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Psychology as a Profession in Australia


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""This is a very stimulating and challenging book. It doesn’t shy away at all from many vexing and challenging issues, some of which have been debated by the profession for a very long time. Its audience is far more than advanced undergraduates, however. Due to its timely and specific relevance, it is as pertinent to the practising professional as it is to senior students who have decided that they wish to become professional psychologists. The book is useful to other professions as well, because of a number of the features the professions share in common. All professions can learn from the book’s elaboration of what the term ‘professional’ might mean to us in contemporary life. I commend this book very highly."" — Peter Sheehan AO

Psychology is a science and a profession. As a science, it is concerned with the empirical investigation of behaviour and mental life and the theories this gives rise to. As a profession, it is concerned with promoting human well-being and performance. This book is about how ideas central to what it means to be a profession are expressed in the case of psychology. It is concerned with professional psychology, the features it shares with other professions, and the impact social change has had on professions in general. Those setting out on the path of professional practice will find it helpful to reflect on what being a member of a profession means. The book is written primarily for third-year psychology students who are looking eagerly to becoming practitioner psychologists. It begins with a discussion of what it means to describe a cultural practice as a profession, then moves on to a little history, the modern-day status of psychology, training, competencies,  ethics, and the regulation and representation of psychology and psychologists. Suggested readings are included for each chapter.



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Published 01 December 2007
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EAN13 9781921513060
Language English
Document size 3 MB

