Yvonne’s Introduction

20 07 2008

When Charis Wong invited me to co-found the website of Counseling & Psychology in Malaysia, I was touched and humbled at once. Realizing that our personal commitment and passion are of value, is vital for every student and practitioner in the helping profession. Passion and initiatives can get you started, while peer support and encouragement keep you going.

It is necessary to plow new grounds in this still-conservative society, where the role of counselors is often mistaken or perceived to be all there is in Psychology. But that is far from the truth. Psychology is a basket of sub-divisions that may border with subjects as vast as medicine, biology, sociology, anthropology, law, politics, and education. Although Psychologists are often perceived as institutionalized in hospitals or research centers, they may also work in public services, in courtrooms, or in departments of defense and rescue – just to name a few. They often play important societal roles and become spokespersons for the causes they represent, leading in national political and social developments.

Malaysia has seen a damaging trend in recent years. This refers to the massification of education as private institutions mushroomed to compensate the lack of placement at public universities, coupled with the increasingly commercialized education sector as the over-supply of these profit-oriented institutions compete to enroll students. The quality of private tertiary education is at risk, so as the perceptions and expectations of our graduates, and the careers they would embark. The helping profession, while still at it’s infancy, needs to be protected from these ills of commercialism, that may potentially hinder students from advancing to post-graduate studies, but instead settle for substandard job opportunities.

The public must also be made aware of various roles in the helping profession, to help them distinguish Psychiatrists from Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors from Religious Teachers, Play Therapists from Child Psychologists, and so on. Each of these role require additional, specific training and qualifications. But as of today, Malaysians seeking evaluations for their suspected psychological abnormalities continue to be treated by Psychiatrists who may or may not have the qualifications, experience or time to provide substantive long-term therapeutic care. There is also a tendency for patients to seek Psychiatrists for medication without first considering other mental health providers. Psychiatrists are essentially doctors who specialize in Psychiatry, just as there are doctors who specialize in Oncology or Hematology. They are experts in the use of drugs for managing pathologies. But medicine on it’s own has arguable positive, long-term effect in managing mental health. Instead of working exclusively with any one patient, Psychiatrists need to co-operate with Psychologists. But this rest in a subject involving the quality of care, that needs to be pursued by activists and consumers themselves, demanding for tighter regulations on healthcare providers and preventing abuse.

Therefore, the website of Counseling & Psychology in Malaysia seeks to educate and promote dynamics in the helping profession pursuant to individual liberty and empowerment, to overcome the obstacles mentioned above.

Yvonne Foong is a 20-odd Malaysian and Psychology student, who also enjoys writing.

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