Psychologists forced to desert veterans’ mental health program


Veterans’ mental health will suffer as a result of the discriminatory decision by Open Arms to pay psychologists and clinical psychologists at two different rates.

The Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi) said the decision had already seen 50 psychologists leave the Open Arms program, with its members expressing concerns about the long-term impacts on veterans.

AAPi Executive Director Tegan Carrison said Open Arms’ changes to its schedule of fees were especially worrying for veterans, given the rate of PTSD among veterans was around 8% but additionally because clinical psychologists do not necessarily receive further training in specialised trauma-specific therapies through their tertiary studies.

“Clinical psychologists do not necessarily have experience with veterans or their families, since such experience is achieved through post-registration training and work experience, not a clinical endorsement, while many registered psychologists have the relevant training in trauma.

“This new payment system is based on false assumptions and a lack of evidence, and is discriminatory towards the majority of psychologists.

“One 'type' of psychologist is not superior to another, and there is no evidence that clinical psychologists are better skilled, provide more effective treatment, or have better outcomes than other psychologists.”

Under the new fee system with Open Arms, psychologists’ fees remain the same while clinical psychologists have been rewarded with a massive 40% increase over the standard fee for what is essentially the same service: $212 for a 50 to 90-minute in-room consultation, up from $155.90.

Ms Carrison said this means a brand new clinical graduate with no experience will be entitled to a higher fee for doing exactly the same work as a highly trained and experienced psychologist.

AAPi has received numerous letters from its members expressing disgust and disappointment in the fee decision, with around 50 to date saying they would be departing the Open Arms program. Ms Carrison said she expected this trend to continue unless the fee decision was reversed.

“All psychologists should be valued equally by Open Arms for the immense value and support they provide to the Open Arms community.

“Sadly, this blatant lack of recognition from Open Arms is likely to result in psychologists choosing to support other programs and services, and at the end of the day, it is the veterans who will suffer,” she said.

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