Registered Psychology Professionals
In South Africa, there are different levels of psychology professionals. The scope of practice that each level and category may perform, is defined in detail in regulation R704 of the Health Professions Act, and you should refer to that regulation for a full description of what each category does. This article is only a very brief and simplified summary.
Training of psychologists
Psychologists have to complete an accredited Master's degree which includes a research dissertation. Accredited Masters degrees have to meet standards set by the Board to ensure that they provide the students with the correct academic exposure and practical training and supervision. Places are extremely limited and a very small proportion of applicants are admitted to the Masters courses. Psychologists in training must also undergo an internship of 12 months. Not all Masters degrees are accredited. Candidates have to apply for selection to these courses and only a small proportion of applicants are admitted. The internship is often unpaid, or the intern earns a low salary. After completion of the internship, the candidate needs to pass the National Examination for Psychologists and register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. If they lose their registration, they may not practice as psychologists.
Categories of psychologists
Psychologists register in different categories, and each category has a scope of practice.
- Clinical Psychologists assess, diagnose and treat persons with development problems, psychological distress and psychopathology.
- Counselling Psychologists assess, diagnose and intervene in clients dealing with life challenges and developmental problems to optimise psychological wellbeing and adjustment.
- Industrial Psychologists use principles of psychology in the workplace in order to understand, modify and enhance individual, group and organisational behaviour effectively.
- Educational Psychologists work to optimise learning and development - not only in formal educational settings, but throughout the lifespan.
- Research Psychologists conduct research in psychology and are not involved in rendering psychological service to the public (except in a research context).
- Forensic Psychologists are a new category. They work in a legal context.
- Neuro-psychologists are also a new category, and they work with clients where the functioning of the nervous system may be compromised.
There are many activities that are common to the different categories of psychologist. All psychologists are trained to use tests, and can make a contribution to the development of psychological tests. All psychologists have to demonstrate competence in research during the course of their training.
Training of psychometrists
Psychometrists are mid-level psychology professionals. To qualify for registration, they must complete an accredited B Psych degree that includes a six month internship. The B Psych degree is different from an academic Honours degree although they take a similar length of time to complete. B Psych degrees are specially approved for the training of psychometrists and they are inspected on a regular basis. On completion of the degree and internship, the candidate has to pass the national examination for psychometrists before they may register and practice.
What psychometrists do
Psychometrists' training is focused on psychological assessment. Psychometrists are specifically trained to administer psychological tests, interpret them and give feedback on tests. Psychometrists may perform many types of assessments in the work context or in an educational context. Psychometrists must refer any person who needs the services of a psychologist or counsellor, so that they can receive appropriate help.
Some tests, such as projective tests and tests that are designed to identify pathology, are reserved for psychologists and psychometrists may not use them.
The training of registered counsellors
Like psychometrists, registered counsellors are mid-level psychology professionals. To qualify for registration, they must complete an accredited B Psych degree that includes a six month internship. The B Psych degree is different from an academic Honours degree although they take a similar length of time to complete. B Psych degrees are specially approved for the training of registered counsellors and they are inspected on a regular basis. Places are limited, and only a small proportion of applicants are admitted to the courses. On completion of the degree and internship, the candidate has to pass the national examination for psychometrists before they may register and practice.
What registered counsellors do
Registered counsellors focus on basic psychological screening and short term, supportive, compensatory and routine psychological counselling interventions. They must refer persons who require more sophisticaled or advanced psychological assessment or treatment to the appropriate professionals.
They may do some psychological assessments excluding projective, neuro-psychological and diagnostic tests (A list of tests has been approved for their use)
Why should I use a registered psychology professional?
There are many unregistered people out there who will offer to do things for you that, by law, should only be done by a registered psychology professional. Some will expect you to complete a quick test or questionnaire which they may call an "indicator" or an "inventory". Besides the fact that it is against the law for such people to perform actions that are reserved for the profession of psychology, there are other good reasons to use only registered professionals:
- They are properly trained to do what they do.
- They have demonstrated their commitment to being properly trained by studying for years, completing an internship, and writing a national examination.
- They have to adhere to an ethical code that is aimed at protecting you - the client. This ethical code protects your confidentiality, and protects you against overcharging and overservicing.
- They are answerable to a controlling body - the Health Professions Council of South Africa - with regard to their professional conduct.
It is in your interest to use registered psychology professionals.