You raise some vital questions that need very clear answers from the APS executive. I’ve been asked to offer a reply. All I can do is share my own thoughts and opinion on what you raise.
In terms of your question of whether a bridging program is ‘true’, my personal understanding is that it is only now being raised by the APS executive director as something to advocate for as a direct response to the increased pressure from members regarding their concerns over the two tier rebate system of Medicare.
From my perspective a bridging program is only now being put squarely on the table as an option to try and quiet the disquiet. Unfortunately though, this option only serves to reinforce the divisive presumption that psychologists working in clinical practice without a master’s degree in clinical psychology are less capable and therefore must ‘upskill’ through a bridging course to reach the same standard as their clinically masters trained colleagues.
Rightly so, you also raise the very real issue of expensive hoop jumping for the sake of proving ones worth in a system that does not readily accept the quality of your expertise as it stands. This ends up feeling more like a lot of money to spend for an invalidation process.
From my perspective, if there was any evidence to suggest that a clinical masters trained psychologist produced better outcomes for their clients, then a bridging program would make sense and would be of great benefit for anyone who wanted that magic upgrade toward a better quality of service.
But the reality is, psychologists on the lower tier provide equivalent outcomes when compared to their clinical master’s trained colleagues across all levels of caseload severity. Or to put it more colloquially, psychologists on the lower tier are just as good in treating clinical cases as their colleagues on the higher tier. To suggest otherwise is unfounded and unethical.
As a science we need to advocate for structures that are based on the facts. And the fact remains that a psychologist can develop clinical practice expertise through a number of different pathways. The fact remains that psychologists can and do become experts in clinical practice spring-boarding from either the 4+2 pathway, the 5+1 pathway, the clinical masters pathway, and/or other specialist psychology master’s pathways.
To truly and honestly embrace and uphold our diversity as a profession we need to acknowledge and endorse not only the variation in specialist expertise we have but also the various pathways through which we attain that specialist expertise.
Ultimately we need to recognise and endorse all forms of prior learning achieved through professional development and related practice experience that develop and enhance the practitioner’s very real and legitimate areas of specialist practice expertise. When the APS does this, then it is unashamedly advocating on behalf of all of its members for the benefit of its members and the community in which they serve.
On the other side of the coin, when a professional body cannot overtly and publicly endorse their member’s practice expertise when such expertise is clear for all to see through the outcomes of their practice, then that professional body has stopped advocating for its members and for some reason is choosing instead to invalidate their member’s expertise to the detriment of their members and the community in which they currently serve.
Dr Clive M Jones Dipt, DipCouns, DipLC, BEd, MEd, GradDipPsych, PhD (psych), MAPS, MCSEP, MCCOUNSP
Asst Professor – Bond University Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine