The federal government has introduced new rules for parents to be aware of the requirements for a child psychologist to practise.
Key points:The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has said the requirements are needed to protect children from mental health issuesThe APS has welcomed the government’s move, but says the rules will still need to be reviewed in 2018The APA says the government is doing an “extraordinary job” but is concerned the changes could “have a negative impact on children’s mental health”The changes will be rolled out from September.
A group of child psychologists and parents of children with mental health concerns have said the changes will protect children against mental health problems.
Child psychologists and their parents have been calling for changes in the regulations since 2015, and this is the first time the government has actually published a draft policy.
The APSA said the new regulations will protect vulnerable children from the mental health risks posed by having a childpsychologist who is trained in social work, social work practice, child and adolescent psychology and clinical psychology.
It said the APS had urged the government to consider “any recommendations” for changes that would ensure children are safe.
Child psychologist guidelines for parents and guardians are already published in the DSM-V, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The new policy will be considered by the government as it prepares to consider the DSM next year.
The changes are the latest step in a process that has seen the APA issue a public consultation on child psychologist guidelines.
Child and adolescent psychologists and parent advocates are concerned that the changes are too narrow.
“We don’t believe that they’re necessary or appropriate to the task at hand,” APA chief executive Dr David Clements said.
“The APAs own child psychologist training guide indicates that there is not enough evidence to support a strong presumption that a child’s mental illness is a contributing factor to child harm.”
That’s why the APAs child psychologist and parent education guideline says children should not be told by a psychologist to ‘just trust your instincts’ and that ‘parental support is important to protect the child from harm’.
“Parents need to ensure that their child psychologist is qualified, trained and appropriately trained.”
What you need to do to protect yourself from child abuse:APSA chief executive David C. Clements says child psychologist regulations need to address ‘too narrow’ requirementsThe APAA said it was concerned that “parents will have a hard time being confident that a professional will have access to all the evidence that supports their child’s diagnosis and that will be hard to get in Australia”.
“This is particularly true when the child is experiencing a severe mental illness, such as a serious mental illness,” the APSA added.
“It may be difficult to trust a psychologist, especially if they are working in an institution setting, and parents can often feel like they are being ignored by their child.”
The APFA has also urged the Department of Health to reconsider the new rules.
“There are significant gaps in the existing child mental health guidelines that allow for many potentially vulnerable children to remain at risk and, if not addressed, could see many children harmed,” the group’s chief executive, Dr Peter Lough, said.
The department did not respond to a request for comment.