Provisional Psychologists: What are they and how are they different to a regular psychologist?

All the psychologists at Raise the Bar Psychology are driven by the desire to provide student’s, their families and their schools with in-depth educational assessments that provide targeted recommendations for assisting students to make progress in areas of learning that they are having difficulty with.

To continue to provide such a comprehensive educational assessment service means that we need to bring on board wonderful psychologists who have a strong combination of skills, knowledge, experience, and a desire to continue learning and developing. That desire to continue growing as a practitioner is crucial, and on a couple of occasions has led to Raise the Bar taking on provisional psychologists in order to assist with an up-and-coming practitioners development and skill set.

Some of you may know the wonderful Nindy Brouwers, a fabulous psychologist who started with us when she was provisional, and continued on with us once she completed her registration. Nindy was our first ever provisional psychologist, and really paved the way for students of her calibre to find a place at Raise the Bar. But what does that all mean and how is it different to any of the other psychologists?

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A provisional psychologist is someone who is completing the final years of their psychology education and has obtained “provisional” registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This means that they can practice as a psychologist whilst consistently reporting to and being supervised by a fully registered psychologist who has had a minimum number of years of experience, and has completed the training required to register as a Supervisor with the Psychology Board of Australia. Once a provisional psychologist has completed their supervisory period they can then apply to become a fully registered psychologist.

In laymen’s terms, a provisional psychologist is like a medical student who has completed their education and is now working in a hospital to gain practical experience, whilst being supervised by a qualified doctor. That’s why we call our provisional psychologists “the interns!”

At the moment Raise the Bar is working with two wonderful provisional psychs, Lisa and Ruth. Lisa and Ruth are both 6th year Masters of Educational and Developmental Psychology students, completing their placement with Raise the Bar Psychology under the supervision of Dr Kate Jacobs. It is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn from someone as experienced as Kate, and we are thrilled to have them on board.

So how is a provisional psychologist different to a registered psychologist? Well there are a few important differences. Firstly, when you are seeing a provisional psychologist, their supervisor may observe some of your appointments, or the provisional psych may record their appointments (either just audio or sometimes audio and visual) in order for their supervisor to review their progress.

Secondly, the provisional psychologists at Raise the Bar Psychology operate on a lower fee scale. Because they are not yet fully registered, their fees are roughly 20% less than those of a fully registered psychologist.

And thirdly, a provisional psychologist’s work is always reviewed and signed off on by their supervisor. In the case of Raise the Bar, this means that all of the assessments conducted by Lisa and Ruth are reviewed by Kate, and she then works with them to develop the results, reports and recommendations prior to the client feedback.

As a private practice, we are not required to provide placement or supervision to provisional psychologists, and so you may wonder why we do it. Again there are a number of reasons. One is that Kate is very invested in the development of practising psychologists. It is something that she enjoys immensely both with our fully registered psychologists, as well as the occasions where a particularly exceptional provisional psych comes to our attention.

We also understand that private practice services are not always financially accessible for those that need them, and so having the option of a more cost-effective process can make all the difference to many families.

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And finally, having the option of two provisional psychologists has meant that we have been able to drastically reduce our wait time for all new Raise the Bar clients, since last years lockdowns had such an impact on our scheduling availability. This means more families being able to access the services they need in a quicker time-frame, which is good for everybody!

Should I see the provisional psychologists instead of one of the fully registered ones? The answer there is a bit trickier. Ideally a provisional psychologist will be able to see a very broad variety of clients in order to gain as much experience as possible, particularity in terms of the scope of clients that we work with. However our first priority is always the client, and so in some cases we may recommend one of the fully registered psychologists as being a better option. This could be for a number of reasons such as more experience with a particular diagnosis, prior history with an individual client, complex cases that require specific knowledge, or even just better scheduling availability.

Whether or not you should see a provisional or fully registered psychologist is something that we advise on a case-by-case basis. But if you do get lucky enough to see Lisa or Ruth, you can be confident in the fact that the assessment process is the same no matter who you work with, and that all our psychologists (whether provisionally or fully registered) are truly lovely!