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Navigating professional development in today's world of psychology

From keeping up with the latest research to learning about developments in the field, professional associations offer psychologists an effective means of continuous education. Learn how to navigate professional development in psychology today.

19 August, 2020

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Professional Development & Mentorship Professional Associations

The field of clinical assessment is developing at a rapid pace, with stakeholders across the professional spectrum, from policymakers and educators to practitioners and industry associations, getting to grips with a wealth of new research into fields such as eating disorders, depression, dementia and autism.

For psychologists practicing today, developments in technology, paired with a huge support network through professional bodies, mean that taking advantage of these developments has never been easier or more fruitful.

Testing, for example, has seen a shift online from a time-consuming paper-based environment. Meanwhile, the growth of telehealth has been rapid – and necessary – given the unprecedented changes to patient assessments amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is challenging established ways of working and highlighting the importance of remote yet secure online assessments, says Valorie O’Keefe, Consultant Psychologist at Pearson.

As an industry leader, Pearson Clinical has over 200 assessments, many of which can be administered and scored digitally through telehealth platforms such as Coviu, as well as through Pearson's Q-interactive and Q-global, which are two of the most popular online platforms currently in use. The company is also constantly developing its library of tests to deliver products of the highest standards, backed by first-class research and underwritten by a global, renowned team of clinical practitioners.

The organisation provides a wealth of training for psychology professionals at every stage of their careers, the majority of which is run at no cost. For instance, Pearson has made Q-global’s digital library free for psychologists to access during the current health crisis. Meanwhile, practitioners in Pearson’s network are constantly training fellow psychologists in the proper use of assessments through private training courses and the Pearson Academy.

“That is the part of the job that brings me the most joy, helping psychologists do their best work,” Valorie says.

The power of the professional association

While Pearson Clinical provides psychologists the cutting-edge tools necessary to address some of the most challenging aspects of modern-day mental health, professional associations are a key component of the equation. From keeping up with the latest research to learning about major trends and developments in the field, professional associations offer practicing psychologists an effective means of continuous education as well as a venue to meet and exchange ideas with counterparts from around the world.

Becoming a member of an industry association is a sound move for psychologists on every step of the professional ladder, and being an active member of the professional community offer practicing psychologists a range of benefits.

For instance, according to Valorie, being part of an association has enabled her to actively participate in industry initiatives, such as the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Test and Testing Expert Group, attend national and local industry conferences to keep up with the latest industry trends and network with peers, while also offering practical workday advantages.

“The APS provides psychologists with an easy way to monitor and record their Continuing Professional Development hours,” she says. “This might sound like a simple thing, but… the benefit of using the APS system is that it helps you understand the requirements and provides an easy way of recording your activity, your goals, and keeping track of hours.”

The APS is Australia’s most subscribed-to body, with over 24,000 members who are represented regionally and by state, with chapters providing local support and continuing professional development. There are also around 50 interest groups bringing together members from certain fields or with specific interests. These range from Psychology and the Environment to belief-based interests such as Buddhism and Psychology, or group-specific topics, such as Aboriginal and TSI Peoples Psychology. In addition, APS colleges represent practitioners working in specialist areas, maintaining practice standards in those fields.

Associations like the APS are also on hand to offer professional advice to their members. “They're there to help you,” says Valorie. “If you have an ethical question, if you have a legal question. They're there to help members with those tricky situations.”

For Pearson Clinical, a main driver of testing in Australia, association events are ideal venues to presents its research to a wide audience of industry professionals. The publisher, Valorie says, is also working to conduct webinars in partnership with the APS - which also produces its own training materials - to help practitioners keep up with professional development opportunities.

Associate membership also provides opportunities internationally, with Australian psychologists invited to be involved from afar in some of the world’s most influential industry bodies, such as the American Psychological Association. Until recently, members typically attended renowned conferences around the world – and hopefully will do so again once the pandemic is behind us.

In the meantime, both the APS and sister organisations across the globe are adapting more and more to distance and virtual conferencing. As well as a chance to engage with some of the most influential figures working in psychology today, Valorie says international conferences are “great networking opportunities as well.”

Additionally, associations like the APS allow psychologists to advertise their own events or be listed on their website to help people who are looking for a psychologist with a particular specialisation to easily find them.

For fellow psychologists looking to make the most of professional associations, Valorie recommends becoming actively involved by attending local branch meetings, joining committees or interest groups, and signing up for courses, such as those organised by the APS Institute, to expand their skill set.

“It’s really about making the most of what your professional association has to offer,” she says.

Continue reading: A world of digital opportunities with Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessment (PCTA)