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Border trips up psychologists

By December 2, 2022No Comments
Lloydminster psychologist Michelle Hamilton, who operates the Beyond Balance practice, chats with Dr. Richard Spelliscy, CEO of the College of Alberta Psychologist, about some of the professional challenges in our bi-provincial city during a meeting of local therapists at Spiro’s Family Restaurant on Thursday. Geoff Lee Meridian Source

 

It’s not easy to see a psychologist in Lloydminster for a mental health appointment with long wait lists and cross-border issues to deal with.

Only five registered psychologists in the city were free to turn up at a town hall meeting held at Spiro’s Family Restaurant last Thursday to discuss the demand for services and some unique bi-provincial challenges in the area.

The meeting was an opportunity to communicate local concerns to Dr. Robert Spelliscy, registrar and CEO of the College of Alberta Psychologist (CAP) and Judy Malone CEO Psychologists’ Association of Alberta (PAA).

The high demand for services in a post-COVID environment and jurisdictional border issues were two of the key issues conveyed to CAP, which regulates the profession and PAA that serves members. 

“I do think, currently, there is a very high level of demand for mental health services,” said Lloyd psychologist Michelle Hamilton, who coordinated the meeting.

“There is a limited amount of resources in terms of the services which are available to the public health care system, which is free of charge, but difficult to get into.”

Hamilton says even in terms of the private sector, psychologists like her who provide services through a private clinic are limited in terms of how many clients they can see.

“Everybody’s very fully booked,” she said.

Hamilton runs a private practice, Beyond Balance Counselling and Consulting. 

She says issues from the impact of COVID restrictions and isolation and differences of opinions and attitudes around vaccinations have taken a toll on people.

“This has led to anxiety and depression. There’s a lot of delayed response to the losses that were involved in some of what we had to give up during that time,” she said.

Psychologist Christy Hunt, who runs her Integrated Therapies and Performance from HPS practice, thinks demand also stems from increased awareness and multiple formats for people to reach out.

“COVID allowed us to expand to online connects so we can access people better, and more rural areas can have that connection online,” said Hunt.

She thinks there is also more awareness around getting people in referring from other agencies like school divisions or community agencies —adding there’s always people waiting for services.

Hamilton wants CAP and PAA to know the bi-provincial status of Lloydminster is one thing she thinks has been particularly challenging at times for her profession.

She says many local psychologists are registered in the province of Alberta and practice in Alberta, but the city is under the jurisdiction of Saskatchewan health and education and so many other things related to the Lloydminster Charter.

“At times it has been difficult and conflicting, especially during the pandemic. Some of the provincial mandates weren’t consistent,” said Hamilton.

“Especially during the pandemic, I was trying to reach out and talk to some politicians and some of the community leaders in terms of these issues.”

Hunt says this was the first time CAP and PAA has come to Lloydminster and made more aware of the bi-provincial hurdles.

“Historical issues that we’ve always faced here are clients that come from both sides of the border and registration difficulties.”

Hunt says it took her a year to get her Alberta registration acknowledged in Saskatchewan to be able to practice within the same realm in the province.

She says they wanted CAP and PAA to realize the border means registering in both provinces, which is a difficult process, and how that’s a barrier to providing services to our community.

“So, it’s really lovely to have the college come and talk with us about some of our very unique border city issues,” said Hunt.

She is hoping the meeting will eventually result in less red tape for Lloydminster psychologists to work with clients from both provinces.

“That would help us have more psychologists in our area and shorten the wait list if some of that red tape wasn’t in the way,” said Hunt.