How to check if someone is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

To use a psychological test, you must be registered with the HPCSA on one of the following registers:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychometrists
  • Registered Counsellors

If you have been assessed using psychological tests, you may want to check if the person who assessed you is registered.

It is a criminal offence for an unregistered person to use a psychological test.

Information you need

You can check a person's registration status using any of the following:

  • Their surname
  • Their given names (full names)
  • Their registration number
  • The register on which they are registered

Where to check it

  • Go to the Health Professions Council of South Africa's website: www.hpcsa.co.za
  • Click on the area marked "access to the i-register"
  • This will take you to a query dialog that interfaces directly with the database of registered professionals

What to enter

  • Tick the fields you want to enter, and a text entry box appears for you to type in the information.
  • If you are not sure how to spell the surname, select the "Wildcard" option next to the entry box. If you are sure you have the spelling correct, leave it on "exact".
  • For the full name, you should probably use "wildcard" because people often use different forms of their names in daily life.
  • The register is a drop-down list, and you can only check one register at a time.
  • If you don't find the person on the psychologists register, check the psychometrists register and then the registered counsellors register.
  • If you have the registration number, that is the quickest way to check the person.

As you enter the fields, the search narrows down and the list of people who meet those criteria appear in the window at the bottom.

When you see a person in the bottom window who might be the person who assessed you, click on "view" in the last column.

Checking the details

  • Sometimes a person appears on the register, but their registration is not active.
  • On the details page, you can see where the person obtained their degree and when, but what you particularly need to look for, is whether the registration is active or not.

If, instead of "active", the person's entry on the register says "erased" or "suspended" they are not currently registered and are not allowed to use psychological tests.

If you have checked all three registers and the person's name does not come up

The next step would be to query it directly with the person who tested you.

You could also phone the HPCSA, or email them.

Without the person's full names, it is very difficult to verify registration.

 

 

 

 

 

Your rights when you are tested

Undergoing assessments can be quite a scary process. It is important to be aware of your rights.


A professional relationship

Testing must take place within the context of a professional relationship. This is a requirement laid down by the code of ethical conduct for the profession of Psychology, regulation R717 of the Health Professions Act. You have a right to know who is testing you and whether they are qualified to do this. The person who is testing you should identify themselves to you and say whether they are a psychologist, psychometrist or registered counsellor. These registered professionals are issued with a blue card which is proof of their registration. You may ask to see this card or ask them for their professional registration number, which you can verify online at the HPCSA website if you want to.

If you are being tested via the Internet, it is much more difficult to establish a professional relationship. You should at least know who is in charge of the testing process and there should have been some communication between yourself and this person. You should know how to get help or explanations relating to the process of completing the test.


Informed consent

You can not be tested without your informed consent. This means that the reason for testing must be explained to you, and you must know who will have access to your test results. You must also understand what the testing will involve, and what the consequences of agreeing to be tested or refusing to be tested will be. Informed consent should be obtained in writing.

Sometimes, when people are applying for a job, it is assumed they by applying you must have consented to being assessed. This attiitude is not encouraged among professional test users. If there is anything unusual about the testing process, for instance if you are being tested using a computer, you must give informed consent.

Before you can give informed consent, it is also important that you must have the capacity to consent. In the case of children, a parent or guardian may have to consent. This may also be the case with a person who is very ill or injured and can not consent for themselves.

However, it is important to know that nobody can be tested against their will. Thus even if the parents have consented to have a child tested, the child must still assent (agree) to be tested.


Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a very important ethical requirement in psychological testing. Your test results are highly confidential and may not be communicated to anyone without your consent. Test results must also be stored securely and confidentiality for five years.


Limits to confidentiality

If there are any special circumstances under which the confidentiality of your test results may be broken, you should be informed of this. This can sometimes happen if there is a court order demanding the psychology professional to disclose  information.


You may refuse

You have a right to refuse to be tested, or to require that your test results not be communicated to anyone. However, if you do refuse to participate in job-related assessment, the people who have to make decisions about you will not have all the information they need. This can potentially harm your chances if you are being tested for a position.


Tests that meet the requirements

If you are being tested for employment purposes, the tests used to assess you must meet the requirements set down in article 8 of the Employment Equity Act. This means that the tests must measure what they claim to measure, they must give reliable and consistent results, they must not be biased against any person or group, and they must be used fairly. How will you know if you are being tested with tests that meet these standards? Psychological tests are professionally reviewed by the Professional Board for Psychology, and a list of these tests is published. The test is then said to be "classified". In practice, many tests that are used have not passed this procedure, indeed many were never submitted for evaluation. For the protection of your rights it is important to know that the publisher of the tests that are used to assess you, comply with the evalaution and classification procedure.


Standard testing procedure and conditions

Psychological tests must be completed under standard conditions. The place where the testing is done must be well lit and ventilated, not too hot or cold, reasonably quiet and free of distractions.  If is the resposibility of the psychology professional who conducts the testing to ensure that the testing conditions are suitable. If several people are being assessed for the same position, they must undergo the same procedure under similar conditions, otherwise the process is not fair.


