PEI offers a number of specialty programs for Island youth experiencing challenges with their mental health. Each program is staffed with health professionals who work together collaboratively for the benefit of children and their parents.
INSIGHT, the youth mental health day treatment program in Charlottetown, includes a Child Psychologist Team Lead, a Clinical Social Worker (Masters Degree), Youth Workers, Education Teacher, a Nurse, and an Occupational Therapist.
For more information, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/insight-program-youth.
The Behavioral Support Team includes a Clinical Psychologist Team Lead, two Clinical Social Workers, and a Youth Worker. They help children ages four to 12 who are experiencing moderate to severe behavioural difficulties. They work with children and parents to develop skills and strategies to improve behaviours and overall functioning.
For more information, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/behavioural-support-team-children.
At the QEH, the Unit 9 Adolescent Unit staff includes a Nurse, Child Psychologist Team Lead, Clinical Social Worker, Youth Workers, and Licensed Practical Nurses.
The Strength program for youth with mental health and addiction concerns is a residential program located in Summerside. Its staff includes Nurses, Social Workers, Youth Workers, and Counselors.
For more information, visit www.justtalkpei.ca/strength.
Health profession profile
Clinical Psychologist: a rewarding profession with many options
There are currently 42 psychologists on PEI. Approximately 30 are Clinical Psychologists, and not all are engaged in full-time practice.
They work in public healthcare, the education system, and in private practice. “If you wanted to work as a Psychologist on PEI, there are lots of options and great demand,” says Dr. Rhonda Matters, a Clinical Psychologist who works for Health PEI.
Dr. Matters is currently the Team Lead for the Behavioral Support Team. She provides front-line services, providing assessments and treatment for children and/or parents, supervises the other team members, and does evaluation and program planning.
“It is important that we continue to look at current research and evaluate programs to ensure children and families are receiving effective intervention.”
In 1986, Rhonda Matters graduated from UPEI with a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Psychology. She went on to take the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Windsor in Ontario. She earned her Masters of Arts in Clinical Psychology in 1988 and her PhD in Clinical Psychology in 1994.
She worked in Halifax for the Atlantic Child Guidance Clinic and then the IWK Community Mental Health Program. She taught courses at Mount Saint Vincent and Saint Mary’s University and worked for the IWK Assessment Services doing parenting capacities and child custody assessments.
In 1999, she moved back to PEI and worked at the Community Mental Health Clinic in Charlottetown and then in the public school system. She was named PEI’s first Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer in 2003, and later went on to her present position. She also works part-time in private practice.
It takes at least six years of post-secondary training to become a registered Psychological Associate and eight to eleven years to become a registered Psychologist. Students first earn a four-year honours undergraduate degree in psychology. They go on to complete either a Masters degree, which usually takes two years, or a Doctoral degree. Those working in the field who have a Master’s degree would be registered as a Psychological Associate on PEI.
Those who go on to earn a Doctoral degree can pursue a PhD program, which takes about seven years.
Another choice becoming more popular is the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program. This program is focussed more on clinical practice than on research. UPEI is developing a four-year PsyD program that will train clinical psychologists to address the mental health needs of individuals, couples, families, and broader communities and populations by combining course work, research, and clinical practice in the community.
Doctoral programs also require a year of pre-doctoral full-time internship training, followed by a year of post-doctoral full-time supervised practice, as well as licensing exams.
Advice to those considering this field
“Getting into graduate school is really competitive,” says Dr. Matters. “There are many more applicants than seats available. When you apply for grad school programs, they consider your marks, your research and volunteer/work experiences, as well as the results of the Graduate Requisite Exams. You need to prepare and do well on these standardized tests.
“You also need letters of reference from professors or places you have volunteered or worked. Having that combination of both academics and experience with people creates a well-rounded application. Apply to as many programs as you can. Like those applying to medical school, you may not get in the first year you apply, but if this is important to you, keep applying and work in a related field to gain more experience.
“You could volunteer with a hospital, daycare, boys and girls club, or seniors home to get human services experience. It is important to get good grades, so focus on your academic work as well. Connect with your professors, and be actively involved in your academic career.”
Why she chose this field
“My initial interest in Psychology was to explore why people do what they do and how they can improve their lives. It is very rewarding to see people make changes, feel better, and do better. I have always been interested in the child population, and there is such hope in intervening early and turning things around.
“One of the best things about being a Psychologist is the variety of different roles, locations, and populations you can work with, such as teaching, research, frontline service, and policy planning.”
Pay scale for Psychologists working with Health PEI
As of April 2018, Psychologists with a doctorate in a supervisory or management position earn $49.77 to $61.38 per hour. Psychologists with a doctorate in other roles earn $47.95 to $59.08 per hour. Psychological Associates, who have a Master’s degree, earn $41.33 to $50.81 per hour.
Demand for more professionals
“The demand for front-line services is increasing. More and more, people are recognizing the role of psychology and mental health. We are realizing that it is really important to intervene with children who have learning disabilities, academic challenges, or mental health difficulties like anxiety and behavioural difficulties. Also, because Psychologists are trained in research and evidence-based interventions, we play a role in planning and research. The demand is continuing to grow for those services.
“There are so many work options, from private to public to working in other cities or provinces. Many are drawn to private practice for the flexibility and autonomy, and so recruiting to the public system must compete with that.
“As the demand for psychology services grows, I don’t think we are turning out as many psychologists as there is demand for them. I would say in many areas in Canada, there are shortages or difficulties in recruiting, and lots of options for work.
“One of the challenges to recruiting on PEI is that the training was not available here. People who leave to get training and do an internship often settle in that area, and it is difficult to recruit them from an already established life somewhere else. Hopefully, the new PsyD program at UPEI will help with recruiting.”
Challenges and rewards of this profession
“For me, the challenges of the job are related to resources being spread too thinly. It can be really busy, and the lack of time and resources and being pulled in different directions can be difficult and stressful. I think job vacancies add to that, because we then have even less time to devote to research, evaluation and planning. Hopefully, as we get more resources and positions filled on PEI, that part of the job will be less challenging.”
For more about job openings at Health PEI, visit www.gov.pe.ca/jobs/posting/health/external.
For more about the UPEI psychology program, visit www.upei.ca/programsandcourses/psychology.