16 Dec 2022
A tribunal has set aside a Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) decision to refuse a registered psychologist’s application for endorsement as a clinical psychologist.
The Board refused the application on the basis that Dr Marian Kolta did not hold an approved qualification in clinical psychology and did not hold another qualification that, in the Board’s opinion, was substantially equivalent to, or based on similar competencies to an approved qualification.
Dr Kolta did hold an approved qualification for the area of practice endorsement in counselling psychology (professional doctorate) and held a further post-graduate qualification in clinical psychology (graduate certificate) from the same university, but which was not approved or recognised by the Board as a qualification leading to an area of practice endorsement. Dr Kolta contended that together these two qualifications entitled her to endorsement in clinical psychology because they were substantially equivalent to the approved qualification, that is the professional doctorate in clinical psychology.
Dr Kolta appealed the refusal for endorsement in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal). At a hearing before a panel of a retired County Court Judge and two members of the profession, the tribunal heard evidence from expert witnesses. The experts provided the tribunal with their opinions and analysis of the content of both courses Dr Kolta completed. They had examined the sequencing of the core and elective subjects, provided analysis of the assessment tasks, and considered the objectives and outcomes of the supervised placements Dr Kolta completed within the courses.
The experts carried out a comparison of the individual assessment tasks Dr Kolta completed with those that were required in the approved clinical psychology qualification offered by the same university at the same time. The tribunal accepted the expert evidence that the standard, extent and learning objectives of the courses Dr Kolta completed were substantially equivalent to those of the approved qualification.
When considering the two qualifications together, the tribunal decided that Dr Kolta held qualifications that were substantially equivalent to an approved qualification in the area of clinical psychology. The tribunal noted it was not finding that the graduate certificate constituted, or was equivalent to, an accredited bridging course but rather, that when all the subjects completed over both courses were considered together, they were substantially equivalent to the subjects Dr Kolta would have completed in an approved qualification in clinical psychology.
In reaching its decision that Dr Kolta held qualifications entitling her to endorsement in clinical psychology, the tribunal took into consideration that the qualifications (which were completed consecutively in 2009 and 2010) were undertaken at the same university and that the relevant coursework subjects were taught by academics delivering the clinical psychology qualification that was being delivered at the same time. The tribunal directed the Board to immediately endorse Dr Kolta’s general registration for the area of practice of clinical psychology, and in doing so, it found that the transitional arrangements in place when Dr Kolta was deemed to have first become eligible for endorsement apply to dispense with completion of a registrar program.
The full outcome is available on AustLII.