Uniting Psychologists: Visionaries, Activists, Noisemakers… and Bystanders

A feisty shake-up of psychology

The profession of psychology is undergoing a feisty and invigorating shake-up, triggered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule Taskforce Review into Mental Health. For too long psychologists have trustingly left the management of their profession to the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the Australian Health Practitioner Agency (APHRA). We now realise that these organisations have not advocated proactively for most psychologists, nor for mental health clients, and the result has been a fractured profession. A cohesive mental health service for the Australian community can only be provided through unification.

There are now many more psychologists clamouring to be heard, stimulating hardy debate, challenging untested myths and demanding a united and yet diverse profession to meet the needs of mental health clients in Australia. If you are a psychologist, look at the Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPI) and Reform APS (RAPS) websites and join the Australian Psychologists closed group Facebook page.  These forums have re-ignited my interest in the profession of psychology, dormant for many years, having long ago let my APS membership expire for lack of relevancy.

Uniting psychologists

All psychologists are registered practitioners with APHRA under the general registration standard. A false dichotomy has arisen between psychologists with a clinical endorsement and those without. Those with clinical endorsement have been privileged financially (without any evidence of better outcomes) and are falsely assumed to have greater expertise, knowledge, and education.  In 2018 there were 29,982 registered Psychologists, with only 29% of them having a clinical endorsement. Eighty percent of psychologists are female.

We must celebrate the richness of diversity that different pathways to registration as a psychologist bring to the profession, and ultimately our clients. See more of my thoughts on this in Enraged Psychologists and Dear Mental Health Client, please don’t be too unwell.

Moves to restrict the practice of most psychologists will have a devastating impact on the mental health services we can provide to clients and overload our clinically endorsed colleagues. The APS is proposing that only 8,725 clinically endorsed psychologists can be expected to meet the needs of all mental health clients with severe symptoms.

Those working to unite psychologists are Visionaries, Activists, and Noisemakers. As always with social justice advocacy, there is also a group of Bystanders whose voice is silent.

Visionaries

There is a team of awesome Visionaries and these psychologists are my superheroes. They are unearthing historical documents, analysing research, writing submissions, compiling academic papers and creating petitions. You’ll find them leading RAPS, AAPI and the Australian Psychologists Facebook page.  The enormity of their toil is often unseen and unrecognised.

The Visionaries see the big picture and put the pieces of the puzzle together. They share their insights and spur us to action.  They shine the spotlight on the deficiencies of the status quo.

By placing themselves in the public domain they face the pushback that occurs, including legal threats, and malicious social media comments.

The Visionaries are predominantly female, all volunteers with day jobs, families and other caring roles.  They are full of energy when not exhausted, both inspired and feeling hopeless, often afraid, always courageous.  As a group, they are relentless and sustain the pressure to unite the profession.  As individuals, they give what they can when they can. Sometimes they need to withdraw to re-energise.

Activists

The Activists, spurred on by the findings of the Visionaries, flood Members of Parliament with feedback on the negative consequences to the community of a divided profession. They demand an end to the false division of psychologists within Medicare, Centrelink and the NDIS policies.  Comments made by the APS and APHRA are now challenged, no longer silently accepted. They write submissions to the Productivity Commission and the Medicare Benefits Schedule Taskforce Review into Mental Health.

Activists speak about the issue to colleagues and at professional development events.

They correct misinformation in the community, including with General Practitioners.

They sign petitions such as “Enough is Enough’….All consumers and psychologists in Australia deserve equal access to Medicare.

They commend action, encourage debate and contribute to the discussion.

Let’s not forget that the Activists (who may also be Visionaries) also volunteer with minimal resources. Those they are fighting have paid workforces and infrastructure to support them. Activists do not have access to mailing lists of psychologists to share their concerns. It’s exhausting work.

Noisemakers

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The Noisemakers echo the findings of the Visionaries and words of the Activists. They blog, write articles, post on Linkedin, Facebook and Tweet.

They seek to engage the media as ultimately, the fracture in psychology has a negative impact on services provided to mental health clients.

Noisemakers share Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts, they “like”, retweet and comment frequently. They actively support other psychologists on social media.

Noisemakers are both inspired and deflated; passionate and at times overwhelmed. More volunteers with day jobs. Some are also inspiring Visionaries and busy Activists, fully committed to uniting psychology.

Bystanders

At times we are all Bystanders, but life or events call us to action at different times. I assume the Bystanders are psychologists who think a fractured profession does not affect them. Who perhaps think uniting psychologists is a big fuss about nothing.  Maybe they see Medicare as having nothing to do with them. Or perhaps they support the status quo.  Possibly they see it all as hopeless. Nonetheless, they are silent and there are too many of them.

If you are a psychologist and a Bystander but want to start being more active, begin by signing “Enough is Enough’….All consumers and psychologists in Australia deserve equal access to Medicare. You could also share one of my blogs on social media, or talk to a colleague about what’s going on. Join the Australian Psychologists Facebook page.  It’s a hive of information and inspiration.

In my opinion, what Bystanders don’t get to say is:

“Why didn’t you tell me what was going on”.

