Use of the title "Psychologist"

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Only practitioners who are currently registered by the New Zealand Psychologists Board can lawfully use the title "Psychologist" or any other names, words, titles, initials, abbreviations, or descriptions stating or implying that they are a Psychologist. [Refer section 7(1) of the HPCA Act.]

Also, no person may claim to be practising psychology as a psychologist or state or do anything that is calculated to suggest that they practise or are willing to practise psychology unless they are registered by the Psychologists Board and hold a current practising certificate. [Refer section 7(2) of the HPCA Act.] 

These mechanisms have been legislated in order to protect the public by providing reassurance of a psychologist's competence and fitness to practise, and by providing a system of accountability should the service you receive not be of an acceptable standard.

If you are concerned that someone may be falsely claiming to be a psychologist, you can check the Board's online Register to see if he or she has ever been registered by the Board (and, if working, holds a current practising certificate). If he or she does not appear on our Register, please contact us or refer the matter to the Ministry of Health's Enforcement Team.

How is “practise” defined?

The Board are frequently contacted by practitioners and by members of the public who want to know what constitutes “practising”. The caller may be a psychologist who is semi-retired and considering “just doing a little bit of consulting”, or a member of the public who saw an ad on the internet offering “life coaching” -- only to discover that the psychologist involved doesn’t hold a current practising certificate. 

Practise as defined in the HPCA Act means to perform services that fall within the description of the profession (refer section 5 - Interpretation). In accordance with section 11 of the Act the Board has described the profession in terms of various scopes of practice, the broadest of which is the (foundation) “Psychologist” scope. The Psychologist scope is defined as “rendering or offering to render to individuals, groups, organisations or the public any psychological service involving the application of psychological knowledge, principles, methods and procedures of understanding, predicting ameliorating or influencing behaviour, affect or cognition”.

This is a very broad description, and one which likely overlaps with many activities performed under titles such as life coach, psychotherapist, RTLB, Human Relations Manager, or Management Consultant. Further, there is no limitation under the Act that these services be performed for remuneration or in the context of a clinical relationship or otherwise (e.g., management, administration, education, or research). Practitioners therefore must be aware that, as long as they remain on the Register of Psychologists, they must hold a current practising certificate if they practise (under any title) within the scope of psychology (as described by the Board).

Unfortunately, the Board are hearing more often of practitioners on the Register who are practising in such areas without holding a practising certificate. We are obliged to make enquiries where such cases come to our attention. The penalties under the Act for practising without a current practising certificate can be very severe, which reflects just how important the practising certificate regime is as a mechanism to ensure that psychologists are competent and fit to practise the profession.

We strongly recommend that all practitioners who are currently on the Register but who don’t hold a practising certificate review their circumstances carefully in light of the information above, and then formally notify the Board if they a) require a practising certificate, b) are not practising but wish to remain on the Register, or c) wish to come off the Register. Far better that we hear from you before we hear from a concerned member of the public.

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