Psychology Board of Australia - Specialist title
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Specialist title

Understanding the reasons psychology wasn’t granted specialist title in 2010

There were five main reasons specialist title was not approved for psychology at the beginning of the national scheme:

  1. The public interest case was not made. Specialist title requires increased regulation, and the profession was unable to convince Ministerial Council that there was enough need for increased regulation. Only one state (WA) had specialist title prior to the National Scheme, with the rest of the country effectively utilising a self-regulatory model (via membership of the relevant Australian Psychological Society (APS) College). This suggested that the profession was developing and identifying specialised practice without the need for statutory regulation. In addition, in WA there was no restriction on practice by reason of having specialist title, and there was no separate specialist register. This meant that WA specialist title was more aligned with endorsement not specialist registration under the National Scheme.

  2. There was no national standard for the accreditation of programs that led to a qualification as a specialist. The Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) did not have accreditation standards for specialisation (or endorsement) until 1 January 2019. (There were entry requirements into the APS Colleges via APS College Course approval guidelines, but this was an assessment for membership of a professional organisation and was conducted by the APS not APAC).

  3. Specialties in psychology are less well established and bounded than in other professions such as medicine and dentistry. For example, a medical practitioner on the specialist register might work as an anaesthetist or a neuro-surgeon, but not usually as both. For psychology, there is overlap between the competencies and work for some areas of practice endorsement. Psychologists with different endorsements might undertake the same work. For example, both a clinical psychologist and health psychologist have expertise for working in inpatient eating disorder programs. Most members of the public could readily describe the difference between the work roles of an anaesthetist and a neuro-surgeon but might struggle to describe the difference between a clinical and health psychologist.

  4. Endorsement was seen to fit the psychology profession better than specialisation. A single register allows for more flexibility and means that psychologists could hold more than one endorsement and move between endorsements over the course of a career. Specialisation would mean less flexibility and result in a higher level of oversight that seemed out of proportion to the actual risks to the public from psychology practice.

  5. There was a lack of agreement in the profession about necessary qualifications for specialisation. The psychology profession had varying views regarding qualification requirements, scope of practice, specialist titles, impact on workforce supply, Medicare rebate mechanisms and timing of implementation.

For more information see the Board’s statement from February 2010:

Page reviewed 13/02/2020