 “See, it was all alright in the end”.

“I knew it would be ok”

“I knew that wouldn’t happen”

“It was a lot of fuss about nothing”

“See, the changes have been good”

That’s because the Visionaries, Activists, and Noisemakers did hours of unpaid work to unite psychologists.  Do not let inaction, apathy or silence undermine their courageous and heroic effort.

Psychologists, you can take action.

  • Donate to the AAPi fighting fund  here
  • Join the Australian Association of Psychologists www.aapoz.com
  • Join the Australian Psychologists Facebook page. This is a closed group of enraged psychologists with a huge passion, great debate, and inspiration. They are an amazing brains trust.  Make sure you answer the questions required to join the group.
  • Go to www.reformaps.org
  • Make your views known to:
  • Share this post on social media.
  • Has the APS represented you as a psychologist? Does it look after your best interests? Has it provided a workable suggestion for mental health clients? Is it in your benefit to remain a member?

Mental health advocates and consumers, you can take action

Lucky Cardinal Pell – now not so lucky

Lucky Cardinal PellCardinal Pell Sentenced!

Today, 13/3/2018, Cardinal Pell received a maximum sentence of six years for the sexual abuse of two teenage boys, after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1966.  He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.

While handing down the sentence Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell been “breathtakingly arrogant” and “brazen and callous” in his offending.

That Australia’s most senior Catholic leader has been found guilty of child sexual assault astounds me.  No longer is the Catholic church successful at covering up its heinous deeds.

Pell will, of course, make an appeal.

Take care of Yourself and others

Australia media is inundated with this news of this case and undoubtedly survivors of child sexual abuse will be triggered. Some ideas for caring for yourself and others can be found here: Taking care of yourself (or a loved one) in the wake of George Pell’s conviction

Survivors and Solicitors 

Pell is now guilty and imprisoned. It’s likely that others who have been sexually abused as children, and who have remained silent, may now be considering legal action against their perpetrators.  Before you embark on a marathon legal journey, read Survivors and Solicitors, and make sure you have a strong team with you.

Original Post 8 May 2018.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic leader, was committed to stand trial for Continue reading

Enraged psychologists fighting for an improved mental health system

Enraged psychologistI’ve never met so many enraged psychologists as I have in the last six months. We’re channelling our pent up fury by pounding keyboards, our battle cry is echoing loudly through social media and Members of Parliament (MP’s) are being accosted at every opportunity.

And that goes against everything I know about my usually sedate and contemplative colleagues.

Life of an enraged Psychologist 

Let me tell you a bit about the life of a psychologist. We work with vulnerable people in our Continue reading

Survivors and Solicitors

Survivors of child sexual abuse, who courageously gave evidence to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, are now torn between applying for compensation through the Redress Scheme and/or launching legal proceedings against the perpetrating organisations. Neither pathway is easy and neither has a guaranteed outcome. Historical child sexual abuse cases are notoriously difficult to win given the passage of time, lack of witnesses and the legal requirement for detailed information.  Survivors and solicitors embarking on the marathon journey into the world of trauma and legal processes need to be well prepared.

Acknowledge the legal process will trigger trauma symptoms

Female survivor alone

Applying to the Redress Scheme or undertaking legal action is likely to be distressing. Revisiting the abuse, providing statements, and arguing your case may trigger flashbacks, nightmares and other trauma symptoms.  During this time be proactive in care for yourself.

Gather a support team

  • Invite someone, other than the solicitor, to join you on the journey and be your support person.  Ask them to accompany you to appointments, read information, discuss the case with you and retain the focus in appointments when you are distressed.  Give consideration to who you would ask. Another trauma survivor may also be triggered by the process.  Perhaps there could be more than one person to assist you.
  • Inform your family and friends that the legal process is likely to be stressful and lengthy. Try and be clear about what you need e.g. “After appointments, I may be distressed, can you spend some time with me?”  “Can you come for a walk sometimes to help me manage the stress?”  “I may just need a hug or my handheld, will you be able to do that for me?”
  • Access support through a psychologist, counsellor, social worker,  or caseworker and schedule regular appointments in advance.

Commit to a rigorous self-care plan

Legal cases may go on for years and are stressful. They are indeed a marathon and not a sprint. Continue reading

60 years of loving

How has life, and the way we date, changed since Rhonda and Arthur met and married?  This couple, my inspiring parents-in-law, Stevens loving Mum and Dad, and wonderful grandparents to my children married on 1 October 1955, 63 years ago.  They have enjoyed over 60 years of loving.

The first date

P1080380 (2)They met on a blind date.  For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s where friends set up a date for you with someone you don’t know.  Kind of similar to Tinder except you didn’t get to stalk their Facebook page to see what they looked like.

Rhonda and Arthur courted.  The definition of courting for their time would have been “be involved with (someone) romantically, with the intention of marrying”.  The urban dictionary today gives the definition as “traditionally courting would include no sexual activity but today that is not usually followed”. I didn’t ask them which definition they followed, and I don’t ask my kids which kind of courting they do either.

