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Golden future for Australian psychologists

Professor Paul Martin
Photo: Professor Paul Martin
Australia’s psychologists will reflect on the past and be inspired to develop plans for the future at the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) gold-laden 50th annual conference this month.

More than 1000 psychologists are expected to attend the Golden Jubilee Conference, to be held on the Gold Coast from September 29 to October 2.

Conference chair Professor Paul Martin OAM, a health and clinical psychologist with 40 years’ ex-perience, said the milestone event will focus on the theme, ‘Celebrating the past, looking toward the future’.

“I always think when you have these big anniversary events it’s always a time for reflecting on the past and what has been achieved, and what you would have liked to achieve but not succeeded in doing, and using that as a platform for developing plans for the future,” he said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for updating our members about the most recent developments in psychology but also stimulating their thinking and activating them.”

Renowned American psychologist Professor Carlo DiClemente, the director of the MDQUIT Tobacco Resource Center and the Center for Community Collaboration at UMBC, is one of the keynote speakers.

Professor Martin said Professor DiClemente stands in the top 100 of the most cited psychologists of all time.

“His work has a huge influence - so sure he’s a psychologist influencing the work of psychologists but he influences the work of doctors, particularly GPs,” he said.

“What his work is about is how ready you are to change and this has become a huge thing in the health field because when people go and see the general practitioner, so often what the GP really wants to say to them is something like - you’ve got to give up cigarette smoking, you’ve got to lose weight, you’ve got to drink less alcohol.

“What DiClemente’s work is about is saying, well - the way you go about that depends on how ready they are for change so, for example, at one extreme - have they never thought about giving up smoking or are they at the next stage, where they’ve thought about it but just never quite developed the plan, or the next stage - they’ve tried but they just haven’t succeeded.

“Having someone like him deliver a keynote, it’s very special because he’s just not a prominent psychologist; he’s one of the most prominent psychologists.”

Other keynote speakers include Queensland University of Technology clinical psychologist Professor David Kavanagh, who is working on a Functional Imagery Training research project, and Griffith University health psychologist Professor Suzanne Chambers, a psycho-oncology researcher.

Saths Cooper, president of the International Union of Psychological Science, an anti-apartheid ac-tivist who was incarcerated in the same cell block as Nelson Mandela on Robben Island Maximum Security Prison off the coast of Cape Town, will deliver the opening keynote address.

In line with the theme, Professor Martin, a former APS president, will join a panel of current and former APS presidents to discuss the past in the context of the future.
Professor Martin said the panel, and the conference, will be encouraging delegates to think big.

“Each of us will talk about not the small things that psychology might achieve in the future but the big things - where might we really make a difference,” he said.

Professor Martin said he would like to see the scope of rebates expanded under Medicare to ensure larger rebates for a more diverse range of services outside the mental health domain.

“Psychologists have got a huge amount to contribute in areas like the big killers - heart disease and cancer because heart disease and cancer is all about how you lead your life,” he said.

“It’s all about whether you’re overweight as a result of eating too much, not enough exercise, it’s all about your stress levels and social support to moderate stress, it’s all about your alcohol consump-tion and so on.

“I would want psychologists to have a much bigger role in health care where those sorts of services are funded.

“That’s for me the message to practitioners - that we’ve all got to be united, we’ve all got to be going forward, we’ve all got to improve the opportunities for psychologists to really make a difference for the health of Australians.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords