One: Dr. Scheepers, can I say “Elisabeth”?
Yes, no problem. In writing, when it is a more formal letter, please use my title, and otherwise, Elisabeth is perfect. If I have the choice between Ms., Mrs. (really?,) and Dr., I prefer the latter for more than one reason 😉. (My name is with an s and that is on my birth certificate, it is not something I made up)!
Two: What type of education have you successfully completed?
I was a late starter and only became comfortable in the academic world when I entered grad-level studies. I have a BA, MA and a Ph.D. During my BA I did an extended major in psychology and the MA and Ph.D. are in psychology. I also completed two graduate diplomas in counselling. As most people in my field, I am continuously updating and upgrading through professional development. The undergraduate degrees and diploma courses were completed in Australia. Master’s in Canada and the Ph.D. in the USA.
Three: You are registered as a professional and therapeutic counsellor and on your business card you state “clinical counselling”. How come you are not referring to yourself as a psychologist as nearly all your studies were in psychology?
Short answer: It is about REGISTRATION and it is not an EDUCATION OR COMPETENCY issue. In SK you can only refer to yourself as a psychologist if you are registered with the college of psychologists. I am not registered with this college, but I am registered with two (competency-based) national counselling associations in Canada.
Psychology, however, is my passion and it is my field of interest and my grad degrees are psychology degrees: MA (Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Psychology. Counselling Therapy is a very important part of psychology. It is about treatment! Counselling therapy or psychotherapy is a psychological service. Regulation has been put in place to protect the people, but it seems to confuse many.
Long answer: The reason is that at the time that I was finishing studies, I was briefed that the institution offering my master’s in Counselling Psychology was not approved by the college of psychologists in Saskatchewan (at that time it was approved in Alberta). Initially the reason was given that the program was a blended program as most courses were provided Online and the practicum was in-person. Later, I was briefed that another reason was that the accredited institution was private. Gradually on, most universities started to offer courses online and this was even before COVID-19!
I intended to do further studies and finished my Ph.D. in 6.5 years from a private accredited institution based in the USA. Initially, I had not given up on becoming a registered clinical psychologist. I enrolled in the clinical psych program (PsyD) and as the institution was in the process to become APA accredited, the road should have been smooth. The rough awakening occurred when I was not given an opportunity to do a practicum in my town. This is when I switched to the Ph.D. program and accepted that it would effect my designation as a professional.
Students in the psychology doctoral program attend many courses and they need to successfully pass these with good results. I completed 15 courses. Six (6) required courses were research courses such as advanced research methods and advanced inferential statistics. In my program we had to demonstrate the be able to conduct psychological assessment, score and write reports. These courses were intensive and in-person. I have attended 9 in-person courses that varied in length from 4 days to 2 weeks.
I was fortunate to meet some of the best instructors in the country; professors from all over the states.
Before being able to start with the dissertation, students have to pass a qualifying exam. The dissertation is a test in ability, research capacities and endurance.
The extra hurdles put in place are not exclusive to Canada. Psychologists in the USA face similar hurdles as being licensed in one state does not mean that you can also practice in another state. In some countries one only requires a 4-year bachelor’s degree, while in other countries a Master’s is sufficient. The highest level is a doctoral degree.
This underscores my focus on competency.
I would like to be involved in investigating what makes a competent MH professional…and how we could assess competency! A fascinating area that would lead imho to a better quality of services. We could stop arguing about regulation, and who can call themselves whatever, and place all that energy into offering better services.
Four: What are the areas you specialize in?
Counselling therapy with couples and individuals, mood issues, communication, working with people with trauma symptoms. I also love the challenge of being a clinical supervisor and I like providing training and facilitate workshops. I love reading research and enjoy scrutinizing research methodologies and outcomes, and I like summarizing the findings and discuss these during training with peers.
Five: How can you do the work e.g. with people who have gone through horrible traumatic experiences in their life. Aren’t you becoming burnt-out and traumatized yourself?
The interesting part is that many people think this, but similar to the answers by medical practitioners, I can say that I know what I signed up for and I did this consciously and I got well-prepared through my studies, professional development and my personal supervision. My clients are not traumatizing me or causing me to become burnt-out. Other areas indirectly related to my work are way more draining, e.g. the politics (see answer to question 3 and 6 and 7) and the lack of recognition and validation by others than my clients and peers.
Six: Finally, the questions I wish people asked me more often: What annoys you the most?
It is extremely frustrating for people who are providing counselling therapy and psychotherapy when the media only refers to psychiatrists and psychologists and just forget about all the other people who do most of the therapy sessions with clients: These people are social workers and counsellors! I hope that clients in the future refer to “my therapist/my counsellor” when talking about the person who provides them with MH services.
Seven: A second question I would like to be asked more: What do you see as the most important issues this province has to deal with related to Mental Health?
First, people in need of MH services should have equal access.
Second, MH professionals who are competent in providing MH services should be treated equally and this means that clients should be able to have their services reimbursed.
Third, clients should be provided with choices and be informed about the options available. This is about informed consent. Many clients are not informed about therapy options, choices available to them, and what is involved.
Fourth, the discussions on who is best and what is best, need to be directed by those who are truly research-based with no conflict of interest.