There were two ‘savings’ measures in the 2013 Federal Budget which have implications for psychologists.
A by-election will be held in May for a General Director position on the APS Board of Directors and nominations for the position are now open. The vacancy has been created as Associate Professor Louise Roufeil FAPS recently resigned from the Board to take up a senior position in the APS National Office. Nominations for this General Director position for the remainder of the original three-year term (ending at the 2015 Annual General Meeting) will close on Friday 26 April 2013.
For further information on the by-election click here.
Clients who commenced treatment with a psychologist under the Better Access initiative at the beginning of 2013 have started to reach the 10 session limit per calendar year, and the reductions to the session allowance this year will increasingly have an impact. APS advocacy for the reinstatement of the exceptional circumstances sessions under Better Access is continuing, as is the overall advocacy with both the Government and the Opposition for the maintenance of this highly successful and cost-effective mental health initiative.
To inform the APS advocacy, members are invited to participate in the APS Better Access Survey 2013. The aim of the 2013 survey is to collect data on clients seen by APS psychologists under the Better Access initiative in 2013 who, at the end of the allowable 10 sessions of treatment, were judged by the psychologist to need further treatment. The study aims to investigate the nature of these clients and the additional treatment arrangements that were put in place. The survey will remain open for the 2013 calendar year and data can be entered at any time. It is recommended that data for relevant clients is entered close to the time when their 2013 episode of treatment ended.
Each year the APS has the opportunity to contribute to the Federal Government’s Budget planning through the call for pre-Budget submissions. This week the APS tendered its Budget submission ahead of the setting of the 2013-14 Federal Budget. The APS has focused on some important areas of service reform that remain unaddressed, despite the changes that have occurred to date through the Government’s health reform agenda.
The APS provided a modest and targeted set of spending proposals to increase community access to effective psychological services and help to ensure the momentum for national health reform is sustained into the future. Specifically, the APS proposed a number of scalable initiatives in the following areas: increasing access to mental health services for children in conjunction with the trial of the Government’s 3-year-old Health Check; improving access to psychological services in residential aged care through a pilot study; improving neuropsychological diagnostic accuracy in aged care services through a trial of funded assessments; improving the treatment of chronic disease and obesity through a trial of behaviour change services in Medicare Locals; and improving access to psychological services for all Australians by restoring the six sessions for exceptional circumstances under the Better Access initiative for clients meeting specified criteria.
The APS Budget submission will be followed up with personal advocacy with key Ministers and their Advisors. To read the APS Budget submission, click here.
Posted 13 December 2012
The APS is aware of a provisional registration renewal problem that has affected a number of Victorian professional psychology third year Doctorate students who are likely to be representative of a wider group of postgraduate psychology students (both Doctorate students and Masters students who have been undertaking their studies for more than two years). This matter has been brought to the attention of the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) but at this stage an alternative, more satisfactory solution has not been offered. The APS wants to ensure that affected students are aware of the steps the PsyBA has stipulated they must take to maintain their provisional registration and be able to continue their training without interruption.
The students affected are those that were previously registered as provisional psychologists with State/Territory Registration Boards and where this was subsequently transferred to the national registration scheme under the Psychology Board of Australia. Those students who have renewed their registration on two occasions since it was transferred to the national scheme are now required to reapply for registration at the end of their current registration period in order to maintain their provisional registration. Many students are not aware of this requirement to reapply for registration, and the APS is aware of a number of cases where students have not been alerted to this requirement by the PsyBA or the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Authority (AHPRA). In the case of the Victorian students, their provisional registration will expire on 31 December 2012 and they have not been informed of the requirement to reapply for registration. Failure to reapply will result in the postgraduate student no longer being provisionally registered, with major implications for the students' continuing training.
Postgraduate psychology students who have already renewed their registration twice with the PsyBA/AHPRA should therefore check the expiry date of their current provisional registration and ensure they reapply for registration before their current registration expires. A new form has recently been developed by the PsyBA and must be used by students in this situation. The form (Application for provisional registration after three years of provisional registration for psychologists- ARPT-76) can be downloaded from this link: http://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/Registration/Provisional/Higher-Degree/Forms.aspx Individual students' registration expiry dates can be checked by searching the National Register from this link: http://www.ahpra.gov.au/Registration/Registers-of-Practitioners.aspx
The PsyBA has advised that students who have queries in relation to this matter should contact the Professional Officer for Psychology at the relevant Regional Board of the PsyBA by phoning 1300 419 495.
