Psychology Board of Australia - April 2021
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April 2021


Issue 30 - April 2021

From the Chair

Rachel Phillips

 A schedule defends from chaos and whims − Annie Dillard

The Board is thinking of all communities that are currently affected by floods, coming as they do so soon after the 2019 fires, and during the broader national impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid the chaos and many competing priorities caused by three disasters in as many years, in 2021 the Board will continue to focus on its education and training reform agenda (see progress update below) to improve the community's access to the different types of psychological services that are needed now, more than ever. We will also start work on the Board-authored Code of conduct.

We look forward to consulting with the community, the profession and stakeholders.

Rachel Phillips

Chair, Psychology Board of Australia

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Board news

National Board appointment: meet our new member

Jade Gooding NT member of National BoardThe National Board is made up of 12 members who are appointed by Health Ministers from each state and territory and the Commonwealth. Eight members must be registered psychologists − one from each state and territory. Four additional members are appointed as community members and bring a public perspective to the work of the Board. Members are appointed for a three-year term and can serve up to three consecutive terms.

In February we welcomed Jade Gooding as the Northern Territory practitioner member on the National Board.

Jade is endorsed as a clinical psychologist and a Board-approved supervisor of clinical registrars. Jade has lived in the Northern Territory for over 10 years and currently works as the Executive Manager, Mental Health for Anglicare NT. Delivering a range of clinical mental health services across the NT, Jade is responsible for service implementation, co-design strategy, community engagement and ongoing culturally safe and adapted service provision within mental health, as well as Human Resources across the organisation.

Having previously worked in public mental health in SA and NT as well as being a private provider, Jade is also a Senator on the NT Clinical Senate and board member for the NT Mental Health Coalition.

Read about our other National Board members on our website.

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Education and training reform update

We began the second area of education and training reform in February 2020 with the aim of reviewing and clarifying the competencies for general registration and area of practice endorsement (AOPE) for psychologists in Australia. This is the first time that competencies have been thoroughly reviewed since the beginning of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). We are reviewing the competencies for general registration first.

We have been busy over the last twelve months researching, obtaining advice, and seeking stakeholder feedback as we develop new revised draft of the competencies for general registration for consultation later in 2021. Our work has included:

An initial proposal – We published a Green paper to outline our initial thinking about the current challenges in the regulation of general and endorsed psychologists and to propose a phased approach to reform.

Seeking views – We conducted a series of stakeholder engagement webinars to understand stakeholder views on the Green paper. A wide range of stakeholder groups was represented at the webinars including key industry and employer groups, psychology professional bodies, national and international regulators, and government. A summary of the feedback and how it will inform the next steps is available on the Education and training reform (ETR) section of the Board’s website

Competency mapping – We appointed consultants with expertise in education, accreditation, higher education reforms, and competency writing to carry out an objective and impartial review of our current competencies, and to map these against international comparisons and the APAC standards.

Psychology-specific advice – We appointed a Psychology Expert Reference Group (PERG) to work with the consultants and provide advice on competencies for general registration. PERG members were selected for their expertise in training and supervising provisional psychologists, psychology regulation, and psychology accreditation. The PERG met six times in 2020 and held its final meeting in December 2020. Communiqués of its work are published on our website.

Consideration of a draft – We will shortly be considering a draft of the revised general registration competencies before going out for consultation.

In the second half of 2021 we plan to carry out our usual wide-ranging public consultation on the revised draft competencies for general registration. You will have opportunity to review the draft and consider the rationale for proposed changes. We encourage you to participate in this consultation when it opens.

The consultation process that the 16 National Boards must follow is publicly available on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) website. Our consultations are published on our Current consultations page.

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Supervisor training update: online and face-to-face training

Supervisor training can now be completed online on an ongoing basis.

This means you can do a master class or full training workshop online or face to face. You can attend supervisor training online for any reason, including if it is difficult for you to travel to workshop locations or if you prefer to complete training from home.

You can still complete training face-to-face in jurisdictions where the relevant public health advice permits this and depending on where workshops are available.

You can find a list of all 16 Board-approved training providers and their contact details on the Board’s Supervisor training page. Please contact individual providers for information on workshop availability.

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National psychology exam: dual-delivery offered for May 2021

The national psychology exam will be offered by dual-delivery for the May 2021 exam sitting.

The unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued into this year, with hotspots, border closures, and changeable travel restrictions remaining as part of life. To ensure you can sit the exam and meet the requirements for general registration, we have decided to extend dual-delivery to the May exam.

Dual-delivery means that you can choose to sit the exam in a test centre (where available) or by online proctoring (OLP). OLP allows you to sit the exam in the safety of your home or workplace (where available).

You can register for an exam at any of the open testing centres across Australia and should circumstances at the test centre change, you can change your registration to OLP (and vice versa).

