It’s the start of a new year and as I look to the future in 2024, I am filled with anticipation. I observe so many changes and challenges in our society right now that psychology researchers and practitioners are uniquely equipped to respond to in beneficial ways.
Earlier this month I watched virtual interviews conducted with leading psychologists at the Digital Health Summit in Las Vegas. These interviews focused on ways that psychologists are playing a role in shaping technology, and emphasized why their presence in this area of science and innovation was both beneficial and imperative. For example, psychologists described innovative ideas for creating greater access to mental health screening and interventions via digital therapeutics; they reported on rigorous research designs used to improve our understanding of the potentially beneficial and harmful impacts of social media on child development; and, their wisdom in the area of ethics was identified as a necessary guidepost for public protection in the rush to use artificial intelligence.
Yet, it is not a new phenomenon for psychologists to be at the forefront of innovative thought and research. Their influence has been evident in such diverse areas as defining serious mental health disorders and improving performance in professional sports. Psychologists have taken the lead in creating assessment tools for more than a century now that have helped them to then assess and diagnose individuals across the life span. They have also offered the world many forms of psychotherapeutic interventions that are scientifically validated as beneficial treatment modalities. For those of you who are treating professionals, it would be difficult to imagine providing beneficial interventions without access to therapies developed by psychologists, such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (c. 1970’s), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (1982), Cognitive Processing Therapy (1988) and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (1990). One might even wonder if Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (c.1960’s) would be such a routinely used treatment without the well-known psychologist, Judith Beck, adding her expertise to the original work of her father, Dr. Aaron Beck, M.D., through the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (1994). Psychologists have been integral contributors to human health and wellness for many decades.
This timeline approach to mapping psychologists’ contributions to the public domain substantially overlaps with that of the regulation of clinical psychology practice. For almost 65 years, psychology has been a self-regulating health profession in Ontario, first under the Ontario Board of Examiners in Psychology (1960), then via the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Just as the profession has matured, the regulation of psychology has also changed to address the needs of the public over time. I find myself feeling nostalgic as I read copies of the “Bulletin” published in the 1970’s and 1980’s, followed by the “e-Bulletin” from the 2010’s. I am reassured to read how the Board/College has worked to consistently apply regulatory requirements to the registration of applicants and the investigation of complaints, with at times, disciplinary action following afterward. All this to ensure that its core mandate to ensure the public receives excellent service that is ethical and safe is met. Yet, this historical review also revealed evidence of innovation. For example, over time, registrants identified their competence in more specialized areas of practice and, a structured approach to continuing professional development became a necessary requirement for licensure.
In 2023, Council members and staff worked together to develop and launch a new 5-year strategic plan. In doing so, we identified a commitment to modernize to continue to meet the needs of the public in Ontario. In 2024, we will continue to work on putting our strategic plan into action. For example, in keeping with our identified principle of applying innovative and proportionate approaches to regulation, the Council training this spring will focus on governance and “right touch regulation” principles that may be applied at the College. In an effort to keep pace with advancements in society, technology and the profession, members of the profession are working with College staff to update our Standards of Professional Practice. Also, a registration examination review has begun.
For each of us, the Psychologists and Psychological Associates in Ontario, it’s a new year.
It’s a renewed opportunity to embrace and benefit from all that the profession of psychology has contributed to society to date.
It’s a new opportunity to apply our scientist-practitioner training in innovative ways, while promoting and engaging in ethical and rigorous, evidence-based services to the public.
These opportunities will be available for each of us this year, whether we are volunteer participants in the regulatory work of the College, or engaged in professional endeavors in the community.
I wish each of you a healthy and prosperous 2024.