AAPi Update 16 September

A Message from AAPi President

Dear Colleagues,

I really hope all of us in level 4 restrictions in Victoria are continuing to access the support needed to keep going with the very demanding psychological work we are doing at this time. Last week was R U OK day. R U OK also applies to us of course and I am very conscious that working with the levels of distress our community is experiencing nationally takes effort to reflect on our own needs. 

I also want to thank all our members around the country who are actively supporting each other in the AAPi community forums and on social media. We need the sense of being individually supported because democracy is, at its heart, about being valued as individuals in all our diversity. I say this because the Board has recently reviewed the annual operational direction and strategies and revisited the AAPi values, so I have been thinking about them very much over the past weeks. AAPi makes a point of offering that responsive and individual support to members.

As part of our members services, we offer support for members traversing ethical dilemmas. We do not provide legal advice as none of our employees are lawyers and we do not yet employ inhouse lawyers. This means that we do not provide answers or solutions to ethical dilemmas or legal questions, rather we provide a support to work your way through the dilemmas to reach your own ethical decisions.

Just a couple of mentions about things I have been involved in recently on behalf of AAPi- meeting with Tegan, Chris Bowen and his advisor, meeting with MELCA re a partnership opportunity and of course the whole Board was involved in a two day operational planning review during August.

Tegan and I communicate weekly about many matters and the whole Board communicates between monthly Board meetings about issues as they arise too, for example, currently the NDIS independent assessments and issues about unions and where psychologists sit within Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (“EBA’s”). I am so proud of the Board of AAPi and our Executive Director, Tegan who we are so lucky to have. We all hold members support and wellbeing centrally in our minds when we meet with others and work for you behind the scenes.

Best Wishes,

Anne Marie Collins, AAPi President

Advocacy update from AAPi Executive Director

We are working around the clock to ensure that Telehealth remains an option for psychologists and clients after September 30. Here are some of the actions we have taken to represent our members:

  • AAPi has been featured in an article in The Australian here. We also have a PDF copy here.
  • AAPi appeared on ABC TV news Tuesday night- thank you to our new director, Betty Chetcuti, for her excellent representation of the issue.
  • We have been featured on several radio stations including ABC Radio National, ABC Sydney, 5AA Adelaide, 3AW, 96FM Perth, Smooth FM and many more.
  • We have also been featured discussing the extension of telehealth in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

We know how important the extension of telehealth is for many of you. We will advise our members as soon as we have official confirmation regarding any extensions or changes.

Regarding the Job Ready Graduates Program, thank you to all those members that contributed by writing to MP’s, contacting the media and voicing your concerns. This Bill, that would have resulted in an increase in fees for undergraduate psychology degrees and some postgraduate courses, was successfully blocked and is being investigated and reviewed.

We have been working on an advocacy campaign regarding the NDIS Independent Assessment Concerns. AAPi vice president Amanda Curran, spoke with Crikey about this important topic. You can read a PDF copy of the article here.

After some concerns that The Australian Greens political party were supporting a 3 tier model for Better Access, AAPi immediately reached out to the Greens to clarify the issue. The Greens are supporting a tiered approach to the amount of sessions available under Better Access. What this would mean is that clients could access up to 40 psychology sessions across a three tier system within a 12 month period. Under the Greens proposal the first tier would contain a maximum of 10 sessions, a maximum of 20 sessions in the second tier and a maximum of 40 in the third tier, within a 12 month period. Progression through the tiers would be determined by a GP who has reviewed the clients progress. We have written to The Greens to inform them of the issues with the current two-tier system and to engage in collaborative discussions to improve the future of mental health care in Australia. We thank those members that have also personally written to the Greens on this issue. 

AAPi met with the Shadow Minister for Health, Chris Bowen to discuss our many advocacy issues. This was a productive meeting, with follow up meetings planned and demonstrates AAPi's desire to work with all areas of politics in Australia to ensure the concerns of our members are heard and acted on.

