Bill to allow therapy by non-clinical psychologists moves

Clinical psychologists tell committee they fear the bill would endanger their status and people who need help would go to someone not suitably trained.

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October 19, 2010 06:16
2 minute read.
Yehuda Hyman in 'Mad 7.'

58_crazy man. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A private member’s bill that would allow specially trained psychologists who are not clinical psychologists to give psychotherapy treatment was approved by the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee on Monday and will now go to the plenum for its second and third readings.

The bill was initiated by MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu) and not the Health Ministry, but the ministry supported the bill, according to chief psychiatrist Dr. Gadi Lubin.

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The bill seeks to amend the 1977 Psychologists Law, which allows only clinical psychologists to practice psychotherapy.

If the bill becomes law, rehabilitational, medical and developmental psychologists are the most likely to receive authorization to offer psychotherapy, but other psychologists would be considered if they have undergone proper training.

Prof. Arieh Shalev, chief of psychiatry at the Hadassah University Medical Center in the capital’s Ein Kerem, told The Jerusalem Post that he strongly favored the amendment.

If the proposed reform – now approved by the Health Ministry – that would transfer its responsibility for psychiatric care to the health funds is approved, the insurers will have to find many more psychotherapists.

Clinical psychologists have been against the change, but the Psychologists Law is outdated, Shalev said.

“Psychotherapy used to be classical, in-depth and longterm such as Freudian, but today, these techniques are less effective. Psychologists in other fields can get excellent training at Bar-Ilan University and elsewhere, and they should be allowed to provide it,” he said.

Shalev added that some non-clinical psychologists have been giving patients treatment “without calling it psychotherapy,” thus the amendment fills a real need to set boundaries.

While “there is some concern about charlatans,” if the law is well supervised, it will be an improvement, Shalev said.

“I am more worried about people who need therapy from their health fund and are not getting it because there aren’t enough authorized therapists,” he added.

Problems that can be handled by psychotherapy include anxiety after suffering a heart attack or a road accident, for example.

Patients don’t necessarily need classical, long-term psychotherapy for this, Shalev said.

Clinical psychologists told the Knesset committee that they feared the bill would endanger their status and that people who need help would go to someone who was not suitably trained – and wouldn’t know how to identify those who were.

Committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud) said he was happy “that the committee could improve the services and treatments available to citizens while ensuring that only those trained for it were allowed to do so.”


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