I’m a psychologist….well…almost...
Undergrad degree? Check!
Master’s degree? Check!
Licensed practitioner? Kind of? Maybe? No.
I am a Registered Provisional Psychologist. When I try to explain my job title to people, there is always a moment of confusion. It is like having “training wheels” – I have the skills, but I cannot yet ride by myself.
But what does is mean to be a Provisional Psychologist?
A Provisional Psychologist is a professional who provides therapy “under the supervision of psychologists, and who by definition perform a more limited range of psychological functions” (Edwards, H.P., 2000, January 4, p.9). In Alberta, Provisional Psychologists complete 1600 hours of supervised work prior to being licensed. In addition, they are required to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency in the field of psychology. While this a tedious process for new graduates, it does ensure that your therapist has the appropriate qualifications for practice. Provisional Psychologists consult regularly with their supervisor to review case files and discuss the best course of action for providing therapy.
Unfortunately, being able to work as a psychologist is not as simple as merely going out and procuring a job. In Alberta, the profession of psychology is governed by the College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP). In order to practice as a psychologist, you must be registered with the College. Registration includes having your academic credentials reviewed and approved, then your supervision plan, supervision site, and credentials reviewed and accepted (CAP, 2020). This can be a long and costly process for many, notably if they are missing a particular class, or if they have issues finding a supervisor or a site where they can complete their hours.
There are other regulatory bodies where graduates or current professionals can register and be able to practice as counsellor or mental health therapists, but this route can be limiting in terms of providing services to clients who have insurance or benefits that stipulate services must be provided by Registered Psychologists. Additionally, there is no standardization across Canada, and each province and territory have different requirements for their mental health professionals (CPA, n.d.), which makes transitioning from one area of the country to the other potentially problematic.
When I decided to be a psychologist, I thought this course of study would be pretty straightforward: bachelors, masters, work till I retire. Unfortunately, I did not thoroughly research the field of psychology and all that it entailed - I will admit that I was more focused on achieving the next step! Once I finally got accepted into the Master of Counselling program at Athabasca University (AU), I was relieved, elated, and ridiculously stressed: I just needed to get through 3 more years of school and I would finally reach my goal of a career! I would finally be a grown-up…
I was enlightened to the intricacies of becoming a registered psychologist in the first year of my master’s program. The AU professors held seminars for students from each province and gave a rundown of what is required to become a licensed professional in each respective province, or territory. Every province and territory have different regulations for their psychologists (CPA, n.d.), and I realized that after graduation, I would still not be an independent professional! There was still much more to do!
Suffice to say, I had a mini (massive) anxiety attack and cried (practically on the shoulder of my professor!) over the fact that my carefully planned out life was going to be seriously disrupted! I had already completed 8 years of post-secondary education (that’s a whole other story), and I just found out that I needed to do more hoop-jumping before I could reach my ultimate goal!
Nevertheless, I would not be defeated! I had already invested most of my 20s to get to where I was (as well as a small fortune) and I was not going to give up now! So I revised my life plan…..again!
I loved my master’s program! I am a career-student at heart, and I relished in learning about my profession and writing countless papers. I had only ever been a student and mourned a bit when I finally graduated, even if I was beyond happy to finally get to work!
Regardless of the struggle, this journey has been incredible, and truly well worth it! I still have some time before my provisional hours are complete, but I am enjoying my time and learning as much as I can from the incredible therapists we have in our office.
So, if you are looking to become a psychologist, know that it is a long process, but that it is an incredible, rewarding, and wonderful journey. I am happy to speak to any prospective psychologist if they are interested in knowing more about the process. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Don't stop believing. It's a journey (song).
Canadian Psychological Association. (n.d.). “Provincial and Territorial Licensing Requirements.” Retrieved from https://cpa.ca/accreditation/ptlicensingrequirements/
College of Alberta Psychologists. (2020). "Register as a Psychologist." Retrieved from https://www.cap.ab.ca/register-as-br-a-psychologist
Edwards, H.P. (Ed.). (2000, January 4). “Regulatory requirements for registration in psychology across Canada: A comparison of ccts, regulations, by-laws and guidelines in view of the AIT.” Retrieved from https://cpa.ca/documents/PSWAIT%20Report.PDF