If you are an exam candidate or a supervisor, we encourage you to review our FAQs about online proctoring to help you understand the rules and requirements for OLP and to help you determine the best exam option for you.

We will provide information about the delivery options for the August and November exams closer to registration period for these exams, as we understand more about the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

For further information please visit our National psychology exam page.

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Registration renewal wrap-up: CPD, ROP and impairment declarations

Another successful registration renewal period has passed, marking 10 years of annual renewal under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). Online renewal is the easiest way to renew and since 2011 the number of practitioners who renew online has risen from 82 per cent to 97 per cent.

Thanks to everyone who renewed their application on time and especially to those of you who got in early. Responding to the early email reminders to renew ensures plenty of time for your application to be assessed and for you to be contacted if follow-up is needed.

CPD and ROP requirements during COVID-19

The Board understands that some practitioners had trouble meeting the continuing professional development (CPD) and recency of practice (ROP) requirements in 2020 because of the national COVID-19 emergency.

If you declared in your 2020 renewal that you didn’t meet the CPD and/or ROP requirements because of COVID-19, there is no further action you need to take.

Return to normal for CPD

The Board is aware that there are many CPD activities that are COVID-safe options and many CPD programs and providers have now adapted their programs to be COVID-safe.

In 2021, the Board expects all psychologists to meet the requirements of the CPD standard ahead of renewing their registration. We encourage you to do CPD that is relevant to your scope of practice and your current work environment.

Impairment – when to declare

When renewing their registration, some practitioners are making declarations about impairments that we don’t need to know about. It’s only impairments that may detrimentally affect your ability to practise that you must declare.

Impairment means any physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence), that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to safely practise the profession.

You don’t need to include such things as wearing glasses or temporary injuries like a sprained wrist or ankle. If you’re unsure about whether your impairment should be declared, do let us know when you renew.

If you do have an impairment that either detrimentally affects or you think is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to practise, you must tell us about it and about what you’re doing to manage it

You should provide documents outlining your current diagnosis and/or treatment plan and a statement from your treating health practitioner confirming your current fitness to practise.

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Pandemic response sub-register closing this month for psychologists

The pandemic response sub-register was established in April last year to provide a potential surge workforce during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was intended to provide for a temporary return to the workforce of additional, trained and suitable health practitioners in case more registered practitioners would be needed quickly as a result of the pandemic.

More than 34,820 practitioners opted to stay on the sub-register from eight professions, including 1,710 psychologists. The Board extends its sincere appreciation and thanks to all practitioners on the sub-register for being available to support Australia’s healthcare system and the health workforce during this very trying time.

While the need for the sub-register has reduced, it has been extended for some professions by request of the Australian Government to support the national COVID-19 vaccination effort. Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners who are already on the sub-register will have their registration extended until 5 April 2022 and will be limited to helping with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Sub-register closing for psychology

The pandemic sub-register will close on 19 April 2021 for psychology. Practitioners who are on the sub-register do not need to do anything to remove themselves from the sub-register as it will automatically close.

Eligible practitioners who used to have non-practising registration before going on the sub-register will be automatically returned to non-practising registration on 20 April 2021.

Want to keep practising? Apply for registration through a transition pathway

Practitioners on the sub-register who would like to continue to practise after it closes will be able to apply for registration through a transition pathway. There is no application fee and a reduced registration fee of $284 ($220 for practitioners in NSW). Applicants still need to meet the National Board’s registration standards including criminal history, English language and recency of practice (time spent practising while on the sub-register can count towards the recency of practice requirements).

If you would like to apply for registration through this pathway, you must do so before 11.59pm on 19 April. If you miss the deadline, you will no longer hold registration and will need to apply through the standard registration process.

For more information, see the Ahpra FAQs.

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Regulation at work

Latest tribunal and court summaries

We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value to the profession. Here are recent tribunal and court cases.

Psychologist suspended for 18 months after inappropriate relationship with client

A Western Australian clinical psychologist has been suspended for 18 months for professional misconduct after having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a client. Read more in the news item.

Psychologist disqualified and prohibited for boundary violations

A tribunal has disqualified a psychologist from applying for registration and prohibited her from providing any mental health, psychological or counselling services for two years after finding the practitioner’s boundary violations with a patient amounted to professional misconduct. Read more in the news item.

Suspended psychologist convicted and fined by New South Wales court

A suspended psychologist has been convicted and fined by a New South Wales court for holding himself out as a registered psychologist following charges laid by Ahpra. Dr Brian Hickman’s registration was suspended on 14 September 2018 after the Psychology Board of Australia took immediate action to protect the public. Read more in the news item.

Suspended psychologist convicted by Victorian court

A Victorian court has convicted suspended psychologist Dr Brian Hickman of holding himself out as a registered psychologist following charges filed by Ahpra. Read more in the news item.

