For Referrers and GPs

FACT: All psychologists registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) have an unrestricted license to practice and can assess, diagnose and treat clients, regardless of whether they hold an area of practice endorsement or not. 

Better outcomes are achieved when the client seeking professional mental health care and the preferred psychologist are able to build and maintain a trusting and respectful relationship. Appropriate care, treatment and assessment for clients is compromised when an arbitrary distinction is made between psychologists based on an ‘endorsement’ which does not consider the full requirements for individual client care. 

All psychologists in Australia must hold registration with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA). Once registered, some psychologists choose to apply to the PsyBA for endorsement in one or more of nine endorsement areas, one of which is ‘clinical’ endorsement. However, this endorsement does not equate to a medical specialisation.

Registration

Registration allows psychologists to work in any area of psychology that is within their scope of practice and to use the title 'psychologist'. All psychologists with full registration meet a minimum standard of education and training (six years) and have been assessed as a suitable person to hold registration in the profession.

All psychologists must complete a four-year APAC-approved accredited sequence of study in psychology (typically at a university). To become fully registered and be able to call themselves a 'psychologist', they must complete one of the following programs:

  • an approved postgraduate degree (such as a two-year Masters) or higher (such as a three or four-year Doctorate); or
  • a 5+1 internship program (a fifth year of postgraduate study and one year of on-the-job supervised practice); or
  • a 4+2 internship program (two years of on-the-job supervised practice). This pathway will cease in 2029. 

All registered psychologists must demonstrate competency in diagnosis, assessment, treatment and writing diagnostic reports, regardless of whether they hold a ‘clinical’ endorsement or not. The quality, skills and knowledge of a psychologist cannot be determined by endorsement status.

While the current criterion for endorsement includes the completion of an approved coursework Masters degree and two years of supervised practice (see https://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/endorsement.aspx), when the registration system for psychologists moved from the state-based systems to being federally managed by AHPRA, existing paid members of special interest ‘Colleges’ were ‘grandfathered’ into the new endorsement system. Therefore, psychologists endorsed as ‘clinical’ may not hold Masters or Doctorate degrees. However, many psychologists who are not endorsed as clinical (76% of registered psychologists) may hold postgraduate qualifications such as Master's degrees, PhDs and/or have extensive training and ongoing professional development in particular techniques and therapies.

There is no evidence that psychologists with endorsement produce better outcomes or provide more effective services. 

A notable research project commissioned by the Australian Government (Pirkis et al, 2011) demonstrated clearly that psychologists treating mental illness across both tiers of Medicare Better Access produced equivalently strong treatment outcomes (as measured by the K-10 and DASS pre-post treatment) for mild, moderate and severe cases of mental illness. This research demonstrates clearly that there is no significant difference in treatment outcomes when comparing clinical psychologists treating under tier one of Medicare Better Access with the treatment outcomes of all other registered psychologists treating under tier two of Medicare Better Access (Pirkis et al, 2011).

Pirkis, Ftanou, Williamson, Machlin, Spittal & Bassilios (2011). Australia's Better Access initiative: An evaluation. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45(9), 726-739. 

Under the Medicare Better Access program, sessions with psychologists holding a ‘clinical’ endorsement are rebated $126.50 per 50-minute session compared to all other psychologists whose sessions attract 31% less rebate at $86.15.

Please support your local psychologist when making referrals to ensure services remain accessible now and into the future.