What is a Provisional Psychologist?

provisional psychologist symbol

A provisional psychologist is a person in training to become a psychologist. 

The term "provisional psychologist" or "registered provisional psychologist" is a legally restricted term in Alberta.  This means that only individuals who have been approved by the College of Alberta Psychologists to be on the provisional registry may use these titles.

Requirements to Become a Provisional Psychologist

To apply to become a provisional psychologist they must have completed at least a Master's in psychology or a related field (e.g. counselling).   As part of their masters they will have completed one or more practicums in mental health counselling.  The practicums will have required between 200-600 hours of supervised direct client therapy.

The College of Alberta Psychologists reviews the applicants transcripts to ensure they have mastered certain certain knowledge (e.g., ethics, research methodology, intervention, biology, cognition...).  The applicant must have passed a police records check with clearance to work with vulnerable persons (children, elderly, and those with mental health issues) and may also be asked to pass a Child Welfare check to prove their actions have not required a child to be in need of protective services.  They must have been declared fit to engage in practice, and have proof of liability insurance.  They must also have a supervision plan which outlines the areas of psychology they wish to license in (e.g. counselling psychology, school psychology, organizational psychology, rehabilitation psychology...).

Provisional psychologists do not apply to become psychologists in everything.  Rather, they are expected to specialize in one primary area and possibly a secondary area.  If, after they have achieved full registry status, they wish to add to their competencies, they are expected to undergo further education and supervised practice in those new areas.

How do I know if my therapist is a Provisional Psychologist?

Once they are approved, the applicant is required to identify themself as a 'provisional psychologist' to clients and gain their written consent to work with them.  When writing notes or signing letters or reports, provisional psychologists will use the annotation "provisional psychologist" or "registered provisional psychologist" (abbreviations are not permitted), as it is legally defined title in the Health Professions Act of Alberta.

How Do Provisional Psychologist's demonstrate competency?

A provisional psychologist sees clients as a part of their 1600 minimum supervised hours as part of their internship (much like a physician internship).  All of a provisional psychologist's client work is supervised by a psychologist with considerable experience in the chosen area of practice.  The supervision may be "live" (e.g. in the room with the provisional), via observation (e.g. watching through a one way mirror or closed circuit video feed), through video or audio recordings, or by case file review.  Live, observation and video review are preferred as they allow the supervisor to see what the clinician is doing and provide support accordingly.

Provisional psychologists may write their major Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP), which is roughly equivalent to a lawyer's board exams, at any point during their 1600 internship hours.  To pass the EPPP the provisional psychologist must to demonstrate significant knowledge and problem solving skills across a wide range of psychological areas.  These areas include human development, neurocognition, health psychology, educational psychology, communication, psychotherapeutic intervention, organizational psychology, statistics, and psychological research.  Provisional psychologists are also required to pass an oral exam. In Alberta the oral exam tests the provisional psychologists knowledge of local and national laws pertaining to the field of psychology (jurisprudence), and their knowledge and application of ethics.

The bottom line

In order to fully register as a psychologist, a provisional psychologist must have completed their internship with passing marks from their supervisor, and have passed their EPPP, and oral exams.  This process generally takes 1-2 years, depending on their ability to complete the client hours and pass their exams.