Psychology’s aspiring  gatekeepers soft pedal requirements to sceptical industry

Ever since Hong Kong’s health ministry has rolled out the accredited registers scheme to uphold healthcare standards, Hong Kong’s clinical psychologists have been divided on how the city’s accreditation system in their profession should work.

Involved in the disputes are two main parties: the Hong Kong Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) and the Hong Kong Association of Doctors in Clinical Psychology (HKADCP). The latter has accused the former of setting the bar too high for clinical psychologists trained overseas.

“We would say the claim of unfairness is indeed misleading and not true,” Ms Sherry Im, Secretary of Hong Kong Institute of Clinical Psychologists who represents the DCP, tells Harbour Times.

The DCP has submitted a proposal for the accredited registers for clinical psychologists, which is under priority review given the higher number of members in the group.

“Those practicing clinical psychologists who do not meet the set standard at the moment could also apply to join the accredited registers via an inclusive transitional arrangement of alternative qualifying assessment, which aims at facilitating them to become registered via the provision of proof of practice,” it says.

In DCP’s proposal, applicants who choose to enter the accredited registers via the transitional arrangement can use the Grandfathering clause based on proof of practice for at least 5 to 15 years in recognised work settings.

For those with inadequate clinical training, they can go through remedial training that includes supervised practice, course and clinical placement.

“Applicants who have completed accredited training and licensed to practice in the country where the degree is conferred can be directly registered with no requirement of passing the examination or work-based assessment in Hong Kong,” Im stresses.

But when remedial training is needed, Dr Joseph Siu, chairman of the HKADCP, criticises that it will create an added burden for the overseas-trained clinical psychologists and this will affect their work and their prospects for employment.

Other groups also criticize the DCP’s proposal for setting harsh requirements, such as holding a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, having professional knowledge and skills in local psychological testing and inventories, and including on-site supervision for all three major clinical populations in the clinical placement, which is a requirement for local graduates rather than overseas graduates.

For the first issue, the DCP stresses that getting basic training in psychology is a general admission requirement for overseas accredited clinical psychology training.

“We also propose to accept equivalent prerequisite qualification. Graduates of recognised overseas accredited clinical psychology training would normally be considered as able to fulfill this requirement,” Im says.

As for getting knowledge in local psychological testing, she says the DCP understands that applicants who are non-Cantonese speaking would not use the Cantonese psychological tests validated in Hong Kong.

“Non-Cantonese speaking applicants may apply for waiving the training requirement on the use of local tests and sign an undertaking which states that the Applicants will provide psychological services within the boundaries of their competence and will not use the Cantonese psychological tests validated in Hong Kong,” she explains.

Im also says overseas trained psychologists should be capable of completing clinical placement that includes on-site supervision for all three major clinical populations.

The DCP also says it is aware of a portion of the Hong Kong community who would be in need of clinical psychology service delivered in languages other than Cantonese.

But Im refutes the claim that non-Chinese speaking patients will be affected, as the requirements to be accredited are the same for all clinical psychologists, whether they speak Chinese or not.

“Proficiency in Cantonese is not a prerequisite of the registration. Moreover, the standard for non-Cantonese speaking clinical psychologists to become registered in the accredited register scheme is the same as that for Cantonese speaking clinical psychologists,” Im says.