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First published in 2007 from a completed manuscript presented to Australian Academic Press 32 Jeays Street Bowen Hills Qld 4006 Australia www.australianacademicpress.com.au
© 2007 John O’Gorman
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National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data:
O’Gorman, John.
Psychology as a profession in Australia.
eBook ISBN 9781921513060
1. Psychology – Practice – Australia. 2. Psychology –
Australia – Methodology. I. Title. 150.2394 Editing and typesetting by Australian Academic Press, Brisbane
Cover design by Maria Biaggini
This is a very stimulating and challenging book that anchors its dis-cussion in the context of the author’s informed knowledge of the features and characteristics of psychology as an ethical, competent and caring profession. The rationale of the book is established clearly in the author’s opening remarks. It is ‘about how ideas cen-tral to what it means to be a profession are expressed in the case of psychology’, and it concludes provocatively and appropriately around a sample of contemporary issues that face the profession today, with some wise acknowledgment of psychology’s possible shortcomings. As the author in his preface says, it is a book written by an Australian for Australian students, and uses many Australian examples to illustrate its points. Its audience is far more than advanced undergraduates, however. Due to its timely and specific relevance, it is as pertinent to the practising professional as it is to senior students who have decided that they wish to become profes-sional psychologists. The book is useful to other professions as well, because of a number of the features the professions share in common. All professions can learn from the book’s elaboration of what the term ‘professional’ might mean to us in contemporary life. This book doesn’t shy away at all from many vexing and chal-lenging issues, some of which have been debated by the profession for a very long time. There are indeed students who would argue that their socialisation into the profession is being delayed by the kind of undergraduate training they receive; this is a modern state-ment of the old debate about what is the most appropriate training model to adopt — the scientist–practitioner model, or alternative models represented by more primary focus on the profession —
which, of course, is a topic of focused debate in the book. And it is true that psychology in Australia, as many would argue, is largely derivative of psychology in other countries (particularly the United States and Britain, as the book argues). Yet the characteristics of a good profession, which is a topic the book takes up in some detail in chapter 7, keep coming back to readers’ attention. I find it instructive that they appear to have a reasonably comfortable fit across differing contexts and cultures. There are indeed common features (though obviously cultures have something of an influence in how these are taken up), which reach out to define psychology as an effective and ethical profession in the ways it is practised. Many of these features, as the author argues, are shared with other professions in ways that make it valu-able, in the author’s own words, to ‘recognise professions as an important part of contemporary life’. One would seriously question whether the practice of psychology is legitimate if certain features are not respected by professionals in their disciplines. All of them are discussed in this book in a thoughtful manner, with many personal reflections of the author offered to readers along the way. A good profession, for example, must be motivated by a sense of social responsibility (there is a chapter on just this issue); it must conform to the best and changing interests of society (this is captured by a challenging chapter on public perceptions of the profession). But above all, a good profession must claim specific expertise in a credi-ble and defensible way; must be guided by a firm sense of ethical principles; and must serve the welfare of others. Where culture enters into this mix is probably reflected in the task of finding an adaptive balance among professionals’ collective efforts to apply their knowledge in ethical and competent ways. But it is my belief that the core common features of what defines a good profession should be evident in all cases. The practice of psychology in Australia raises many questions that can equally well be asked about all disciplines, and the book serves a very distinctive function in this respect by inquiring into the profession in ways that relate more broadly to wider issues, such as
the rise of managerialism in the service culture, the contemporary erosion of professional authority, the differential response of profes-sions to the threats of globalisation, and to me, one of the most pressing issues of all is covered — the growing tension between the humanistic and the scientific. Yet, this is a national book that com-municates its scholarship clearly and effectively to a national audi-ence. To borrow something of the perspective of Geoffrey Searle, we might ask is there something about Australia’s isolation, its spirit of place, and consciousness of origins, that enables teachers, researchers and practitioners in Australia to be truly innovative in what they do, or will they be largely derivative drawing inspiration less from the country’s immediate environment, than the words, thinking and practices of others. Yes, we can move forward, and in this milieu, the book makes some very positive statements. It is overall positive in tone, but also offers some worthy caveats, representing what chapter 2 might describe as challenges to the profession. Psychology has advanced in ways that make it well attuned to the richness, complexity and subtletyof major problem issues in Australia and elsewhere, such as racial discrimina-tion, unlawful detention, and the economic benefits of psychology to others. This book charts wider issues, such as the threat of reduc-tionism and the rights of Indigenous people, in an informed way by embedding them in a national context. Psychology stands tall as a discipline that is methodologically strong in the analytic tools of inquiry that it uses; psychology, after all (to take the opening line of the book) ‘is a science and a profes-sion’. The influence of culture continues to be strong, as well; cul-ture obviously mediates the path ‘from introspection to the world of human affairs’. And, for many reasons, the attitudes of good prac-tising professionals will continue to reinforce the value of utility. The diversification of the discipline that is occurring in Australia and elsewhere and which is very well illustrated in this book guar-antees that there will be clear and distinct differences in the ways different psychologists practise their knowledge-based ‘art’ (a term intentionally used by the author, to reflect an addition to specialised
knowledge). There seems to be sound sense to the book’s proposi-tion that psychology has the characteristics of other professions, and that the particulars of their expression will vary because of the con-text in which they are practised, though there is some reassurance in the position that there are factors that help to create a meaningful pattern of differences among them. Through the book’s essential recognition of diversity, it offers very reasonable hope that knowledge associated with those differ-ences in Australia will be consolidated ethically and creatively, and integrated through the application of a wide assortment of sophisti-cated methods and practices that nevertheless convey their own pressures and constraints. As the book argues, the growing number of specialisations in psychology defy a tidy way of classifying them, but for me it never loses sight of an essential point. Despite its com-plexity, the practice of the core features of what makes a good pro-fession ultimately determines the real achievements that psychology and the professionals who practise psychology make. And this must be the case, no matter where and when the discipline is practised. I commend this book very highly to you.
Peter Sheehan AO December, 2006
Foreword by Peter Sheahan AO
List of tables and figures
About the author
Chapter 1 Opening Remarks
Chapter 2 Professions and Professionals Chapter 3 The Origins of Professional Psychology Chapter 4 Psychology: A Profession Like No Other? Chapter 5 The Professional Training of Psychologists Chapter 6 The Competencies of Psychologists
Chapter 7 Ethics and Good Practice
Chapter 8 Representation and Regulation of the Profession
Chapter 9 The Public Image of Psychology
Chapter 10 Psychologists and Social Responsibility
Chapter 11 Whither of (Wither) Professional Psychology? References
iii ix xi
157 177
List of tables and figures
Table 2.1 Characteristics of a Profession According to Lieberman
Table 2.2 Characteristics of Professions and Professionals According to Dougherty
Table 2.3 The Criteria of a Good Profession
Table 4.1 Colleges of the Australian Psychological Society and their Memberships in 2006
Table 4.2 Employment Categories for Members of APS and APA
Table 5.1 Training Objectives for the Local Clinical Scientist
Figure 6.1 Cube Model Describing Competency Development in Professional Psychology
Table 6.1 Definitions of Functional Competency and Foundational Competency Domains
Table 6.2 The Competencies Described by the Committee Recommending on the European Diploma of Psychology
Table 6.3 Competencies of Psychologists Defined by the Psychologists Board of Queensland
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