Assessment and diagnosis for Centrelink, school verification of disability and access to NDIS funding has been of concern for many registered psychologists. We are actively progressing legal and advocacy options to address this.

A quick summary of the current issue:

  • The current restrictions means that the number of psychologists able to perform this task is around 1/3 of all registered psychologists.
  • Training for this level of assessment and diagnosis is NOT taught in the training program, so no psychologists are fully competent in this level of assessment and diagnosis at time of registration.
  • Skills in this area are generally gained by psychologists that want to concentrate their skills and work in this area, and is usually fulfilled by a mix of PD, targeted supervision and experience by working with these clients.
  • Holding an AoPE is not the accurate or applicable criteria to be given the authority to sign off on these reports.
  • Due to this restriction, the waitlist for assessments are generally over 6 months and, for psychologists that are both able and passionate about doing this work, can be well over 12 months.
  • The wait hinders the effect of early intervention and adequate support for children.
  • Due to this wait, children are entering the school system without appropriate support early enough, and do not cope well. Associated impacts include low performance, increased mental health issues, school disengagement, decreased tertiary education and employment opportunities and increased risk of suicide.

Thank you to members Allison Haynes and Jutta Dempsey for their contribution to the above. Input from our members is vital and we appreciate your help and assistance.

We have also helped to highlight the importance of focusing on Mental Health during the pandemic through the media such as this article in The Age, where Amanda Curran discussed the mental health of teens'.

We are also working on advocacy items for provisional psychologists. These including utilising our incredibly competent and qualified provisional workforce in place of 'health coaches'. You can find more information on this in an article further down in this newsletter. AAPi is also progressing the inclusion of provisional psychologists into Medicare to better serve our community during these times of unprecedented need. More on this soon.

And last but not least, we are always working towards a one tier model for all psychologists in Australia, this includes increasing the Medicare rebate for a standard session to $150, claimable by all clients of registered psychologists.

This is just a brief (well brief in respects to just how much we are doing at the moment!) summary of what we are working on. As a not for profit, your membership fees and contributions allow us to continue our work to help psychologists and improve access to the vital services they provide. If you are yet to sign up or renew your membership, now is the time.

Take care,

Tegan Carrison, Executive Director AAPi 

Welcome new board members!

This week we are joined by two new board members. A very warm welcome to Betty Chetcuti and Katrina Norris.

Introducing Betty Chetcuti:

Hello to each of you. I am really ecstatic to be on the Board of our amazing AAPi and have the privilege of working with Tegan and the Board to further develop our profession. I have worked as a psychologist in private practice since 2001 working with children and adults across the lifespan, as well as developing group workshops and community mental health events. I previously worked as a Change Management Consultant locally and overseas and have been a committee member at each of my three children’s schools for over 20 years, my most favourite role being President at a Senior Secondary School. 

As a Member of the AAPi Board, I wish to impact diversity of training, research for government policy decision makers, public health communications, CPD to enhance mental health outcomes, and to increase collegiality and cohesion within the profession. I would also like to provide psychologically based and immersive retreat-style professional development and self-care events for psychologists.

I enjoy meeting people and making them feel welcomed and valued. I look forward to hearing from you and working on what is most important to you during my time on the AAPi Board.

Introducing Dr Katrina Norris:

I am a registered psychologist and have worked across a range of fields in my career to date, including recruitment and selection, occupational health and rehabilitation, disability employment, and private practice. After completing my PhD in Organisational Psychology, I started working in the Occupational Health field providing services to individuals and employers in relation to workplace injury, chronic disease, and worker wellbeing. My work included pain and injury management, return to work planning, vocational and career support, as well as supporting employers to build positive health and wellbeing initiatives for employees. I have also been fortunate to present at conferences including the International Forum on Disability Management in 2014, and the Australian Disability Employment conference in 2015 where I spoke on improving employment outcomes for individuals with injury or illness through a focus on individual and workplace health. Currently, I am working within my own private practice where I focus on supporting individuals to achieve their personal health and wellbeing goals, while continuing to work with employers around mental health education and development of positive wellbeing initiatives.

