davidovitz - Nir Kafri - February 6 2011
Rivka Davidovitz Photo by Nir Kafri
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Yoel Kantor
Yoel Elizur Photo by Yoel Kantor
Emil Salman
Ronni Gamzu Photo by Emil Salman

Professional organizations for clinical psychologists, together with chief psychologists from the country's hospitals, are proposing the creation of an alternative to the Health Ministry's Council of Psychologists.

The council's chairman, Professor Yoel Elizur, has drawn broad criticism from his professional colleagues since even before his appointment was announced last year.

A joint team announced at an emergency meeting last week that it would examine the creation of an alternative council "in order to insure the high professional level that the public deserves."

Elizur's recent decision to change the way the council's professional subcommittees are staffed is the immediate cause of the discontent; instead of the committee members choosing new members to replace those who have left, all 27 council members would choose the members of the subcommittees.

Most of the council's subcommittees have already held elections according to the new procedure, but in the wake of requests by organizations representing clinical psychologists, election of the subcommittee for members of their profession were postponed twice. The election will finally be held today. Council members will choose seven new members out of 11 candidates.

Rivka Davidovitz, chairperson of the strategic forum of clinical psychologists, and Avi Efrati, chairman of the clinical psychologists' association, explained their objection to having members of the ministry's council who are not themselves clinical psychologists determine the composition of the subcommittee.

They said it must be remembered that the subcommittees have the authority to recommend changes in the training undergone by clinical psychologists, including the curricula and examinations, in a manner that affects the character of the profession.

Joining the organizations chaired by Davidovitz and Efrati in their objection to the new election procedure are the forum of head psychologists of the psychiatric hospitals and the clinical division of the Israel Psychological Association.

Call to suspend subcommittee election

Last week the organizations issued a call to suspend the subcommittee election until after negotiations with Elizur, who for his part said he would agree to speak with the organizations after the election.

The joint headquarters said in a statement that it was expressing "no-confidence in the council chairman, whose measures deprive the clinical psychologists of their autonomy."

Their main concern is that the council will allow psychologists from other areas of the profession to practice psychotherapy and eventually get rid entirely of the specialty of clinical psychology in Israel.

As reported in Haaretz, Elizur's appointment as council chairman last March drew protest from organizations representing clinical psychologists who feared it would result in the loss of their professional standing: Elizur had already expressed support for allowing nonclinical psychologists to practice psychotherapy.

Last month the Knesset passed an amendment stating that psychologists cannot offer treatment that is beyond the bounds of their specialization, but the clinical psychologists fear that the Council of Psychologists will attempt to carry out changes within the boundaries of the law.

Ministry gives Elizur full support

The Health Ministry is giving Elizur its full support in the face of the clinical psychologists' threats.

"The election was postponed twice, once on my directive in order to respond to the proposed change and another time to give an additional candidate an opportunity to apply at the last moment, and there is no reason for further postponement," Health Ministry Director General Ronni Gamzu said over the weekend.

"The umbrage taken by the clinical psychologists is childish, and the more it grows the more I get the sense that however legitimate their cause, it should not influence the decision-making process. I did not find that the decision about the election was taken in an unfair manner," Gamzu continued.

"Any organization can legitimately create a new association, but anyone presuming to use the term 'psychologists' council' in creating an alternative body will have to abandon the idea," he added.