The APS has strongly recommended to the PsyBA that students affected by this renewal issue should be able to renew their registration rather than being required to go through the onerous task of reapplying for their provisional registration (and resupplying supporting documentation), and believes this should be able to be accommodated as part of transition arrangements to the national registration scheme. The APS has also objected to the high provisional registration fees for postgraduate students and believes this is not justified given that university and placement supervisors take full responsibility for monitoring standards during students' training. The APS believes the current processes are disenfranchising students and represent a significant disincentive to completing postgraduate studies.
The APS will continue to try to have these processes altered, but in the meantime postgraduate students need to ensure that they maintain their provisional registration by following the prescribed steps so that their training is not interrupted.
Although the APS will continue its advocacy and negotiations with the Federal Government over the reduction in the number of allowable sessions of psychological treatment under the Better Access initiative, members need to be aware that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ sessions will no longer be available from 1 January 2013. The maximum number of sessions of psychological treatment that a client can receive in the 2013 calendar year will be 10 sessions. Members should therefore plan for these changes and ensure their clients are informed.
What the changes entail
The cap of 10 allowable sessions per calendar year is applicable from 1 January 2013. Following the initial course of treatment (up to a maximum of six sessions), a review by the referring medical practitioner will determine the need for further treatment. A client may only access a maximum of 10 sessions in total for the calendar year. There are no ‘exceptional circumstances’ that allow additional sessions on top of the 10 allowable sessions per calendar year.
The cap of 10 allowable sessions also applies to group sessions delivered under the Better Access initiative. From 1 January 2012, clients are eligible for a total of 10 group sessions per calendar year in addition to their 10 individual sessions.
Arrangements for treatment spanning the 2012-13 calendar years
Clients who are currently receiving psychological services under Better Access and are currently eligible for exceptional circumstances sessions must access these sessions before 31 December 2012. Any remaining sessions from the referral may be used up in the 2013 calendar year and will be counted towards the new maximum allowance of 10 sessions per year. A new referral would be required for the client to access any additional psychological services beyond those remaining from the referral in the previous year. The client would be eligible for a maximum of 10 individual sessions and/or 10 group sessions in the 2013 calendar year and treatment needs to be provided in a set of six sessions followed by a set of four sessions.
29 November 2012
Students who have this year completed a Graduate Diploma in Professional Psychology (GDPP) as part of the 5+1 route to general registration have been waiting to find out how they can get their sixth year internship program organised for next year given that the guidelines for the 5+1 internship are yet to be released by the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA). The APS has been advocating strongly for this situation to be rectified as soon as possible. In its latest Communiqué, the PsyBA announced transitional arrangements for 5+1 internships, where graduates of a GDPP who have attained provisional registration can commence the one year internship using the existing 4+2 Guidelines. The PsyBA's guidelines for the 5+1 internship are currently under development and will be released for public consultation in 2013.
8 November 2012
The APS provided advice to members in October 2012 on changes to arrangements for Medicare bulk bill forms. This advice has now been superseded as a result of recent consultation and feedback from Medicare Australia. The following changes have been made to assist providers transitioning to the new arrangements.
All enquiries about the new arrangements for bulk bill forms can be made to email@example.com
7 November 2012
The Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) has announced a new online application process for students exiting 4th year who are going on to further training in psychology and require provisional registration status in order to do this. Students and graduates are eligible to use the service if they intend to continue training to become a psychologist and require provisional registration to undertake the fifth and sixth years of psychology training through one of the three approved pathways (4+2, 5+1 or higher degree) leading to General registration as a psychologist. After applying online, applicants need to mail their supporting documentation to AHPRA. To become a registered provisional psychologist, eligible students must also meet the PsyBA's registration requirements relating to criminal history, English language skills and professional indemnity insurance.
31 October 2012
As of 1 November 2012, the schedule fees and rebates for services provided under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) will increase in line with indexation. A table of the indexed fees and rebates for all Medicare items that can be provided by psychologists under the MBS has been prepared for members.