I have previously been a member of the Executive Committee of the Queensland branch of the Australian Rehabilitation Providers’ Association. My role involved advocating for Allied Health Professionals in discussions with key private and government stakeholders as well as representing rehabilitation providers at industry events or in running development opportunities. I am hoping to bring this experience to my role on the AAPi board and hope I can contribute to the great work the AAPi are doing to promote Psychologists. 

Through working in the occupational health industry, I did at times come across individuals and employers with a limited understanding of what Psychologists do; the evidence-base behind our professional practice; and/or the impact of psychosocial factors on individual wellbeing. A personal passion of mine has been to educate others (individuals and employers) on the value of psychological practice in not only helping to treat psychological illness, but also in promoting overall wellbeing and growth. Through working on the AAPi Board I am excited to have the opportunity to promote and support our profession further.

Mental health and education in the post-COVID era- Free Webinar

We are again partnering with Prevention United to provide a free webinar for our members.

This panel discussion will explore how Australia's education system will need to evolve to promote and protect the mental health and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers in the wake of the challenges created by COVID-19. We’ll hear from student, parent, and mental health representatives who will also respond to audience questions.

Webinar 7pm Monday 28 September 

Register Here

EOI- Career development training

AAPi would like to know if members would be interested in PD and educational resources on providing career development services (career counselling/coaching) to clients aged 15-24 years. There is some potential funding we are considering applying for but need to determine if this would be valued/utilised by you, our members.

Please let us know via email if this is something you would be interested in. We would offer this training and resources free or very low cost to members.

Provisional psychologists, not quick fix coaches with no experience

As of March 2020, there are over 5,500 provisional psychologists available in Australia. Provisional psychologists are at a minimum, four or five-year trained psychologists, embarking on a final period of ‘supervised practice’, overseen and mentored by a qualified psychologist.

If we have over 5,500 trained psychologists desperate for experience in the field, why are we calling upon those with six weeks of experience to deal with the Australian community at its most vulnerable? With Australians at their most vulnerable, now is not the time to be experimenting on mental health practices.

The focus on flattening the mental health curve, while necessary, is myopic. While Australia’s helplines offer an important short-term solution, what happens to those with lasting damage, those who need preventative treatment and long-term, consistent care? The government needs a prevention focus, including to let people self-refer to a psychologist if they have mental health concerns to remove any barriers to getting help.

We were heartened to hear the Prime Minister’s commitment recently, saying if more is needed to be done, then more will be done. Here's what needs to be done: The government is encouraging these helplines and GPs to refer cases to psychologists, and psychologists desperately want to help - but there is one major barrier to this working - the Medicare rebate.

There are existing, significant barriers that are stopping all Australians from getting the mental health support they need, a barrier that we have fought for some time - the Medicare rebate.

The current Medicare system continues to discriminate between types of psychologists even though the outcomes have been demonstrated to be similarly beneficial. Currently, 70% of practitioners in Australia are only eligible for lower rebates due to a legislative mistake, at the expense of patients who are already under a high degree of stress.

AAPi maintains that all psychologists need to be made accessible to all Australians if we are going to be able to break the fall and prevent catastrophic outcomes.

We urge the government to increase the Medicare rebate to remove the barrier to long term mental health solutions, including preventative measures with a registered psychologist. We have a mental health workforce, we just need to support them better to do their jobs. Why give the job to someone who has 6 weeks training, when you have registered psychologists with 6 years of training?

What Australians need is critical mental health support today and for quite some time to come. We need to provide Australians greater access to help today but equally, we need to invest in the future of the mental health profession. This means immediate access to their choice of psychologist, an immediate increase to the Medicare rebate available for all psychology services, an increase in the number of allowable sessions under a mental health plan and at the same time, tapping into our future mental health professionals to support the current crisis.