At first, we thought that COVID-19 would be like SARS, a short-lived but nevertheless, devastating epidemic. Then came a surge of cases and with the growing threat of community spread, a massive change in the way we were forced to reconfigure the practice of psychology. Telehealth became the new medium for offering our services. How were we to do assessments when social distancingh was demanded of us? Would therapy over screens prove to be effective? How would we provide clinical opportunities to our graduate students, residents, and those on supervised practice? Would they be ready in time to enter as autonomous practitioners?
Now, nine months into the pandemic, the profession and the College have found alternative ways to serve those in need of our services. We have accessed online platforms that meet the standard for protecting clients’ privacy. Strategies for testing have been developed that hopefully meet the benchmarks of validity and reliability. Many have reported that while online therapy may lack the intimacy of a face-to-face encounter, using this medium has extended their reach to clients who might not have otherwise sought our services.
“Now, nine months into the pandemic, the profession and the College have found alternative ways to serve those in need of our services.”
The College has also risen to meet the challenges of the times. We extended the schedule for the payment of College fees in order to address the changing financial circumstances of some of our members. Out-of- province practitioners who have clients temporarily in Ontario may now register for a short period of time in order not to interrupt their services. The Registrar, Dr. Rick Morris has kept the membership informed concerning the Ministry’s health bulletins. Our Deputy Registrar, Mr. Barry Gang, has worked diligently to respond to members’ questions about balancing privacy, safety and meeting the College’s standards of practice. All College departments have been functioning online. While we were heading toward a paperless workplace, the current circumstances have spurred on this endeavour. Oral examinations are now virtual and at the last Council meeting we approved the transfer of the Jurisprudence and Ethics Examination to an online format. The first online administration will take place in late November.
In late October I participated in the semi-annual meeting of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. All of the issues that we in Ontario are facing are being played out across the continent with one major exception. Although we and the other Canadian psychology regulatory Colleges are constituted under provincial law, we have been granted the decision-making powers to respond to situations like the pandemic in a discipline-specific fashion while still staying within the boundaries of our governing legislation and public health directives. This may seem like a minor thing, yet when viewed against the political circumstances south of the border, where regulation, at times, can be at the whim of the governor and state assembly, we can indeed count ourselves fortunate.
Thank you to everyone for your commitment to the well-being of your clients, your flexibility and your fortitude in these difficult times. I truly believe that the obstacles that have been put in our path are not stumbling blocks but will lead us to new and more effective ways of teaching, practicing and regulating the profession of psychology in Ontario.
Michael Grand, Ph.D., C.Psych.