18 October 2012
The finalised proposed APS model of education and training was presented to the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) in a submission to the pre-consultation phase of the Review of Accreditation Standards for the Psychology Profession in Australia 2012. Following the pre-consultation phase of the review, APAC has now entered a consultation phase on the proposed new Standards, which were released in a consultation paper in late September 2012. It is very pleasing to observe that many of the structural elements of the APS model are contained in APAC's revised Draft Accreditation Standards.
24 September 2012
Significant concern has been generated in response to prominent media articles over the last few days where discriminatory comments about homosexuality have been attributed to an ACT election candidate who is also a consultant psychologist. As a result of these comments, the APS has been asked to clarify the expectations of psychologists when working with lesbian and gay clients, and the position of the APS in relation to homosexuality.
In December 2011 the APS issued a statement supporting the full recognition of same-sex relationships on the basis of psychological evidence showing the mental health benefits of marriage, and the harm caused by social exclusion and discrimination arising from not having the choice to marry.
The APS Guidelines for psychological practice with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients clearly identify the ethical obligations of psychologists when working with homosexual clients, which include avoidance of discrimination, and communication of respect through actions, language and conduct. These obligations are reflected in the APS Code of Ethics, which requires psychologists to demonstrate an understanding of the consequences for people of unfair discrimination and stereotyping related to their age, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, gender, or disability, and in the course of their conduct to communicate respect for other people through their actions and language.
The 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of The Australian Psychological Society Limited is being held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, 21 Mounts Bay Road, Perth, Western Australia, on Saturday 29 September 2012 commencing at 11.00am (Western Standard Time). The AGM is being held in conjunction with the 2012 APS Annual Conference.
All APS Honorary Fellows, Fellows, Members and Associate Members are eligible to vote at a general meeting of the APS and are reminded that they may appoint a proxy. Instruments of proxy are required to be lodged at the National Office of the APS no later than 11.00am (Eastern Standard Time) on Thursday 27 September 2012.
Further information about the AGM including the agenda, proxy forms and details about voting by proxy, is available here.
Members are advised that the 2012 APS Annual Report is now available to download online. Members may be interested to read the 2011–2012 Year in review, which forms part of the Annual Report, and details the work of the APS during the last financial year.
The Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) has announced that there will be an extension of the date by which supervisors of trainee psychologists are required to have completed the new mandatory supervisor training requirements. The PsyBA has extended the transition arrangements for completion of mandatory supervisor training to the new deadline of 30 June 2018, but supervisors must be on the PsyBA’s list of approved supervisors by 30 June 2013 for this to be applicable.
The PsyBA’s mandatory supervisor training requirements to enable approved supervisor status apply to psychologists providing supervision to:
Previously the PsyBA had stated that after 30 June 2013 all existing supervisors would be required to complete a PsyBA-approved supervisor training program and reapply (or apply in the case of supervisors of postgraduate students) for supervisor status before they could be approved to supervise.
The new transition arrangements announced by the Board in August 2012 are as follows.
Psychologists who wish to be added to the PsyBA list of approved supervisors must apply to the PsyBA via the Application to act as a Board approved supervisor of provisional psychologists and registrars (Form ABAS-76), which is available from the PsyBA website.
Further information on the arrangements for mandatory supervisor training can be found in the PsyBA Fact sheet on supervisor training–August 2012 and Fact sheet for supervisors–August 2012, which are available from the PsyBA website.
Queensland psychologists working in schools are alerted to a recent change to their mandatory reporting requirements regarding sexual abuse of students under 18 years of age. The amendment to the Education (general provisions) Act 2006 was enacted on July 9th 2012 and requires that any psychologist employed at any public or independent school (both primary and secondary) who becomes aware of, or has a reasonable belief that a student has been sexually abused, must immediately report this information to their principal.
3 July 2012
Publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), scheduled for May 2013, has become a controversial and much anticipated event for both the mental health professions and the field of psychology. The British Psychological Society (BPS) and a Division of the American Psychological Association (APA) have both taken a strong stance on the revisions for the DSM-5 to date. Given the level of controversy, rather than simply endorse the submissions by the APA and the BPS, the APS formed an Expert Reference Group of members with expertise in particular aspects of mental health and in the use of taxonomies to provide an informed and strategic response to the revisions from the APS.