No mobile phones

Sixty three years ago Continue reading

Why reduce access to 100 years of psychological expertise? Reject the APS Submission to the Medicare Review.

Australian’s requiring psychological treatment will have less access to psychologists if the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) submission to the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review is accepted.

Our Practice

I am a generalist psychologist in a busy inner-city practice. Our professional team consists of five generalist psychologists, a mental health occupational therapist, a music therapist and a therapy dog.

Our admin team consists of two psychology students and a mental health nurse.

Together we have about 100 years of psychological expertise, hard earned in a range of settings including domestic violence services, sexual assault services, child-focused treatment centres, mental health institutions, relationship services, unemployment services and crisis lines.

Group supervision
Our team participating in group supervision

Collectively we have completed about 40 years of academic studies Continue reading

Redress: the setting right of that which is morally wrong

Woman, hands to face, in despair
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Through the Redress Scheme, those who have been sexually abused in Australian institutions now have the opportunity to obtain financial compensation, counselling and a personal apology for the horror they endured. But don’t for one minute think it will be an easy process.

On 14 September 2015 the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its Redress and Civil Litigation Report. After receiving submissions from more than 250 individuals and institutions, the 589-page report made 99 recommendations. There was an enormous financial cost to the Australian public for the Royal Commission so we should listen to what the Royal Commission had to say.

Here are some of the most significant recommendations regarding the Redress Scheme and what’s happened so far: Continue reading

The international wedding – from New York to Cairns and back again

Sign - Chelsea & Sean, June 16 2018
Chelsea & Sean, June 16 2018

I love attending a wedding, as I wrote in Wedding Rings and Canoe Paddles. As a psychologist, my days are often filled with the sadness and problems of life so it’s joyous to take time out to witness the joining of families, friends, communities, and in this case countries. There seems to be so little opportunity to come together with old friends and family, separated as we often are by geography and busyness. A wedding is a wonderful chance to pause and celebrate the expression of love, to honour a shared history, to laugh, to cry and to reflect on the odd things that happen.  This international wedding was no exception.

The Bride and Groom, Chelsea and Sean, live in New York, the bridesmaids in Brisbane, New York, Dubai and Cairns, the groomsmen in New York and Dubai, the Mother of the Groom in Florida the Mother of the Bride in Los Angeles and the Father of the Bride in Cairns. The guests were predominantly from Australia and the USA. That’s a lot of coming together. We attended the Cairns wedding and there was a second wedding in New York.

This is a couple who don’t live where either of them grew up, where either of them went to university, where either of them started work or near any family.  They have worked hard to form and maintain friendships and family relationships across the world.  This wedding celebrated and strengthened these connections.

So what traditions did this international couple keep, or make their own? Continue reading

Friday night tears with Redgum

John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew
John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew

Music is like a magical time machine, transporting you back to a different time and place. On Friday night, as Steven and I listened to the sounds of Redgum, by John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew, we were once again a young couple with their life ahead of them, not long married with a baby son. The music of Redgum, with John Schumann’s distinctive storytelling voice, often filled our home. Our first night out without the baby was to a Redgum concert. Redgum was an Australian folk and political group during the 1980’s. Their protest music captured the misery and pointlessness of war and made my heart ache.

I Was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen, written by John Schumann, told the story of a young man, conscripted into the Vietnam war. He returned as a battle-weary soldier having lost his mates and unable to adjust to the banality of civilian life. Continue reading

The Psychologist sounds out the Music Therapist

Music Therapist, Claire Stephensen from Press Play Therapy
Music Therapist, Claire Stephensen from Press Play Therapy

At times the rumble of drums or the soft tinkle of ivories floats into my counselling room at Little Window – Counselling, Psychology and Wellness. Then I know that our Music Therapist, Claire Stephensen, is working with a client, and I’m intrigued.  Poking my head into the hallway, I try to see Claire using music in therapy, but her door is firmly closed and the mystery remains.

would not describe myself as a musical person. I sing like a cat on heat, I’m an awkward dancer and my husband used to tell me off for singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star out of tune to our children. Yet I also know music brings great joy. I hear the first beats of an old love song and memories flood back. My mood can be lifted or lowered through a few well-chosen songs. I know that there is magic in how we respond to music. To satisfy my curiosity about music therapy I had a chat with Claire and asked her a barrage of questions.

Thanks for having me Anne, I know your curiosity is shared with so many people.  I look forward to sharing a glimpse into the ‘music therapy space’.

How do you start a music therapy session?

In music therapy training we learn a lot about the importance of overall structure of a session – the opening, middle and close are each considered to be very important for their own reasons (just like the open, middle and close of a song or piece of music!) – and it will look different for each person I work with. I always intend to meet the person where they’re at – and finish the session closer to where they want to be. For some, this might mean we start with talking before introducing music, and for others, we start with music before we do any talking. Some clients like to start their sessions by bringing a song or piece of music that resonated for them – to help bring language to their current challenges. At other times we talk through the key challenges or wins so we can decide together what the best modality will be for the ‘middle’ part of the session.

So you do talk during music therapy?

Continue reading