Report from Dr. Colin Benjamin, the CEO of the Psychotherapy

Report from Dr. Colin Benjamin, the CEO of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) in a recent edition of their on-line newsletter.

Dr Benjamin wrote about the growth in PACFA since he took over as CEO and the position of PACFA now within the broader health services sector in Australia. He talks about important moves to self regulate our profession and “to maintain ownership and control of the definitions of the occupational titles associated with the terms ARCAP COUNSELLOR (PACFA) and ARCAP PSYCHOTHERAPIST (PACFA) within the common field of Counselling/ psychotherapy.”

January/February 2010 ISSN 1833-1661
Psychotherapy and Counselling
Federation of Australia
290 Park Street, Fitzroy North 3068
Tel. (03) 9486 3077

Here is Dr Benjamin’s full report.

At my first Council Meeting in 2007, the key priorities included gaining government recognition for those members of these (psychotherapy & counselling) professions seeking equal status with other Mental Health Professions that have been afforded MBS status; providing a voice for most Member Associations amongst allied health professionals who practice as Psychotherapists/Counsellors; and meeting the requirements for evidence-based treatment so as to gain national and state government acceptance of PACFA as the recognised peak professional representative body.

Two years later the professions are now accepted as key stakeholders in the mental health planning workforce by the Department of Health and Ageing and the members of COAG for the purposes of the 2010 evaluation of the Better Access initiatives as a source of professional services with an alternative self-regulation model that may assist in the national registration of unregistered health professions. The number of Registrants has grown from 339 to more than 1770 and the number of practitioners identified as Psychotherapists/Counsellors on the PACFA Register includes nearly 1300 Clinical members.

Some Private Health Insurance agencies have indicated that this is a vital piece of the puzzle determining their capacity to provide rebates to PACFA Registrants along with a requirement that eligible members must also hold a Senior First Aid Certificate……..

The PACFA office will shortly be seeking expressions of interest from Clinical Registrants who wish to avail themselves of short courses that will help practitioners meet the requirements for registration as a Mental Health Practitioner. The Australian Register of Counsellors and (ARCAP) has been established as from 1st July 2009 to accord with the requirements of the Private Health Insurance (Accreditation) Rules 2008. Discussions with private health insurance agencies indicate that there is a willingness to accept Registrants for rebates provided that practitioners hold a current Senior First Aid Certificate.

Representations to gain rebates are continuing and the Board is exploring avenues for the establishment of the Mental Health Practitioner Section of the Register and ARCAP.

There will need to be further negotiations with private health insurance agenciesand the Ministers to get equality of recognition with other allied health

professions for practitioners who are appropriately qualified as Registrants on the PACFA Register in the light of the 2010 COAG Better Access initiative Review. In this context Council will need to document the relationship between Psychotherapy/ Counselling and ARCAP trade mark definitions of the occupational classifications of Psychotherapist and Counsellor. The professions need to be formally recognised as sources of diversity and strengths that are complementary to the services of traditional health and medical models and build public recognition in a manner that increases collaborative relationships with allied but distinctly different clinical and professional practice frames of reference within a health framework as well as within a wider framework of promotion of emotional and social wellbeing The agreement to establish this single national credentialing organisation reached between PACFA and the ACA is designed to meet stated requirements of the Minster for Health and Ageing for a unified, independent register with appropriate standards for the profession that meets the various statutory requirements.

It is vitally important, also, to maintain ownership and control of the definitions of the occupational titles associated with the terms ARCAP COUNSELLOR (PACFA) and ARCAP PSYCHOTHERAPIST (PACFA) within the common field of Counselling/psychotherapy. For these reasons it will be important for Council to consider the range of issues that are involved in the clarification of the field of Psychotherapy/Counselling in the wider context of psychopractitioners that have been accepted for rebates under the Better Access initiative and by Private Health Insurance agencies.

Whilst some Counsellors and Psychotherapists have gained Provider Numbers as mental health practitioners and receive rebates as psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and nurses, they are all subject to statutory regulation. Some others like social workers who have established mechanisms for differentiation of mental health practitioners, are accepted and finally supported under the Better Access initiative and are eligible for rebates.

It has long been accepted that decisions concerning selfregulation of the professions of Counselling and Psychotherapy raise the need for broad consultation and consensus gaining processes in order to define the optimal self-regulatory model and build support and commitment for its implementation and maintenance.

Dr Colin Benjamin