mental health issues, our older adults dementia, and all suicide rates are rising at an alarming rate. Our educators are not coping with mental health demands and learning needs of students, our organisations are trying to cope with workplace bullying and productivity issues, the prison system is a mess with poor funding for evidence-based rehabilitation programs and training/help for staff.
We are the voice of the vulnerable and disenfranchised clients we see and organisations we help.
A strong united Australian Psychological Society is an essential platform for pressing agendas. It’s already known and has a seat at the table. We need to speak clearly for psychology and for Australia’s future.
– I believe that all the strands of psychology are necessary to have a strong, useful workforce and as such, diversity in training courses needs protection.
– I believe that we’re all registered psychologists who have already been deemed ok to treat all disorders in our competency range.
– Regarding Medicare, I believe that our clients need to be reimbursed equitably (same rebate for same service), and for more services (like developmental assessments).
– I believe our clients require more rebated sessions and I believe that there ought to be a greater push for service delivery to vulnerable Australians.
– I do not support two-tier, or as the APS has recently suggested, three-tier rebate scales. If there was a vote about the tiers on the board I’d vote for a one-tier system. But I think the government has made it pretty clear that they’re not interested in changing anything. See next point.
– I believe that our government is disinclined to spend more money on mental health. Over the years of Better Access spending has declined – they’re usually always looking for ways to spend less on everything, health included. In my role at the Centre for Health Economics I really got to understand that while the public want fairness, sharing and equity of spending for health services, governments (all of them) are inclined to utilitarianism and minimal spending. This is our current economic climate, our Liberal government would probably prefer to ditch Medicare altogether and so they look for ways to do this all the time.
– I do not abide by speech, decisions or actions based on fear and cognitive distortions – these set us fighting among ourselves.
1. 10 sessions isn’t enough.
It just isn’t, not usually anyway. Our clients deserve to be looked after and helped when they’re vulnerable. Not discharged after 10 sessions and sent on their way.
2. While a focus on mental illness is a national priority, it is not the only aspect of mental health, or indeed the only aspect in psychology.
Learning difficulties are not mental illnesses yet left untreated can lead to negative life outcomes. Dementia in ageing isn’t classified as a mental illness but imposes an unfair and significant emotional, physical, mental and financial burden on individuals and our healthcare system. Being bullied at work isn’t a mental illness but it can take a massive toll on both employees and employers. We need to ensure that the breadth and diversity of our practice is protected and supported into the future so that groups like these can be looked after well.
Diversity in our training courses has plummeted. Last year there were 90 programs delivering a clinical speciality and only 68 programs serving all the other areas of practice endorsement. Under the new APAC standards, the first 5 years at University will be the same for everyone. These standards state that to be registered for practice, a psychologist must be capable of a wide range of evidence-based skills including psychological assessment, diagnosis, intervention and continuing mental healthcare of clients.
However the shrinking of programs means there is an unacceptable risk that our broad field of practice will be slowly reduced to only clinical psychologists providing clinical services for mental illness.
3. Clients are being inequitably reimbursed by the two-tier Medicare system for psychological services.
Better Access was intended to provide better access to mental health care for everyone. It’s a rebate scheme that gives clients some reimbursement for visiting a psychologist. And we’re all competent, registered, qualified psychologists. We’re practicing in the same system with the same expected and accredited standards determined by APAC.
But the public is currently being done a disservice. The Better Access service delivery model is skewed towards favouring services delivered by only one type of psychologist. This has kept government spending manageable but has had other, possibly unintended, consequences.
Inequities in rebates and our human Western tendency to value services by price differences have contributed to the current implication that one arena of psychological practice is always better than another. Variations in government rebates and policies suggest clear-cut differences in psychologists’ outcomes without supporting evidence. I’m not saying we’re all the same – we’re not, no group of professionals is entirely homogeous but we’re more similar than different when we’re providing similar services to similar clientele. And this inequity disproportionately affects rural Australians who we know already experience difficulties accessing services.
4. The public is disadvantaged because of increased restrictions on practitioners, such as diagnostic reports for Centrelink only accepted from clinical psychologists.
Negative effects from policies such as this include excessive wait times, changing psychologist mid-treatment, and duplication of services. Likewise, the current confusion regarding the NDIA’s advice around diagnostic capabilities of psychologists is affecting the public adversely, reducing availability to a small population of clinicians.
My goal is to address inequity and ensure that the opinions and needs of the many are heard as we move into the future of mental healthcare. The public deserve to be provided with fair evidence-based subsidies and policies for assessment, diagnosis and care by all registered psychologists.
It’s time that the disunities and inequalities confronting our profession now are resolved, frankly and transparently. I’m not sure of the best way to do that, but I’m certain it’s not happening now.
Communication 101 tells us to seek first to understand, and then to be understood. I want to understand what’s gone on and help figure out a way we can move forward together, with shared respect and a common purpose.
The future is not set in stone but one thing is sure.
Unless we act to change things, we’ll end up with a too-tightly-focused, polarised workforce, unable to meet the diversity of psychological issues facing Australia.
Top 5 Internal Issues Raised by Psychologists
We joined the APS as registered psychologists deemed competent and fit to practice. Psychologists want the APS to protect, promote and recognise the expertise of all psychologists and treat them equitably.
People want to really understand and have input into the focus and direction of the Board. They want wider collaboration on platforms and submissions made on member’s behalf.
Same fee for same service. The rebate is distributed unfairly to clients and restricts the capacity for registered psychologists to provide low-cost bulk-billed services.
4. Compulsory voting
Psychologists recognise the need to engage members to participate in the APS more fully, perhaps we could urge voting with a membership incentive.
5. Better fee arrangements
People want discounted fees for volunteering on member groups, clearer way to access discounts, fairer part-time fee policies, an advocacy for reductions in AHPRA fees (which are inordinately large).
Education and work
I like to engage with a lot of different professional activities, and I’m lucky/dedicated/supported enough to have crafted my work-life to be pretty balanced. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some awesome people who’ve taught me excellent lessons along the way.
I worked on mental-health related quality of life projects for 8 years with the AQoL team led by Professor Jeff Richardson, at the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University. We asked the public what they thought of different health conditions, making sure to account for mental health. A lot of the current tools don’t weight mental health when they’re figuring out what a Quality-Adjusted Life Year is worth. We constructed an excellent tool that’s used internationally and I got to learn a great deal about the economics of health management. I analyse information at micro- and macro- levels to help government departments decide how to spend their budgets.
Under the excellent guidance of Assistant Professor Phil Riley, now at ACU, I’ve run the longitudinal Principal Health and Wellbeing surveys internationally for 8 years. I completed my doctorate using longitudinal data from my Australian school principals dataset, and was awarded a full pass with commendations in 2016. I studied emotions, emotional demands, emotional labour and relationships with burnout, job satisfaction and quality of life in a massive longitudinal dataset. I have a deep understanding of occupational health and wellbeing, the need for organisations to provide support and a united voice for their members, and how to successfully run large-scale, long-term projects.
I work with individuals in private practice, as well regularly presenting to leadership groups, community groups and doctors on context-specific issues regarding psychology and wellbeing. Alongside, I provide corporate statistical services and presentations when I can. I engage a range of stakeholders, over many levels, in many sectors, in multiple ways.
I’m member of the International Association of Workplace Bullying and Trauma and am a registered WorkSafe psychologist. Find out more – Zenith Psychology