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Mental health patients at risk - Psychologists call for Gov't to regularise practice

Published:Monday | January 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer

Psychologists are on a mission to weed out quacks from the profession, which they say is detrimental to the lives of clients.

Dr Garth Lipps, treasurer of the Jamaican Psychological Society (JPS), has said there are several incompetent persons practising as psychologists.

"There are persons who are advertising their services and offering psychological services when they are not qualified," Lipps claimed.

However, Health Minister Rudyard Spencer has said he was not aware of unqualified psychologists practising in the country.

Unlike psychiatrists who are medical doctors, psychologists do not prescribe drugs for their patients. Psycologist, however, offer therapy to persons who are suffering mental health problems, providing these patients with counselling or psychotherapy.

Incompetent therapists

Speaking with The Gleaner last week, Lipps, a lecturer of applied psychology at the University of the West Indies, said "patients are at risk because they could be incorrectly diagnosed as well, as they could be provided with incompetent therapy."

Lipps called for the Government to pass a law to regulate the professional practice of psychologists in Jamaica and to do so with great urgency.

Lipps said that the JPS has been trying to get the profession regularised since 2003 but to no avail. He said activities carried out by persons who are not qualified could be easily stamped out if registration became mandatory in the profession.

Past president of the society, Dr Kai Morgan also painted a dull picture of the profession, saying that the Government should address the issue, as one of its roles is to protect the citizens.

She said a draft copy of the proposed regulatory statute was sent to the Council for Professions Supple-mentary to Medicine (CPSM) which approved it and sent it on to the Ministry of Health but the process has to be restarted.

"This Government said it has not seen the draft and so we have to start the process all over again and now we are waiting on approval from the minister," the past president said.

"I don't know what the hold up is about, because we have waited far too long now."

She added that the society has received numerous complaints of unethical practices displayed by therapists.

Master's degree

Morgan added that qualified psychologists should operate with at least a master's degree.

Meanwhile, Spencer has said that it is the professional responsibility of psychologists to push the process to be registered. When asked about the proposal that was drafted by the society, he said he has not been engaged in any dialogue about the issue.

nadisha.hunter@gleanerjm.com