Challenges facing Australian counselling psychologists: a qualitative analysis

Catriona Davis-McCabe, Michael Di Mattia, Emma Logan

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    Objective: In the last decade, Australian counselling psychologists have seen a decline in the profession as academic programs close and their professional identity diminishes. In 2006, the Federal Government introduced the Better Access mental health initiative, which provides Medicare (Australia's national public health insurance scheme) funding for the community to access psychological services. While the Better Access initiative has been successful for consumers, it has created significant tensions within the psychology profession, offering higher rebates for services offered by a clinical psychologist. The literature highlights that the Better Access system has placed counselling psychology in a vulnerable position. Is this the only threat to the profession? This study sought to establish what Australian counselling psychologists perceive as the challenges facing the profession. Method: A web-based survey was distributed to Australian counselling psychologists seeking information on a range of demographic and professional characteristics. The survey collected information on various aspects of professional identity and practice. Respondents were asked to identify what they see as the challenges facing counselling psychology. Results: The main challenges highlighted were related to inequalities in rebate schemes between clinical and counselling psychologists, ingrained biases towards clinical psychology resulting in power imbalances, divides, and in-fighting within the profession, difficulties demarcating the unique identity of counselling psychologists (both from within and outside), and changes threatening the existence of counselling psychology as a viable training pathway in Australia. Conclusion: This paper explores the current challenges to the profession, recommendations for change at the individual and system levels, and directions for the future of the profession.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)513-525
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustralian Psychologist
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


    • challenges
    • counselling psychology identity
    • Medicare
    • professional issues

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