Insights from PACFA members highlight passion and expertise

04 April

At the end of 2022 PACFA conducted a survey of the membership to gather thoughts and feedback to inform discussion at the January 2023 Board meeting. More than 800 members completed the survey which covered a wide range of topics: professional identity, training, PD interests, priorities for PACFA and feedback on volunteering. All responses were anonymous.

Analysis of the detailed information provided valuable insights into the thoughts and experience of PACFA members broadly. Whilst there were several key findings, there were also a wide range of contrasting opinions and perspectives. These will be used to inform strategic and operational planning.

Seventy per cent of participants reported they identified professionally as a Counsellor, whilst 43 per cent reported describing themselves as a Psychotherapist (all questions permitted multiple responses). More than 20 other titles were also reported indicating that the PACFA membership is broad and varied.

The importance of life experience was reiterated in responses from PACFA members about their professional journey. 34.5 per cent reported lived experience as a person with mental health concern, whilst 38 per cent reported lived experience as a friend, family member or carer. Previous professional experience was a crucial factor for many in choosing to work in this field with 20 per cent having experience as a health professional (excluding psychology), 22 per cent with previous employment in education and 10.5 per cent with either employment or training in psychology.  This level of personal and professional experience is a positive factor for PACFA members in comparison to other professional groups and reflects members’ deep and dynamic commitment to their work.

PACFA members are highly committed to ongoing training and accreditation. 90 per cent of respondents had undertaken specialised training or completed additional credentials in the past 12 months. Similarly. PACFA members are also likely to be members of other professional organisations with 62 per cent reporting at least one other professional membership which reflects PACFA’s federation creation. Most commonly, these organisations were Member Associations (past or present), psychotherapy organisations, the Australian Association of Social Work and the Australian Psychological Society.

In relation to PACFA, the most commonly-reported reason for joining was PACFA’s focus on quality and safety with 53 per cent selecting ‘Highest standards for my profession’, whilst 39 per cent reported that they valued PACFA’s ‘Focus on ethics and values’. Following these were 37 per cent ‘Provision of PD from members/peers’; 32 per cent ‘I like being part of a member-led organisation’ and 31 per cent ‘Recommended by Course provider’. 37 per cent of respondents specifically noted that membership of Allied Health Professionals Australia is valuable whilst 16.5 per cent said ‘I like its focus on diversity’.

Looking forward in 2023 respondents ranked the provision of more Professional Development opportunities as the highest priority for PACFA, followed by the endorsement of advanced training to support specialised skills, the establishment of easier pathways for College membership and the development of greater partnerships with employers. In other comments, many members reported a desire for PACFA to continue to advocate for Medicare and GST exemption, and to raise the awareness and understanding of counselling and psychotherapy. 

Overall, the survey was a valuable snapshot of member thoughts and feedback. Its contents will be used to guide the development of services and allocation of resources as PACFA responds to the political climate and implements the new strategic plan. We are deeply grateful to everyone who took part.

If you have further comment or would like greater information about these findings please email [email protected]