Monday, September 11, 2017
Psychologists deal with vulnerable people but in most of the world, the profession is totally unregulated.
Shocking, right? If you're in Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and goodness knows how many other countries, you can simply announce, "I'm a psychologist!" and nobody will do a blessed thing to stop you messing about with people who are suicidal, struggling with learning issues and other serious problems.
There are con artists with no training whatsoever, not even a basic diploma in psychology, running companies that advertise in newspapers, setting up their own endorsement agencies, and even their own training centres. They 'diagnose' you and often charge the earth, too.
There is plenty of discussion about it in the field, but in my opinion, this will be an ongoing issue for some years to come. Even if you fix the problem with a quick bit of legislation, enforcement is difficult - especially as these people will simply rebrand themselves as "lifestyle gurus" or whatever other title sounds cool.
So when you need a psychologist, how do you avoid the cons? I had the look yesterday at the social media (Facebook and LinkedIn) of several leading lights in the community and then I compared it to some known crooks.
The legitimate people were posting cartoons of owls, photos of their lunch, moaning about their kids, giggling about silly things that happened to them, sharing jokes - and very occasionally commenting on a psychological issue.
The cons had a steady stream consisting of shares of journal articles, press articles, motivational quotes and their own evil advertising.
Also, you should know that cons make up fake associations.Yes, it doesn't take much to register an association, and as anyone can be a psychologist, nobody cares who's proper and who isn't.
Depressing, right? The cons looked so damn good that if I didn't know better, I'd consult them!
So what can you do?
Sourcing specialists, say those who work with eating disorders or autism, is best done through your national hospital network and your public universities.
If you're looking for a regular therapist to talk about relationships, divorce, abuse and so on, a safe bet is to work with someone who has a basic Bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as a Masters in a mental health field that includes several hundred hours of supervised practical clinical work. That way you have someone who's done all the academic work with a healthy dollop of practical work. (My Masters involved about 400 hours of practical work.)
When you see a therapist you think you want to work with, ask where they went to college and what their qualifications are. As a first step, make sure that the school exists and that they have the programme your contact says they have completed. (You can call the school but in my experience, they rarely know who's in class this week, never mind who's graduated.)
Then, do a little spying on their social media. One thing that stood out from my looking around is that professionals have connections to universities. They don't necessarily work in them but they'll have friends there.
So, see who their friends are. If you see their pals are from recognisable unis, you're probably okay.
You can also ask me. I may not know the people you want to consult myself, but I have a South East Asia network that I'm happy to draw on. Oh, and if you want to check me out on social media, have a look here.
Did you like this? Then you may enjoy this, “If it’s quackery, why is it working for me?”
Ellen Whyte is a British counselling psychologist based in Malaysia. She works online with clients via Skype, Messenger, Google Meet, and WhatsApp video conferencing services. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment