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 

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Created with intent

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a women focused event and it was great to step outside my normal routine. I felt recharged after the night as I listened to women with conviction and passion speak about the work they do to make a difference to women’s lives.

Shannon Fentiman MP – Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Member for Waterford reminded us that the gender pay gap is still alive and well, with woman being paid, on average, 17% less than men. I thought of a recent conversation Continue reading