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Crackdown on quacks - Psychologists take steps to weed out 'pretenders'

Published:Sunday | July 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

The government's decision to begin licensing psychologists could cure Jamaica of the problem of quacks collecting big bucks from persons seeking help for mental issues.

For years, persons lacking the necessary qualification have been offering psychological services locally, to the chagrin of the Jamaican Psychological Society (JamPsych), which has been calling for the regulation of the profession.

"The executive of JamPsych has been working tirelessly to facilitate the licensing of Jamaican psychologists," declared vice-president of the organisation, Dr Kai Morgan.

"We are now pleased to announce that members of JamPsych will be eligible to apply to be licensed through the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine, a public body established under the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act," added Morgan.

In endorsing the move, president of JamPsych, Dr Lester Shields, noted that under the new regulations only suitably qualified persons will be able to legally offer psychological services, and action can be taken against psychologists and other practitioners who are in breach of the licence regulations.

"Licensure requires psychologists to remain current through continuing education. This and other regulations will protect the integrity of the profession," added Shields.

While shying away from the label of 'quacks', which many in the profession say best describes these untrained psychologists, JamPsych says this landmark development has put the profession on a stronger footing and increases the protection of Jamaicans using psychological services.

"We want to avoid the word 'quack', because it is very pejorative. However, we have had reported cases of persons misrepresenting their qualifications, practising in areas for which they are not qualified, or violating the ethics of our profession, which provide protection for clients," JamPsych said in response to questions from The Sunday Gleaner.

JamPsych was unable to provide information on the number of quack psychologists operating in Jamaica, but urged Jamaicans to check before paying out their hard-earned cash to these impostors.

"Persons who are licensed must be members of JamPsych, so a visit to our website is a simple, easy way to identify licensed psychologists."

According to JamPsych, with more and more Jamaicans seeking psychological services, it is important that psychologists are registered in the same way as other persons in the medical profession and related fields.

"Psychological issues are wide-ranging and impact every aspect of life and every stage of human development, from birth to death. Persons may experience problems with their self-esteem, personal fulfilment, career, family, sexuality, community, society ... really every aspect of life, said JamPsych.

The licensing of Jamaican psychologists is intended to reduce the incidents of misrepresentation and unethical conduct by psychological personnel.

Psychological misrepresentation involves someone purporting themselves to be a psychologist or a specific type of psychologist and they do not have the requisite training, experience or ethical standards to facilitate effective treatment.

This has the potential to cause significant emotional harm to the persons being treated.