Types of Providers
Mental Health 101
1 July 2020
Counselling and psychotherapy services are offered by three types of mental health professionals in Malaysia: psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and licensed counsellors. These mental health professionals offer support to people struggling with emotional problems, relational issues and mental health problems. Support is provided to families, individuals, couples and groups. However, there are significant differences between these professions in terms of education, training and responsibilities.
Minimum Education Qualifications: Bachelor in Medicine or Surgery (MBBS)
License: Required. A doctor’s license by the Ministry of Health.
- A medical doctor that specializes in psychiatry and mental health disorders.
- A psychiatrist must have earned a Bachelor in Medicine or Surgery (MBBS) and hold a valid medical license to practice medicine by the Ministry of Health.
- They are specially trained to differentiate mental health problems from other underlying medical conditions such as physical health problems that could present with psychiatric symptoms (such as low thyroid levels instead of depression)
- They are the only providers that are licensed to prescribe medications to treat mental health problems and to monitor the effects of medicines on the body. Do not accept any psychiatric medication, this includes antidepressants, from anyone else other than a licensed psychiatrist.
- Sometimes a combination of medication and psychotherapy/counselling is needed. If that is the case, the psychiatrist may provide psychotherapy, or the psychiatrist may refer you to a counsellor or a clinical psychologist.
- Works in private practice, universities, hospitals, or medical centres.
Minimum Education Required: Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology
License: Not required. Voluntary registration through the The Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP)
- While the minimum required is a Master’s degree, many clinical psychologists also hold a doctorate in psychology.
- Clinical psychologists are specifically trained in assessing, diagnosing, planning, and providing psychological treatment
- Clinical psychologist understand a broad range of mental health issues and use tests and interview assessments to identify different types of disorders
- They may offer assessments through observation, interviews and psychometric or psychological tests to identify an existing or potential disorder – emotional, mental or behavioural. Then provide psychotherapy to work with the client to implement the appropriate treatment plans and strategies.
- Clinical psychologists are trained to listened attentively and provide specialized treatment plans to help their clients or patients improve improve their wellbeing
- There are many specialties within clinical psychology and they can help with depression, anxiety, addiction, learning disabilities, eating disorders and interpersonal problems, such as divorce or family conflicts
- Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors, thus they DO NOT write prescriptions, perform medical procedures, or recommend medications. They will often refer clients to psychiatrists if they feel medications are needed to aid in the psychotherapy process.
Minimum Education Required: Bachelor’s degree in Counseling or Guidance and Counseling
License: Required. Mandatory registration with the Malaysian Board of Counsellors (Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia). The counselling practice in Malaysia is guided by the Counsellors Act 580 and the Malaysian Counsellor Code of Ethics.
- While the minimum required is a Bachelor’s degree, many counsellors also hold Master’s or Doctorate degree in counseling
- In addition to being registered with LKM, counsellors are also required to complete continuing education courses every year to renew their license
- Counsellors are trained to work alongside clients in learning better ways to cope with problems that may cause emotional distress and interfere with reaching personal goals as well as having more satisfying relationships
- There are many specialties among counsellors and they can help with depression, anxiety, addiction, learning disabilities, eating disorders and interpersonal problems, such as divorce or family conflicts
- Some counsellors are trained to work with people who are struggling with mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or an anxiety disorder. Counsellors address ways in which a mental health problem affects a client’s daily functioning, focus on how to best understand the mental health problem, manage its symptoms and follow medical recommendations given by a psychiatrist.
- Counsellors DO NOT write prescriptions, perform medical procedures, or recommend medications. They will often refer clients to psychiatrists if they feel medications are needed to aid in the psychotherapy process.
- Some forms of counselling are one-on-one, while others are group-based or family-based. Counsellors usually work in private practice, mental health clinics, universities, schools or community centres.
So what’s the difference between a Clinical Psychologist and a Registered Counsellor?
Specifically within the context of Malaysia, licensed counsellors are currently more regulated by the Ministry of Health compared to clinical psychologists. This may change in the future.
In terms of services provided, both clinical psychologists and registered counsellors provide the same types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or marriage counseling. It is much more important to find a provider that fits your needs and to find someone you feel you can trust, than their title or educational qualifications which should already be a given.