Every year, approximately 800 to 1,000 students graduate from applied psychology courses at universities of applied sciences. But psychological consultant, the job for which they are being prepared, is still not legally recognized. “Altogether, almost 5,000 students are following this course today. They are ready to provide support in mental health care, where healthcare providers are at a loss,” says CD&V MP Els Van Hoof. “It is incomprehensible that a minister who says he is working on close and accessible health care, fails to implement it. We can use all the help, though.”
Today, anyone who asks for psychological or psychiatric support sometimes has to wait six months, depending on the situation. For a crisis admission to a psychiatric hospital, you should allow two weeks to a month, according to the States General Mental Health. Four in ten psychologists now have a registration freeze. Among psychiatrists it is even six in ten. So they could really use some extra help.
Such a psychological consultant relates to a psychologist or psychiatrist as a midwife or nurse relates to a doctor. “We perform tasks that the psychologist prescribes,” says Johan De Keyzer of the Professional Association for Psychological Consultants. For example, conducting an intake interview or assisting the family.
Moreover, recognition would also ensure that the population knows better who has received thorough training. “You can currently call yourself a psychological consultant after a five-day training course,” says De Keyzer. “We want to avoid being lumped in with all kinds of coaches.”
“You can currently call yourself a psychological consultant after a five-day training”
Johan De Keyzer
Professional Association for Psychological Consultants
Everything is ready to implement the recognition. A 2016 amendment to the law laid the foundation. The Federal Council for Mental Health Professions already gave positive advice in June 2022. Only a Royal Decree to ratify the recognition remains outstanding. And for this, Van Hoof looks to Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit).
“Mental health care is an absolute top priority for us. We invest massively: 330 million euros per year,” he says. “In this way we ensure that more and more people find their way to the right care. Of course, there is still work to be done. We are therefore currently investigating how supporting healthcare professions can play their role in this sector. Ideally, we will come up with a recognized statute during this legislature. But given the amount of work still to be done, it may be difficult to land in the coming months.”