The final consultation period for input into the DSM-5 revision was open for six weeks, placing significant constraints on the ability of the APS Expert Reference Group to provide a comprehensive submission that reviewed all diagnostic categories. In addition, some information about the revised DSM (e.g., introductory material including any caveats, assessment system) is not yet available and the ability to comment was therefore limited by the information provided on the DSM-5 website. However, the Group has still developed a considered response to the DSM-5 revisions which cover a significant number of diagnostic categories and represent the APS contribution to the process.
The APS submission highlights a number of positive changes proposed for DSM-5 but also identifies some areas of concern, including the ongoing focus on a biomedical paradigm of mental health and a focus on problems or deficits at the expense of personal achievements, resources and preserved aspects of functioning or wellbeing. The submission provides feedback on many of the proposed diagnostic categories, identifying some positive changes from the DSM-IV in the draft criteria, outstanding concerns and recommendations for consideration by the DSM-5 Taskforce.
19 June 2012
The Australian Association of Psychologists Inc. (AAPi) has this week circulated a news bulletin claiming that “the APS is currently lobbying hard to have Medicare rebates reserved for ONLY PBA endorsed psychologists, ie. APS College Members”. This claim is completely false and members would be aware of the APS sustained efforts and advocacy on behalf of all psychologists for the Better Access initiative to be maintained in its current form. Members should be reassured that there is absolutely no basis for this scurrilous claim.
Information about the APS advocacy on behalf of ALL psychologists who provide services under the Better Access initiative, and the vital contribution they make to the mental health of the community, can be found on the Better Access campaign pages of the APS website. The Better Access campaign page is regularly updated and provides an account of the APS advocacy since the cuts were first announced in last year's Budget. Information provided includes details of the APS Better Access research studies that have been undertaken to provide data to inform the APS campaign, and a large number of media releases, radio interviews, submissions and articles about APS advocacy for maintenance of the Better Access initiative over recent months.
The APS supports the new Australian Government initiative of a health and wellbeing check for three-year-old children on the basis of a substantial body of research indicating the benefits of early identification and intervention for emerging developmental, social, emotional and behavioural problems in children. The APS Executive Director, Professor Lyn Littlefield, is a member of the Expert Advisory Group for this initiative and has assisted with developing the social and emotional wellbeing items for the three-year-olds’ health check and mapping the available early intervention services where GPs can refer children who have been identified as being at risk.
There has been considerable misinformation and fear mongering about the initiative in public discussions in recent days. The initiative does NOT seek to diagnose mental health disorders in children, pathologise normal behaviour or encourage the prescription of medication. Rather this is about identifying children showing early signs of developmental, social, emotional and behavioural problems to enable effective interventions to be put in place, such as social and communication skills training and parenting and family interventions. The aim is to maximise normal development and resilience in children, and to deal with problems before children go to school. The initiative involves a Medicare-funded voluntary check that parents can request if there are concerns about their children’s development or that GPs can undertake if they have concerns. The Government should be congratulated on providing funding for an early intervention initiative that is aimed at increasing the number of Australian children who emerge as healthy and happy adults.
Members providing Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS) Medicare items under Better Access are reminded that the deadline for completion of the required 10 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) for the current cycle to maintain FPS Medicare provider status is 30 June 2012. This means that 10 hours of FPS-related CPD activities must have been undertaken between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012. CPD activities undertaken need to enhance the skills required to deliver the FPS treatments allowable under the Better Access initiative (as listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule). In addition to the skills to effectively deliver FPS treatments, practitioners also require skills to undertake a full assessment of the client to form a diagnosis and commence treatment planning. Relevant training in psychopathology can therefore be counted towards the CPD requirements. CPD activities can also include training in different modalities and delivery such as working with groups.
