Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Lessons from Australia in the Public Funding of Mental Health Services

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Lessons from Australia in the Public Funding of Mental Health Services

Article excerpt

If Canada is to enter the realm of public funding of private mental health services well prepared, psychology needs to draw on the experience of other countries to avoid known pitfalls and position the profession to best utilize its expertise in mental health. In Australia, the low training requirements that lead to registration of psychologists have provided a large workforce to meet the ever-expanding demand for mental health services, but have also led to the undermining, devaluing, further downgrading, and blurring of professional psychology standards and expertise. This positioning of psychology has fragmented the profession. A brief outline of key factors contributing to this diminishing of the profession and the high demand for low-cost services are outlined to demonstrate that similar parallel differentials and challenges are present for psychology in the Canadian context. To avoid similar impacts on psychology in Canada, the profession needs to unite and recognise that it is unable to meet the needs of the population for mental health services and to claim a role of expert in mental health to enable the public to make best use of the expertise of psychologists.

Keywords: funding, mental health, workforce, qualifications, Australia

Résumé

Si le Canada veut s'attaquer au financement public des services de santé mentale du secteur privé, la psychologie doit mettre à profit l'expérience des autres pays afin d'éviter les pièges connus et positionner la profession de sorte à mieux exploiter son expertise dans le domaine de la santé mentale. En Australie, les faibles exigences en matière de formation menant à l'inscription des psychologues ont créé un important bassin de main-d'oeuvre pour répondre à la demande croissante de services de santé mentale. Cela a toutefois également entraîné la dévalorisation, la dévalua- tion, la dégradation et une certaine ambiguïté de l'expertise et des normes relatives à la psychologie professionnelle. En fait, ce positionnement de la psychologie a fragmenté la profession. Un bref aperçu des facteurs clés ayant contribué à cette dévaluation de la profession et à la forte demande de services bon marché sont exposés dans le but de démontrer que des défis et des écarts parallèles semblables sont aussi présents dans le contexte cana- dien. Si l'on veut éviter que des effets similaires se produisent sur la psychologie au Canada, la profession a besoin de s'unir et de reconnaître qu'elle est actuellement incapable de répondre aux besoins de la population dans le domaine des services de la santé mentale et de revendiquer un rôle d'expert en santé mentale afin de permettre au public de profiter de l'expertise des psychologues.

Mots-clés : financement, santé mentale, main-d'oeuvre, qualifica- tions, Australie.

Following the lead of the United Kingdom and Australia, Can- ada is ideally positioned to enter into public funding of private mental health services well informed and aware of the issues that are likely to emerge. Having seen somewhat different models of service delivery rolled out in other countries, Canada is able to select the model, or combination of models, that best suits its population and distribution of mental health professionals. How- ever, it is essential that this be undertaken with awareness of the potential impacts of these models on the profession of psychology in the Canadian context.

Psychology needs to position itself with care to avoid known pitfalls and to ensure the best utilisation of psychology services for the public. Unfortunately, in Australia, the experience of public funding of private mental health services has led to the fragmen- tation and demoralisation of the psychology profession and the devaluing of qualifications and training, particularly in clinical psychology, the training most required for treating mental health problems.

The Public Funding of Private Psychology Services in Australia

Mental health services in Australia are funded by a combination of government (national, state, and territory) and private health insurance funds. …

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