Avoiding modal shift

There are far, far more bicycles used for commuting to work each day

The government has invested heavily in electric cars and their infrastructure to support them. Yet while this is laudable and a promising project, there were only 180 electric cars registered in the 3rd quarter of 2017. There are far, far more bicycles used for commuting to work each day. Even Nextbike on their own achieve more daily trips than this figure. All of which do more to reduce car induced congestion and emissions we may soon be fined for. Bicycles help reduce this for free and there is a body of evidence that where cycling infrastructure is built, the benefit to society outweighs any cost.

This is important if we are to embrace any kind of modal shift and avoid a strategy to wean us off car dependence. But then the government has taken a stand of not penalising car use and has even focused on ‘traffic easing’ modes with the environment ministry chopping down trees to make more space for cars.

This is the Improve-Shift-Avoid approach, but the problem with this is only having the Improve. There is often no public interest in the (modal) Shift and Avoid bits. Human nature takes the path of least resistance and clearly the government will need to double or even quadruple its efforts to encourage people out of their cars and into other modes. The correct approach is and always has been Avoid-Shift-Improve. This ends up with the best of both worlds where all modes enjoy the benefits of a well-thought out plan.

A few experimental cycle lanes and a cycling strategy only ‘where there is space’ won’t work. Especially when you realise that in the Avoid-Shift-Improve model cycle lanes are not for cyclists, they are, to quote Chris Boardman (Manchester’s Cycling Commissioner), for car drivers. They need to feel safe enough to a driver swapping his car for a bike. Remember the Shift bit?

Traffic easing on major junctions without considering how cyclists and pedestrians (read potential bus passengers) will navigate them safely has therefore made it more difficult to shift car drivers to use bicycles at the improved junctions. TM and the transport minister seem to be at a loss how to make these safer. In fact accident rates have risen this year to 2013 levels.

It’s time for a traffic rethink. Stop thinking how to move metal boxes and start thinking how to move people. That has benefits for car drivers too. A successful cycling superhighway could move the same volume of people (that’s people not in a car holding you up) as 5 to 6 lanes of car traffic. That’s some serious space making and virtually for free. It’s time to shift.

Jim Wightman

Bicycle Advocacy Group


Safeguarding the profession

I write on behalf of the Malta Chamber of Psychologists (MCP), with reference to article penned by Tia Reljic, regarding the alleged feud between psychologists and psychotherapists.

I firstly wish to ascertain that no such feud exists between these professions. We have worked in harmony for many years and most of us refer clients to each other, attend training courses and workshops together, and often even co-facilitate therapy with clients. MCP are also saddened to hear the frustrations that our colleagues have encountered in their struggle to be acknowledged and recognised as established practitioners in the psychosocial and mental health sector.

In fact, the caring professions as an umbrella, share a common history of not being valued and adequately recognised. This is unjust, and we believe that all professions deserve the right and dignity to feel at par and on equal footing to others. The Chamber and our incumbents do no doubt that psychotherapists are experts in their own right and we do not wish to take that away from them in any way. The issue between the two bodies has only recently emerged in relation to the said Bill, which psychologists feel will impinge on their right to practise their profession in its’ entirety; namely with reference to the practice of psychotherapy.

At the onset I want to highlight two things: firstly that MCP are very pleased this Bill has been tabled. It is long overdue and psychotherapists deserve and need to have their profession recognised, acknowledged and regulated as such. We have no intention of trying to impede them from this opportunity. The second thing is that we fully agree with Dr Charles Cassar in his insistence that psychologists are not ALL trained in psychotherapy. There are, in fact, many types of psychologists: traffic, social, occupational/ organisational, health, forensic, educational, counselling, clinical, to name a few. Only a few of these fields are specifically trained in psychotherapy, and in these cases the training is deep, intense and rigorous. Psychologists have a diverse underpinning in theoretical schools of thought and are also trained in psychometric testing, psychopathology, neurology, cognitive and biological expertise, organisational structures, business modalities, to name a few other competencies that specific psychologists have under their belt.

Psychotherapy, however, is also a specialisation of a few types of psychologists. The Psychology Bill (2004) was thus left generic, in an attempt to cover all of these factions of the field. In actual fact, our law does not regularise our practice at present but only our title: psychologist. However, we do understand the imminent necessity of creating more specified clauses in our law, to cover the diverse practices we specialise in, a loophole we may have overlooked thirteen years ago when our competencies were not being questioned.

So, I reiterate, some psychologists have embarked on Masters or Doctoral programmes designed with the sole purpose of honing them in the practice of counselling and psychotherapy. Some may not be aware of the type of training these psychologists undertake when embarking on their journey to become psychologists specialised in counselling and psychotherapy; far from a few modules, as Dr Cassar puts it. We welcome him, in fact, to sit around a table over a cup of tea, to go through our transcripts and explain our journeys. Neither the Malta Psychology Professions Board (MPPB) nor the Chamber (MCP) wish to allow any professionals to practise psychotherapy without the adequate training, most especially since the clients’ best interests are always at the heart of what we do.

Not only are specific psychologists rigorously trained in psychotherapy, but it is also an integral part of our professional identity; the identity of a psychologist.  The Psychotherapy Bill needs to also acknowledge this so we can all be safeguarded.

I conclude by emphasising: there is no need for competition or turf wars here. Psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists alike are much needed in the community, as are our medical experts, with the consistent rise of mental health issues, as reported by the WHO. Our dream is to see posts open to counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists alike; selection based on relevant expertise and training.

Whilst being separate entities, with different titles, we are joined by our common field: ultimately, we are all helpers - so let’s also reflect this in our politics and laws. We facilitate peoples’ growth and development, and help people to actualise their potential. We teach people to communicate effectively and build relationships. We extend our invitation to the psychotherapist community: let’s use this as an opportunity to further strengthen the unity between us; to put water under the bridge, to join forces in ending this unnecessary antagonism, and continue striving forward to embellish each other’s professions, whilst holding the wellbeing of our clients as centrefold. 

Cher V. Laurenti Engerer,

PRO, Malta Chamber

of Psychologists (MCP)