Relevant CPD that has been undertaken to meet the Psychology Board of Australia requirements can be counted towards meeting the Medicare FPS provider requirements, as long as it is FPS related and has been completed within this annual CPD cycle for Medicare FPS providers (1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012). CPD activities do not need to be formally approved but the relevance to delivering FPS Medicare items must be able to be justified. Acceptable CPD activities where the content is related to FPS can include formal postgraduate education, workshops, seminars, lectures, journal reading, writing papers, receipt of supervision and peer consultation, and online training programs. FPS-related CPD can be across peer consultation and active CPD types.
Click here to find more information about acceptable CPD activities which may assist Medicare FPS providers to meet the CPD requirements.
Please note that there is no requirement to log the FPS-related CPD undertaken, although a record of completed CPD must be kept in case of an audit. However, if the FPS-related CPD is also being counted towards meeting Psychology Board of Australia requirements, a log of all completed CPD must be kept. The APS online CPD logging system can be used to assist members to self-monitor compliance with CPD requirements and can also generate logging records which can be used if a member is audited.
A new APS study of Better Access clients seen by APS psychologists is being undertaken to inform the campaign for permanent reinstatement of the Better Access sessions under ‘exceptional circumstances’.
To assist the APS campaign, the study aims to collect information about:
19 March 2012
Members' attention is drawn to a recent elaborate email scam targeting psychologists. There may well be variations of this type of scam.
The scam involves a person from overseas contacting a psychologist by email to inform him or her that she is coming to Australia for a one month holiday as part of her leave arrangements after a difficult divorce. The person is already making good progress seeing a therapist and wants to consolidate her gains by having “regular therapy sessions” with the psychologist. After negotiating the level and type of services required in further emails to the psychologist, the person undertakes to pay the psychologist but is only able to do this through traveller’s cheques, sometimes via their employer. Ultimately the traveller’s cheques will be received by the psychologist, but are likely to be bogus. Once the psychologist receives the traveller’s cheques, the person then cancels the appointments and ask for a refund of the payment – most likely to another bank account, often via Western Union.
Members should be extremely cautious if they are requested to make any arrangement that sounds like this, and they are strongly advised not to process such payments. To attempt to do so could potentially implicate the psychologist in the scam itself.
If you are suspicious of an email or any other unsolicited communication refer to the following websites:
1 March 2012
The interim arrangements to reinstate the ‘exceptional circumstances’ sessions under the Better Access initiative commenced on 1 March 2012, enabling eligible clients to access up to a total maximum of 16 sessions of treatment from a psychologist in the 2012 calendar year. The interim arrangements only apply for a transitional period from 1 March to 31 December 2012.
1 February 2012
The additional six sessions of Better Access treatment under exceptional circumstances will be reinstated for a transitional period, a decision announced by the Federal Government on 1 February. The increased allowance, available from 1 March until 31 December this year, aims to protect clients with complex needs who have been left without support following the 1 November 2011 changes to the Better Access initiative. The Government’s rationale for the decision is to provide time for capacity to be built into alternative mental health services where people with greater needs can be treated.
This decision is a direct reflection of the strong and persistent APS advocacy efforts, as well as those of individual members, since the cuts were first announced in last year’s Federal Budget. The reinstatement of the sessions is extremely important for vulnerable people with more complex mental health disorders who have been left without access to appropriate treatment as a result of the funding cuts. The APS will continue to press for the reinstatement of sessions to be made permanent.
Under the interim arrangements announced by the Government, the maximum standard number of rebatable sessions per calendar year under Better Access will remain at 10 (provided in groups of 6+4 sessions). However, during the transitional period, eligible clients where ‘exceptional circumstances’ apply can receive up to a maximum of 16 sessions (6+4+6) per calendar year. Clients will be eligible for the additional six sessions under exceptional circumstances during the transitional period from 1 March 2012 until 31 December 2012.
The definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ is the same as that which applied before the 1 November 2011 changes were brought in. As stated by the Department of Health and Ageing: “Exceptional circumstances are defined as a significant change in the patient’s clinical condition or care circumstances which makes it appropriate and necessary to increase the maximum number of services. As was the case previously, it is up to the referring medical practitioner to determine that the individual meets the requirements for ‘exceptional circumstances’ and to provide a referral for the additional services.”
Further details of the reinstated sessions can be found in the Department of Health and Ageing’s Fact Sheet and set of Questions and Answers.
The Government’s announcement about the reinstatement of the sessions can be read here.