Dr. Alexander Moreno on Psychology and Mental Health Care Accessibility in Canada

AUTHOR(S) & CREDENTIALS:  Dr. Alexander Moreno, Neuropsychologist at the Hôpital Notre-Dame and Adjunct Professor at the Université de Montréal, and Karolina Jalowska, Digital Media Coordinator at the APPTA hub and AGE-WELL NCE


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Candice Pollack, Executive Director at the APPTA hub

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your work?

I’m a Neuropsychologist at Hôpital Notre-Dame in Montreal and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal. My work is split between clinical work and research. On the clinical side, I work at the hospital where I treat adults/older adults with different cognitive/mental health problems. I am also responsible for interns and trainees at different educational levels who want to practice as psychologists in the future. Teaching at the hospital is rewarding. On one side, I’m contributing to someone’s training while multiplying efforts to respond to current mental health needs. Also, my trainees and I are changing people’s lives positively. It makes me really proud when my trainees see how they’ve impacted a person’s life through the care they’ve provided.

In terms of research, I work with the Geriatric Institute in Montreal (IUGM) where I am developing a core project. The project is centred on the use of technology to help older adults live independently and longer at home. We’re working with a tablet-based technology to help support older adults when they leave the hospital.

Why did you decide to pursue a career as a psychologist?

I’ve always been curious about human beings, their behaviours and how to use knowledge to transform the lives of individuals and communities. When I started my Bachelors of Psychology, I was initially interested in psychoanalysis and the repressed or subconscious thoughts of individuals that could drive human behaviour. Later on, I moved to neuropsychology- the study of the brain and its relationship to behaviour and emotions- because I found it even more interesting to study the biological foundations of human behaviour. To anyone looking to pursue a career in psychology, I’d say that this is the best time to do so because we really need health care providers in this field. The pandemic has heightened the importance of mental health so the more providers we can have in this field, the more we can help individuals and our communities.

What are some of the challenges you experience in your clinical work?

The stigma associated with mental health and seeking mental health treatment is still prevalent. It can take time for someone to realize that mental health treatment can help them live better and move forward with the challenges in their lives. I’ve also seen people that recognize the importance of taking care of their mental health who want help, but it’s just not accessible to them. That’s a real problem—one we need to address.

What would you like to see advance when it comes to psychological care in Canada?

As a society, we need to ask the government to put mental health as a priority on the public agenda. The increasing demand for mental health services at this time is really alarming because we don’t have enough providers or resources to be able to make these services accessible to everyone, everywhere. We need to increase accessibility throughout all of our health systems and take a more comprehensive vision of health— one that includes mental health— because it’s connected to the overall health and wellbeing of an individual. We need a Canadian strategy to overcome barriers to access mental health services.