Psychotherapy Training Abroad and in Malaysia

Dr. Edward Chan FMPsyA FMCBTA
B.Sc.(Psych) PgDip (Clin.Psych) MSc.(IT & Learning) D.Phil.(Psych) CSAC
Principal Consultant Psychologist, Malaysian Psychology Centre

Unlike the profession of medicine, where the practitioners are all physicians, many different professions or sub professions are involved in the practice of psychotherapy. This has led to different programs of training as well as different professional or field loyalties.

In Freud’s (who is considered by many as the founder of psychotherapy) time, in Europe, and for sometime afterward, the practitioners of psychotherapy were primarily physicians. Although Freud, himself, did not advocate medical training for psychotherapists, and some well-known analysts were referred to as “lay analyst” because they lacked medical training, as most of the psychotherapy was conducted by psychiatric physicians. It is also well to remember that psychotherapy was in no way as popular as it is today.

Furthermore, prior to the Second World War in Europe, clinical psychology was a relatively small and underdeveloped field with a major emphasis on the administration of psychological tests.

After the war, however, the situation changes drastically. In the United States, there was a shortage of psychiatrists and a great need for trained personal to care for the veterans who had developed psychiatric difficulties. With government support, graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology were developed and psychotherapy became an important part of the training. Although there were subsequent conflicts with organized medical groups about the independent practice of psychotherapy by psychologists, these diminished and psychotherapy became the primary function of clinical psychologists.

The greater participation of clinical psychologists in psychotherapy has been paralleled by a similar pattern in other groups.

This expansion of providers of psychotherapeutic services was a direct response to the shortage of mental health personal to meet the needs of individuals with various psychological problems. In Europe and the United States, there are a variety of programs to train individuals to perform specific therapeutic procedures with such diverse groups as emotionally disturbed children and adult alcoholics. So-called “indigenous nonprofessionals” were trained to work in different types of neighborhood centers. Such individuals were trained and supervised by professionals mental health workers.

Many institutions and mental or behavioural health centers in these countries utilize psychologists with less than doctoral training and social workers and others with graduate degrees. Programs recently developed for chemical and alcohol dependent individuals utilize such individuals as important members of their therapeutic team.

A single profession of psychotherapy was considered seriously some years ago. Cross disciplinary interests have also flourished in the society for Psychotherapy Research and the society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integrations, both international organizations.

It should be evident that with such a diversity of therapists, the types of training provided also would very considerably. Psychiatrists are trained first in medicine, where as psychologists receive their training in academic departments of psychology, in free standing professional schools of psychology, in doctoral psychology programs located in medical schools, or even in graduate schools of education. Whereas practically all psychiatrists have M.D. degrees, clinical psychologists can receive either the more traditional research- oriented Ph.D. degree or the more recent professionally oriented Doctor of Philosophy or Counseling psychologists can also obtain these degrees as well as a doctorate in education or Ed.D. degree. School psychologists, who may engage in psychotherapy, have similar choices in terms of degrees. Social workers may earn a doctoral degree, Ph.D. or D.S. W. (Doctor of Social Work), although this is not as typical of social work practitioners as it is of psychologists.

There are also significant number of individuals performing psychotherapeutic services who have a master’s degree or less. The traditional degree for professional social workers has been the M.S. W.(Master of Social Work), and many guidance counselors, marriage and family counselors, school psychologists, as well as clinical psychologist have received training at master’s level. The training for all of these professional groups is thus quite diverse. In addition, not only does the emphasis on psychotherapy vary from program to program, but the quality and extent of training vary as well. Furthermore, in the case of psychologists, since Ph.D. and Psy.D. degrees can be obtained from either graduate programs in universities or from freestanding professional schools, one cannot distinguish the training a particular psychologist has received by simply knowing the type of degree he or she has. Since the various programs may emphasis different theoretical orientations and different practicum experiences, the diversity in training can be quite marked. Some candidates have returned to Malaysia with these diverse training qualification and others would surely want to pursue future training.

The Malaysian Psychotherapy Association is setting a professional training programme for its members in order to standardized the training competencies of psychotherapy practitioners in Malaysia, whereby anyone wishing to practice psychotherapy in Malaysia needs to enroll and pass a standardized postgraduate psychotherapy programme which include in its content, the practice of psychotherapy from various client population including children, adults, the elderly, couples, families, minority group and addiction and the practice of therapy using various techniques such as cognitive therapy, psychodynamic therapy, behavioural therapy, gestalt and emotional release type therapy and hypnotherapy. Candidates also need to complete an approved number of supervised clinical hours over a two year period for which he or she is awarded a Masters degree and conferred practitioner membership to MPA.

Enrolment for the professional programme is opened only to those who have obtained a first degree in psychotherapy or related discipline or its equivalent. Those who has acquired relevant postgraduate qualifications can apply to be exempted from some part one of the programme. MPA also offers bridging psychotherapy diploma courses for suitable candidates who do not have the necessary prerequisite qualification to enroll for the MPA professional postgraduate psychotherapy course.

Published in the Complementary Therapist, Issue 2, April-June 2004

The author can be contacted at:

Dr. Edward Chan FMPsyA, FMCBTA
Principal Consultant Psychologist
B.Sc.(Psych.) PgDip (Clin.Psych.) MSc. D.Phil.(Psych.) C.Pr. NLP CSAC
Prinicipal Consultant Psychologist
Malaysian Psychology Centre
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