It is standard practice for small business consultancies to provide online testimonials so that prospective clients can discern more about the business, via the words of clients who have made use of the organisation’s services.

Unfortunately, this is not possible in Australia for individuals registered as psychologists. Under the edicts issued by the Psychology Board of Australia (to which the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency delegates many of its powers), testimonials are forbidden, and are contrary to the National Law which came into effect on 1 July 2010.

This makes a mockery of the type of professional activities in which organisational psychologists are engaged and reflects the problems associated with the single register system for psychologists in Australia. Australia would be much better served with a dual register model similar to that proposed by the American Psychological Association for the USA: (a) general applied psychologists; and (b) health service providers. Note: National licensing of psychologists in the USA has not been introduced, and even then any such licensing is likely to be stand alone, and not part of a much larger health profession regulation.

For the vast majority of organisational psychologists (and for many other general applied psychologists) there is very little identification with the ‘health profession’. Instead of our ethical focus being in ‘protecting the public’, our real ethical focus should be in optimising (net) benefits to the community (including organisations and business) by raising our standards, while avoiding malfeasance.

The restrictions imposed on organisational psychologists in Australia are consistent with the ‘medical model’ of clinical and health psychology. These restrictions, as is the single register model, are inappropriate. Furthermore, several commentators in the business world argue that Australia’s penchant for bureaucratic restrictions is hampering our capacity to innovate and to pursue balanced risk management strategies that could lead to positive outcomes for the economy and Australian citizens – without harming the public.

Quality service provisioning and ethical practice do not require the mindless compliance with the mantra of ‘protecting the public’ and the associated limitations such as a restriction on testimonials. But, as noted above, in order to avoid a financial penalty (and potential disbarring), these testimonials cannot be provided.

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Peter Macqueen
Principal and Co-founder