Take Five: "We want to have competent psychologists in Moldova who do not devalue the importance of this profession."
In an ever-changing world with complex challenges and pressures, mental health has become a topic of vital importance. Laws surrounding the work of psychologists play an essential role in ensuring access to high-quality mental health services, provided by well-trained professionals who comply with ethical standards. In Moldova, a law on this issue, known as the ‘Law on Psychologists,’ was drafted and will soon be submitted for approval to Parliament. In this interview, one of the law’s authors, Liliana Grosu, a Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, discusses the law’s benefits for professionals as well as its future impact on society.
1. How will regulating the work of psychologists through this law bring benefits to professionals in the field?
”By adopting this law, both professionals in the field and people who seek psychological services will benefit. First of all, professionals will know exactly under which rules they must carry out their work so that those activities align with Moldova’s legal provisions. Ultimately, this normative framework will unify the requirements for the work carried out by psychologists.
Another benefit is that this law will likely foster more fairness and fair competition between service providers in Moldova’s community of psychologists. This will create a level playing field and develop standards of competence to ensure that mental health services are of good quality and will not harm those who request them.
Also, this law is aligned with European standards, which means that psychologists from Moldova will now have the opportunity to integrate into Europe’s community of psychologists.”
2. How will this law protect patients' rights and interests?
”First of all, a person who seeks psychological services will be sure that when they go to a practitioner, the specialist has a license to work in this field and their skills have been validated by a body empowered with legal authority, such as the National College of Psychologists. What we notice today is that many psychology offices have popped up around Moldova, with many people providing support services; however, we do not always know whether they have the necessary training to do so. We do not have any legal framework stipulating who must verify the professional competence of this specialist. After the law comes into force, all psychologists working in the self-employed sector will require accreditation through the National College of Psychologists. If those currently working in the private sector (who have the right to free practice) want to continue offering services, they will be required to comply with the provisions of this law and go through a process of getting their professional skills validated, in order to provide certain types of psychological assistance.”
3. How do you think the establishment of the National College of Psychologists will strengthen the profession and ensure compliance with high ethical and professional standards?
”This law will create the National College of Psychologists, which will be the competent authority for regulating, authorizing, controlling and supervising professions in this field. As such, this authority will be able to attest, suspend and withdraw the right to free practice. Psychologists who do not comply with these provisions will be performing their work illegally and risk losing their right to free practice.
Within this structure, there will be several special commissions focused on specific areas. For example, the Ethics and Deontology Commission will examine appeals regarding violations of ethical principles among specialists, filed by both people benefiting from psychological support services as well as College members.
The law will also create the Methodology Commission, which will approve methods, evaluation techniques in psychological assistance activities, as well as professional training programmes in the field of psychology.
There will be also commissions on specializations in psychology, which will assess the competence and readiness of specialists to provide certain support services. For example, one situation might involve a parent noticing that his or her child does not learn quickly nor possess certain age-specific skills. The parent suspects the child is facing difficulties and wants to see whether the child’s development meets general age-specific criteria. He or she could contact a psychologist who specializes in child development, i.e. the development of intellectual and emotional skills among children. This is a certain type of service, and one needs to have special training in this area. Likewise, if someone is a victim of violence and has suffered trauma, he or she needs a psychologist with special training in trauma treatment and therapy.
I want to draw a parallel here with medicine. Every doctor has a certain specialization. There are cardiologists and pediatricians, for example, but a pediatrician will never treat a patient for heart disease and vice versa. That's also how it is in psychology. There are many specializations – specific areas you have to study – so that you can help a person who has a certain problem.”
4. How will this law ensure the protection and support of women, especially those from underrepresented groups or those going through crisis situations, by ensuring that they receive quality psychological support that is gender-sensitive and tailored to their specific needs?
”In this regard, I can say that the law protects all beneficiaries. Depending on the problem the person has, he or she will contact a certain specialist, or several specialists. Women who have suffered forms of violence and need help will now have more clarity, knowing there are psychologists with special training to support victims of violence.
Everyone, regardless of age, gender or social situation, can face some form of violence. It is important that there are psychologists who have the necessary training to meet the psychological needs of victims.”
5. How will this law influence the general public's perception of the importance and role of mental health services in society?
”After the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are looking for psychological services. More and more people understand that the psyche gets sick too, and it needs help to treat itself. When a person cannot help themselves, he or she needs to go to a specialist. In this regard, things have changed in Moldova in recent years, and people are increasingly turning to psychologists. At the same time, there are still many stereotypes about the severity of psychological problems and the need to seek specialists in this field. After drafting and implementing the law, we aim to carry out an extensive campaign to inform the general public about services provided by psychologists, situations in which one might want or need to request mental health services, the way to identify a specialist, etc.
The drafting of the law and the information campaign will improve negative perceptions of mental health, which arise when people are not sufficiently informed and because psychologists work without clear regulations in the field. At the same time, we will reduce the risk of people accessing low-quality psychological support services.”
Therefore, the adoption and implementation of this law will represent a new stage in strengthening and regulating mental health services in the Republic of Moldova, promoting high standards of quality and safety. At the same time, the law will contribute to educating and informing the public, creating a favorable climate for the development of a society in which access to psychological services is a need recognized and supported by everyone.
In recent years, UN Women, with financial support from the Government of Sweden, has supported the process of drafting this law, as part of joint efforts to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence and improve services available in this field.
Liliana Grosu has been a Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova since 11 July 2021, and she currently serves as Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Protection, Health and Family. Originally from Cahul, she studied psychology and practiced this specialty for 26 years in school institutions. In 1998, she began teaching civic education, and since 2014, she has worked as an interviewer for the National Center for Child Abuse Prevention. In this role, she has interviewed minors, victims and witnesses of criminal offences.