Research Psychologist (PS 0128074)
PsySSA RCP Division Vice-Chair: Psychometry
Independent Psychometrist (PMT 0088196)
PsySSA RCP Division Executive Committee (Treasurer)
Understanding how people function is an interest that has been around for thousands of years, being traced back as early as 300 BC. However, its scientific start was in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt, a German scientist, exclusively dedicated a laboratory to psychological research (McLeod, 2008). The search for understanding how people tick and go about their days is something that sparks a curiosity in anyone who studied or wants to study psychology. Although making the choice to study psychology is an easy one, it is selecting a field or registration category that can sometimes be confusing. With so much literature available on the different registration categories and certain limitations within the description these documents provide, the PsySSA Division for Registered Counsellors and Psychometrists wanted to give some guideposts and route directions to assist students on their journey into the field of psychology. In this article we specifically focus on the registration category: Psychometrist, Independent Practice.
Psychometrists, under the Health Professions Act (Act No. 56 of 1974) are psychology practitioners registered with the HPCSA and hold a 4-year BPsych or equivalent pre-graduate and Honours qualifications, with a 6 month psychometry internship programme (i.e.,720 practical hours) at an accredited institution. Psychometrists work within the field of psychological assessments and provide a range of services related to the needs of their clients.
Psychological assessments are defined as process-orientated activities that aim to gather information about a client or group of clients (Foxcroft & Roodt, 2013; Urbina, 2004) and can be utilised by psychometrists in a variety of settings that include career counselling, selection processes, personal development, and self-understanding. Psychological assessments provide the practitioner with a plethora of information about the client or participant, which includes raw scores and interpretations of what these scores mean for the client’s functioning and developmental areas. The HPCSA provides psychometrists with specific guidelines of tests that they are allowed to administer. These guidelines stipulate that psychometrists may use psychological assessments that are classified (HPCSA, 2014) and measure psychological constructs that include aspects such as personality, aptitude, interests, values, and intelligence. Psychometrists are not allowed to use any psychological assessments that are projective, neuropsychological, or that diagnose pathology (HPCSA, 2006).
This is of course all very exciting, but the reality of psychological assessments is that practitioners need to take care whenever working with them or applying their results in context for any client or participant. Psychological assessments are designed to measure specific constructs that could present differently in various cultural settings, and psychometrists should be aware of the policies, legislature and good practice benchmarks that govern the use of psychological assessments. It is promulgated that only tests registered as psychological assessments (under the Health Professions Act No. 56 of 1974) and proven valid and reliable within the South African context (Employment Equity Act No. 55 of 1998 and the Employment Equity Act Amendment of Section 8) are allowed to be used. Furthermore the International Testing Commission (ITC, 2013) and the European Federation for Psychological Assessments (EFPA, 2013) are seen as international benchmarks that provide practitioners, test developers, or researchers with guidelines on the use of psychological assessments.
The reality of psychological assessments within the South African context have long been controversial, with a staggering 65.8% of psychology practitioners in a 2004 study (Foxcroft, Patterson, Le Roux, & Herbst, 2004) indicating that they believe only some of the current psychological assessments that they use are appropriate for use in a cross-cultural setting. The end of Apartheid and the shift in focus to develop new assessments or update existing assessments to be fair, equitable and unbiased (Laher & Cockcroft, 2013) have caused a greater awareness with psychological practitioners to keep the use of psychological assessments in line with ethical (HPCSA, 2017) and legislative (Health Professions Act No. 56 of 1974; Employment Equity Act No. 55 of 1998) prescripts.
This provides a rich opportunity for psychometrists, the category of psychological professionals who have the most exposure to psychological testing, to have a real influence. As part of the scope of practice for psychometrists, they are allowed to design and implement research that contributes to the development of psychological assessment instruments (HPCSA, 2006). Access to psychological assessments within the context of their scope of practice allows psychometrists the opportunity to actively work toward the advancement of psychological assessments in South Africa. With the stringent legislative and ethical requirements, it is cardinal for more psychology practitioners to get involved in the process of ensuring that psychological assessments are in line with what is stipulated by law and the relevant governing bodies. Laher and Cockcroft (2013) highlight that there are limited specialists with the necessary skills to be involved in the process, especially given the current limits in transferring this knowledge to students and interns (Foxcroft, 2004). Coupled with higher demand for appropriate psychological assessments, this highlights the dire need for more psychology practitioners to place their focus in this arena.
The role of the psychometrist in terms of psychological assessments could entail more than their experiences during academic training and practical internships, specifically within the field of research. Using their knowledge and experience could be a tremendous contribution to the field of research in psychological assessments, and future psychometrists should consider allowing themselves to explore the possibilities of adding research expertise to their arsenal of skills upon entering the work market.
EFPA. (2013). EFPA review model for the description and evaluation of psychological and educational tests. Test review form and notes for reviewers, version 4.2.6. Retrieved from www.efpa.eu/download/650d0d4ecd407a51139ca44ee704fda4.
Foxcroft, C. D. (2004). Planning a psychological test in the multicultural South African context. South African Journal of Industrial Psychology, 30(4), 8-15.
Foxcroft, C., Paterson, H., Le Roux, N., & Herbst, D. (2004). The test use patterns and needs of psychological assessment practitioners. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.
Foxcroft, C., & Roodt, G. (2013). Introduction to psychological assessment in the South African context (4th ed.). Cape Town: Oxford University Press
HPCSA. (2017). Conduct and ethics: Ethical rules, regulations and policy guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.hpcsa.co.za/conduct_generic_ethical_rule s.php
HPCSA. (2010). The Professional Board for Psychology: Training and examination guidelines for psychometrists. Retrieved from http://www.hpcsa.co.za/Uploads/editor/User Files/downloads/psych/psycho_policy/form_94.pdf
HPCSA. (August, 2014). Board Notice 93 of 2014: List of classified and certified psychological tests. Government Gazette, 31433. Retrieved from http://www.hpcsa.co.za/uploads/editor/UserFiles /downloads/psych/BOARD%20NOTICE%2093%20OF%2015%20AUG%202014.pdf
Laher, S., & Cockcroft, K. (2013). Contextualising psychological assessments in South Africa. In S. Laher & L. Cockcroft (Eds), Psychological assessment in South Africa. Research and applications (pp. 1-14). Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
McLeod, S. A. (2008). Wilhelm Wundt. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/wundt.html.
International Test Commission (ITC). (October, 2013). ITC guidelines on test use version 1.2. Retrieved from https://www.intestcom.org/files/guideline_test_use.pdf
Republic of South Africa. (1974). Health Professions Act No. 56. Retrieved from http://www.hpcsa.co.za/Uploads/editor/UserFiles/downloads/legislations/acts/health_professions_ct_56_1974.pdf
Republic of South Africa. (1998). Employment Equity Act, No. 55 of 1998. Government Gazette, 400(19370).
Urbina, S. (2004). Essentials of psychological testing. New Jersey: Wiley.