In Malaysia, when it comes to seeking mental health help from professionals, this is a very common question we mental health institutes or professionals face: “Who should I find? A counselor? A (clinical) psychologist? Or should I go to a psychiatrist? What are their differences anyways? Aren’t they all doing the same thing?”
Of course, among these three major professions in the Malaysian mental health field, there are differences that separate their expertise, some in subtle ways, some in huge ways. So let’s take a look at the three professions in Malaysia through this article, clear up the confusion once and for all, and let your journey into finding the right kind of mental health support all the more smoother and easier.
We are going to dedicate different sections in the article that follows not by the professions themselves (ie. “counselor”, “clinical psychologist”, & “psychiatrist”), but by their qualitative categories (ie. their different “qualifications” & “job scopes”).
This is to ease the reader as they don’t have to memorize them one by one. Instead, you can just look at the aspects that you are confused about and differentiate them at a glance. So, let’s begin!
To become a registered counselor in Malaysia, one needs to have a bachelor’s degree from a university/college with the related subjects. And this also varies according to the credit hours and the subjects taken by that individual.)
To become a clinical psychologist in Malaysia, however, requires one to have a Master’s degree in clinical psychology.
Lastly, in order to become a psychiatrist, one needs to also be a medical doctor, as well as obtaining at least a Master’s degree in psychiatry. Of course, having a doctorate or a Ph.D. in psychiatry is also more beneficial in becoming a psychiatrist (duh).
Governing Acts & Bodies, And Professional Bodies (for the 3 professions)
For registered counselors, they are governed by the “Counseling Act 1998” in Malaysia. Their governing bodies are the “Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia”. They also have a professional body called the “Persatuan Kaunseling Malaysia International (PERKAMA)”, that registered counselors can become members of.
For a clinical psychologist in Malaysia, the governing act is still in the process of being implemented. It is tentatively called the “Allied Health Act”. Their governing body is also being set up as well. However, they do have a professional body called the “Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP)” that they can be members of.
Lastly, for a psychiatrist in Malaysia, their governing act is the “Mental Health Act 2011”. Their governing body is the “Malaysian Medical Council”. And their professional body is the “Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA)”.
Job Scope (in general)
Now comes the part where everyone is most curious about. Do note that this is just a very rough outline of what these 3 professions do in general. There are times when the three professions will overlap with regard to their job scopes.
A registered counselor mostly counsels a population that is healthy. They help the healthy population in the prevention of mental illnesses/hazards, and they maintain their mental health wellbeing. They also can work with a population that is in mild distress, to help them manage challenges in life (ie. relationship issues, career issues, or grief-related issues), so that they can help bring about positive change in their clients’ lives.
A clinical psychologist provides clinical assessments from their clients, understanding their cognitive and behavioral performance (also neuropsychological), and gauge their clients’ abilities to perform in their daily functioning. They are able to provide their clients with a diagnosis of mental illnesses. They also provide psychotherapy for their clients, with the goal of treating their mental illnesses.
A psychiatrist provides a diagnosis of mental illnesses for a clinical population. They also provide pharmacological therapy and are able to prescribe drugs and medication for their clients. Some are also trained in psychotherapy and are able to provide that to their clients to treat mental illnesses.
(This article cites info gained from MSCP)
You can read our article on the different mental health provider settings in Malaysia.
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