Dignity and respect

No matter who or what you are, or how you perform on psychometric tests, you must always be treated with dignity and respect. This is a constitutional right which is also specially protected in the code of ethical conduct for psychology professionals. If anybody feels humiliated, discriminated against or disrespected during a psychological assessment procedure, they have grounds for laying a charge of misconduct against the professional who conducted the testing. This is one reason why it is so important that testing should take place in the context of a professional relationship.


Feedback

In terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, you have a right to feedback about the tests that you have completed. Feedback on psychological tests is, however, a professional activity and somebody needs to pay the professional for his or her time. Sometimes companies require that job applicants pay for their own feedback. The feedback that is given to a prospective employer about an applicant's test results is usually done in the context of specific job requirements. When a psychometrist gives feedback to an individual about their own test performance, the feedback is usually done in a way that will benefit the individual, pointing out strengths and areas that can still be developed.

Feedback should also be done with care, and phrased in terms that the person receiving the feedback can understand. Psychometric test results should not be given in terms of raw scores or numbers without adequate explanation. It is important that the feedback should be understood and not misunderstood. This is the responsibility of the psychology professional.

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.

Regulation R704: scope of practice of psychology professionals361.17 KB


Psychologists

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.


Psychometrists

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.


Registered Counsellors

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.

Who may test me?

This depends on what the test measures. Some tests are controlled by law, and may only be used by people who are specifically qualified and registered to use them.

Regulation  R993 of the Health Professions Act reserves certain activities for registered psychology professionals. Psychological assessment is a big part of the activities that are reserved for the profession of psychology. This is done to protect the public, because psychological assessment requires special training and care to prevent harm and protect the rights of the persons being tested.

pdfDownload regulation R993 here268.68 KB

It is an offense for an unregistered person to perform an action that is reserved for a health profession such as Psychology. If found guilty, a penalty of a year's imprisonment and/or a fine may be imposed.

It is even worse for an unregistered person to pretend to be a registered psychology professional - in that case the penalty can be up to five years in prison and/or a fine (Health Professions Act, Chapter 3).

The list of areas that may only be tested by registered psychology professionals is very comprehensive. This article will highlight some of the most important, so that you may know your rights.


Your personality:

Such tests will ask you questions about how you normally behave, what you like doing, what type of person you are. You may be asked to rate yourself on various statements, or say how much a certain description is like you. Sometimes you have to say which of a set of descriptions is most like you, and choose one which is least like you. Sometimes the questions relate to a work situation, others are more general. These tests usually don't have a time limit. They can be done using pencil and paper, or completed on computer.

Other personality tests may require you to tell a story based on a picture. or to describe what an inkblot looks like to you. These tests require special training and they may only be used by psychologists who have done the necessary training.


Emotional functioning:

Tests that measure emotional functioning may look at an aspect of your personality that is specifically related to your feelings, moods and emotions. For example, these tests may ask you questions about how happy, sad, angry, frustrated, on anxious you are. Sometimes these tests and questionnaires make people feel rather uncomfortable or embarrassed, and therefore they may be used only by a registered psychology professional.


Intellectual abilities and aptitudes:

Intellectual ability tests measure how you think, solve problems and learn. Some are called "Intelligence tests". Aptitude tests are interested in how easily you can learn to do specific things, rather than your ability to learn and solve problems in general.

Some ability tests questions relate to language, other relate to numbers, and some present the questions in the form of shapes and diagrams. Some are called "reasoning tests" - such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, or any type of reasoning. If the test requires you to figure out a problem for yourself and not rely on things you already know, it is probably a reasoning test. You may also be required to solve problems by manipulating blocks or puzzle pieces. Tests can be completed on computer, using pencil and paper, individually or in groups.

These tests are reserved by law for psychology professionals because they measure what is called "cognitive structure" and "cognitive functioning


Interests

Interest questionnaires ask you questions about what activities you most enjoy doing and what type of work you might prefer.

The questions could be presented as words, sentences or even pictures. In most cases you would have to rate yourself of say which activities you prefer most and which you like least.

These tests are often used to guide people in the choice of subjects to study, or to help them make a career choice.  Because these tests are used to make important decisions about a person's future, the consequences of making a mistake and giving the wrong advice could be serious. A person might spend years studying unsuitable subjects. spend a lot of money learning the wrong things, or enter a career that is not suited to them and spend years being unhappy in their work.

Interest questionnaires are reserved by law for registered psychology professionals.


Tests of psychopathology

These tests are designed to identify or diagnose patterns of behaviour and thinking that are considered abnormal and that may require psychological or psychiatric treatment. These are specialised techniques that are used only by psychologists who are registered in the proper categories and who have had the necessary training.


Neuropsychological assessments

These tests are designed to measure whether your nervous system  and brain are functioning properly in a psychological sense. These tests may require special apparatus and they certainly require special training. Only psychologists who have had such training may use them.