Thank you very much.
Good day everyone. My name is Marie-Josée Lemieux. I am the Vice-President of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec. I am accompanied by Mr. Beaulieu, Secretary General and by Mr. Lorquet, the order's lawyer.
The primary mission of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec is to protect the public. Our association ensures quality of services provided by its members, promotes development of the profession and defends access to psychological services. Currently, our order has 8,150 members working either in health care, in private practice or the public health care network, in educational institutions or for major companies.
We are aware that the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs is concerned with access to psychological services for victims of trauma related to operational stress, and concerned with a future shortage of psychologists. So it is a pleasure for us to have accepted the committee's invitation to come and provide information on the following issues: the reasons for the increased educational requirements providing access to the profession of psychologist in Quebec; an overview of training for psychologists within the Province of Quebec; the changes in the numbers of psychologists given the need for a Ph.D. degree and the aging of the population; as well as strategies to be considered to encourage more psychologists to develop expertise in treating veterans.
For the past two years, psychologists have been required to have a doctorate. This standard came into force following a regulatory change in July 2006. The new regulation on degrees was amended by the Quebec government, pursuant to section 184 of the Professional Code of Quebec, following an extensive consultation process particularly with the Quebec Professions Board, universities, the Quebec Department of Education and the Quebec Department of Health.
Under the old regulations, the order licensed psychologists who had a master's degree. The new regulation means that only those holding doctorates can become psychologists. Students are now enrolling in doctoral studies after they get their undergraduate degree.
Over the past few decades the evolution and diversification of practices in the area of psychology has meant an increase in initial training needs in order to properly prepare psychologists to treat diversified clienteles and ensure a constantly changing range of services. For many years, young psychologists coming out of university did not feel sufficiently prepared to deal with the demands of the profession, particularly with regard to practical training. They were then able to access additional training to complete their training.
Six studies conducted during the 1990s indicated that students graduating in the field of psychology and their trainers felt, first, that the theoretical and practical training they received was insufficient and that young psychologists did not feel prepared to exercise their profession without having additional training. Second, they felt that their university courses and activities should focus more on clinical practice. And finally, they felt that the amount of practical training time dedicated to serving clients should be extended and there should be a greater number of hours spent with clients as well as a greater number of hours spent under supervision.
In light of those facts, in order to address those deficiencies, the majority of psychologists sought out complimentary practical training or individual supervision related to the fundamental aspects of their practice once they graduated from university. A large proportion of them said that they felt sufficiently prepared to go into solo practice and sufficiently competent in psychology only when that additional training had been completed.
In light of those facts and pursuant to its mandate to protect the public, the Ordre des psychologues du Québec had a duty to propose a solution that would take into account the changing knowledge and the diversification of professional services provided by psychologists.
Consequently, towards the end of the 1990s, the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, in partnership with Quebec universities, proposed developing a training model based on seven professional competencies. Furthermore, the Order also recommended increasing the number of hours devoted to practical training during the university course work. So, the former standard, which allowed for a 600-hour internship was increased to 2,300 hours. The universities which had up till then been providing professional programs at the master's level, felt that these new requirements could only be offered within a doctoral degree program.
Furthermore, having a Ph.D. standard based on competencies is widespread throughout North America. Most Canadian provinces, as well as most American states, require students to obtain a Ph.D. in order to independently practice this profession.
It should also be noted that the Canadian provinces have signed a reciprocity agreement allowing all psychologists to work anywhere in Canada. This agreement is competency-based, and was inspired by the Quebec training model.
During the consultations that preceded the adoption of the new regulation, various stakeholders consulted expressed some reservations and asked questions about the impact of making students obtain a doctorate on a future shortage of psychologists in Quebec.
At that time, the universities made the commitment to increase the number of spots in programs and to shorten their duration. As a result, since the 2006-2007 academic year, the year that the new regulation came into force, an additional 39 students were admitted into programs in Quebec, a 17% increase.
Furthermore, the Quebec government recently amended the Professional Code in order to give professional associations the regulatory tools they need to facilitate the recognition of foreign credentials. Furthermore, the Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities of Quebec is providing funding to the professional associations so that they can develop in partnership with the universities programs that ensure access to complementary training for candidates from outside Canada who apply to have their diplomas recognized.
The Ordre des psychologues du Québec, in partnership with the University of Sherbrooke, recently proposed a project to the Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities to develop a framework program for such candidates. This measure should help to facilitate access to professional training courses and, consequently, accelerate the licensing of immigrants.
Finally, the Ordre des psychologues du Québec is currently taking part in the round table bringing together the Quebec Professions Board, the Department of Health and Social Services of Quebec, and the Department of Education Recreation and Sports of Quebec in order to update occupational outlook information for health care and education and private practice.
Furthermore, Quebec currently has 2,300 psychologists working exclusively in the area of private practice. A poll conducted in 2005 by our association told us that a vast number of them are interested in a full-time or part-time position within the public network. The marked interest of psychologists in having a public sector position could be of interest to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is concerned with ensuring ongoing services to veterans.
As I said earlier, the Ordre des psychologues du Québec currently has some 8,150 members, which is nearly half of all psychologists in Canada.
Over the past 10 years, the increase in the number of members has remained quite stable. The average increase in the number of psychologists was 200 a year. Of our more than 8,000 members, at the moment close to 2,000 of them provide care for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Slightly over 4,500 members provide services for the treatment of anxiety-related problems. Close to 5,000 of them provide services to treat depression and almost 500 provide services for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.
As regards a possible strategy, I should mention that there are a number of training options available in doctorate programs in Quebec universities. I am thinking particularly of options in clinical psychology, neuropsychology, children and families and work/organization, not to mention community psychology. It is mainly the professionals with training in clinical psychology who work with the victims of operational stress and their families.
Internships play an important role within the doctoral training program. Interns are students who do most of their practical training in clinics that specialize in treating trauma caused by operational stress. This can be a good way of ensuring the availability of services geared to the needs of veterans.
For example, the Quebec government is currently considering offering scholarships for interns as a way of recruiting psychologists in areas of practice with the most limited resources. A scholarship program for interns could definitely be an effective way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to encourage students to show an interest in providing services for veterans. Clinical training with veterans would also enable students to develop specific expertise geared to the veterans' needs.
Grants for clinical research, in cooperation with the universities, is another possible way of improving the overall availability of services for veterans. The money being invested by the department to treat trauma resulting from operational stress definitely deserves support from clinical research so as to assess how effective it is and to improve practices.
That completes my presentation. We will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.