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 Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) which is supported by 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.

  • Donations can be made to the Australian Association of Psychologists inc (AAPi) Fighting Fund by:
    • AAPI Gofundme page here
    • EFT to BSB 182 512 Account No. 961170248
    • BPay to BPay Code: 667022; BPay Reference: 961170248 – Cheque to PO Box 107, North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051.
    • Credit Card phone 0418 391 820
    • Receipts will be issued for all donations but please use your full name if a member and if not a member your email address (we have a lovely volunteer psych doing the receipts!). For further information telephone 0418 391 820 or email admin@aapoz.com
  • 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

  • Donations can be made to the Australian Association of Psychologists inc (AAPi) Fighting Fund by:
    • AAPI Gofundme page here
    • EFT to BSB 182 512 Account No. 961170248
    • BPay to BPay Code: 667022; BPay Reference: 961170248 – Cheque to PO Box 107, North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051.
    • Credit Card phone 0418 391 820
    • Receipts will be issued for all donations but please use your full name if a member and if not a member your email address (we have a lovely volunteer psych doing the receipts!). For further information telephone 0418 391 820 or email admin@aapoz.com

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

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

Enjoying a trip to the theatre as an act of self care

Seeing a play is one way that I revitalise myself. For me, a trip to the theatre is an act of self care and pure pleasure. I feel given to, with nothing expected in return. There’s a feeling of connectedness with the actors and the audience which I never get from watching a screen. As a psychologist, I advocate for self-compassion, self care, and connectedness, so it’s important that I walk the talk.  This weekend I indulged myself with two plays.

The Mathematics of Longing

Theatre as self care - The Mathmatics of LongingWatching the Mathematics of Longing at Brisbane’s Le  Boite theatre, I immersed myself in another world for an hour.  I love this smalltheatre in the round. It feels so intimate, and I intensified the experience by sitting in the front row.  A friend insisted that we do this at the last play we enjoyed, and, somewhat reluctantly, I acquiesced. Unexpectedly I discovered that I loved the closeness to the Continue reading

Easing the burden by reaching out

Burden of elephant supported by balloonsClients often experience a wave of relief after their first counselling session.  Their burden is shared and they feel joined on their journey.  That old saying, a worry shared is a worry halved rings true.

Sometimes, you don’t recognise how burdened you’re feeling until the load eases, as I experienced recently.   I’d been working on Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography for over four years and had come to the end of my skills, capability, and motivation. I knew I had to do more but had no idea Continue reading