What Training Do Psychologists Need?

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Day 1 of my 90 day Vlog challenge!

You might be interested to know what psychologists do as their training obligations. How does someone become a psychologist?

To become a registered psychologist you need a minimum of four years of university training plus at least two years of supervised practice. That is called the Four-Plus-Two method of becoming a registered psychologist. To become endorsed in a specific area of psychology, such as Clinical Psychology, most psychologists have done at least six years of university training. So, for example they might do a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science with a double major in psychology. Then they will go on and do an Honours year, which is very competitive to get into. To give you an idea, when I went to university there were about 400 students in my first year and over the course of the next two years that got boiled down to 24 places available in the Honours Program. Then, there were only 12 places in the postgraduate Clinical Psychology program. So, it is quite a competitive process to become fully trained as a psychologist.

Those students who enter into the postgraduate program then do two years of additional, specifically focused psychology training plus a number of placements in psychology. So, they might do six months at the hospital or six months at the University psychology clinic. A number of them will come and spend six months in my practice (we always have postgraduate psychology students with us).

Once they’ve completed all those obligations plus written their thesis, they can then become registered and commence practicing as a psychologist. Beyond that, they then do another two years of full-time equivalent practice to become endorsed in their specific field (e.g., Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Child Psychology, etc).

I have a number of Clinical Psychology registrars in my practice both in Launceston and in Hobart who are undergoing their two years of post-registration supervision. They’re working away doing a great job. They’re highly skilled and they perform the same role as a clinical psychologist, but they can’t use that title until they’ve completed that endorsement program.

So, that’s usually eight years of training all up. For me, it was ten years because I did a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Did you know the title “Psychologist” is a protected title and that the practice of psychology is what is known as a Regulated Health Profession. That means both the title and the profession is protected by legislation to protect the public. Psychologists have to be registered with AHPRA (that’s the Australian Health Professionals Registration Authority) before you can use that title. It doesn’t end there though.

In order to maintain our registration we must participate in ongoing professional development each year. And when we renew our registration each year, we have to clearly state that we have met our ongoing professional development obligations.

For example, I am a member of two of the colleges of the Australian Psychological Society. I’m a member of both the College of Clinical Psychology College and the College of Forensic Psychology. This places additional obligations on me, being a member of these two colleges means I’ve got more professional development obligations than most psychologists who have just one endorsement (if any).

It’s around 15 hours per endorsement, so I’ve got about 30 hours of professional development that I need to do each year. Some of that needs to be what is called active professional development. That includes attending workshops where you’re actually being taught something by somebody else and you take away new knowledge. Then there are other things that we can do, such as an ongoing peer-to-peer supervision or peer support, attending meetings where you discuss elements of your practice, read journal articles about developments within the psychology profession and new treatment modalities and things like that.

As you can see, like GPs are required to continue their learning throughout the year, psychologists are also required to do the same. If we don’t there are quite significant consequences and we can be penalized by the Registration Board.

So, at the time of writing this article I was in Brisbane to do some training. I’m a practice owner and my role is increasingly around managing my practice and mentoring my team. I still see clients, of course, but a smaller number than I used to. My professional development this year has been all around the business of running a psychology practice and how best to support my team, how best to support our clients and how best to assist our referrers such as GPs, to make everybody’s life run a bit more smoothly.

So, when you see a psychologist, you can check that they are registered with AHPRA, you can check if they have an endorsement in any particular areas of practice, and you can even check to see if they are approved to supervise other psychologists. This information is freely available on the AHPRA website and acts as a reassurance to the community that those registered with AHPRA are not only qualified to deliver psychological services, but they are actively maintaining their professional development for the benefit of their clients.

Best wishes,

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Tess has a passion for mentoring new psychologists. She also has a strong interest in supporting executives as they juggle the balance between leadership and new parenthood. You’ll see Tess regularly speaking on our Facebook pages and our YouTube channel. Her mission is to provide as many free resources to the community as she can, so her videos offer tips and strategies that might be helpful to you. Read Tess’s full Bio here.

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