Psychologist disqualified for serious boundary violations

A tribunal has disqualified a psychologist for five years for serious boundary violations. The tribunal found that Dr Mark Holmes’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct and that it was inconsistent with a practitioner being a fit and proper person to hold registration as a psychologist. Read more in the news item.

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National Scheme news

Reminder to check your advertising: auditing has started

Responsible advertising about regulated health services helps to keep the public safe from false or misleading claims and supports the public to make informed choices about their healthcare.

Make sure you check your advertising to ensure it complies with advertising requirements of the National Law.

When applying to renew their registration in 2020, health practitioners were asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets the advertising requirements of the National Law. Ahpra is now auditing compliance.

We recently began this proactive audit to supplement our complaints-driven approach. Non-compliant advertising will be addressed under the Advertising Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

The updated Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service are available to help practitioners and other advertisers understand their obligations when advertising a regulated health service.

Other resources are also available at the Advertising hub on the Ahpra website to help the public, practitioners and other advertisers understand the advertising requirements of the National Law. These include examples, FAQs and additional information about acceptable evidence and testimonials.

We know health practitioners want to do the right thing and advertise responsibly. We encourage you to use the resources and information available to help ensure your advertising complies with the National Law.

Need more advice?

If you need advice about whether your advertising complies with the National Law, you may wish to seek this from your professional association, an independent legal adviser or indemnity insurer.

Ahpra and the National Boards cannot give advice or an opinion about advertising and cannot check or pre-approve advertising to see if it complies with the National Law and the advertising guidelines. This is because as statutory regulators our role is to enforce the law, not to provide legal advice to advertisers about how to advertise.

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Consultation on revised regulatory principles: have your say

The National Boards and Ahpra are seeking feedback on revised regulatory principles for the National Scheme.

The regulatory principles encourage a responsive, risk-based approach to regulation across all professions within the National Scheme. They also acknowledge the importance of community confidence and working with the professions to achieve good outcomes.

The draft revised regulatory principles reflect two recent policy directions issued by the COAG Health Council which provide a clear mandate to the National Boards and Ahpra to prioritise public protection in the work of the National Scheme.

We want the public to have trust and confidence in regulated health practitioners and to know that their safety is at the heart of everything we do in the National Scheme. The revised principles reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective.

The consultation is open until 18 May 2021. Feedback is invited from practitioners, stakeholders and the community.

Find out more about how to make a submission on the Consultations page on the Ahpra website.

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Ahpra rolls out cultural safety training for staff and boards

A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety in the National Scheme and the health system. A new, online and face-to-face education and training program for all Ahpra staff, board and committee members has begun state by state, starting in our Tasmanian office in Hobart.

The Moong moong-gak Cultural Safety Training Program is designed to provide members of the National Scheme with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices as these relate to their role as part of the National Scheme.

The program gives participants an opportunity to hear and learn from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to reflect on their own behaviours, and their conscious and unconscious beliefs. Upon completion of the program, participants will be better prepared to engage in culturally safe practices, communication and behaviour, in order to contribute to more effective service delivery and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

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Ahpra’s new framework for dealing with vexatious notifications

What is known about vexatious complaints?

In 2017 Ahpra commissioned independent research that took the first international look at vexatious complaints. The report, Reducing, identifying and managing vexatious complaints, found that vexatious complaints account for less than one per cent of notifications received, and that there is greater risk of people not reporting concerns than of people making truly vexatious complaints.

The report also noted that being on the receiving end of any notification is a distressing experience for any health practitioner. Regulators need to have good processes for dealing with unfounded complaints quickly and fairly.

Ahpra’s vexatious complaints framework

Following recommendations made in the report, Ahpra developed A framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications for staff and regulatory decision-makers. This will help us identify and manage potentially vexatious notifications. The framework outlines:

  • the principles and features, significant impacts and potential indicators of vexatious notifications
  • how to identify vexatious notifications, and
  • what to do where there is a concern that a notification is vexatious.

We understand that practitioners who feel that they may be the subject of a vexatious notification are more likely to experience stress and anxiety. Our staff are equipped to identify and support these practitioners and to implement management strategies set out in our framework when a concern about vexatiousness is raised with us.

Need more help or information?

Our staff are here to help you before, during or after the notifications process. We encourage you to visit our General support services page where you can find the contact details for additional support services. You can also listen to Episode 1: Vexatious notifications, Taking care, Ahpra’s podcast and visit our Concerns about practitioners page for more information about notifications and links to the report and framework.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Psychology Board website for information on the National Scheme and for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines, policies and fact sheets.
  • Lodge an enquiry form via the website by following the Contact us link on the bottom of every page.
  • For registration enquiries call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Rachel Phillips, Chair, Psychology Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958 Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/11/2022