How to become a psychotheraphist in Malaysia?

4 10 2008

Dear Charis and Yvonne,

Hi. I’m Cheng. Firstly, a big thanks to you for putting up the website. Really. Coz I am now having many questions in my head and I have been searching for answers for those questions. I hope that you gals can help me out here.

I am currently taking a NLP Practitioner course offered by Newway Marital Centre in KL, where I am exposed to Psychotheraphy. I have interest to become a psychotheraphist. My questions are:

1. What does it take to become a psychotheraphist? (i.e. Academic qualifications – i don’t have any papers to support me to become psychotheraphist so far –  and the NLP Practitioner Course which i am taking – does it count as one of the qualifications?)

2. Are there any part times studies for people like me? I am a working adult and could only afford to do part time studies…

3. My current job is not related to my aim to become psychotheraphist. i intend to get a job at places where i can actually watch and learn while studying part time, do you have any recommendations?

Thanks a million for your help!


Dear Chew,

Thank you for your email.  Our aim is to establish contact with people like you so that we can share information.  For example, I this is the first time I have heard about Newway Marital Center.  Unfortunately, their website is in Chinese so I am unable to read the info about their training goals, the trainers, their qualifications, the courses offered, who can join the program, the fees & etc.

I was curious about the NLP (Neuro-linguistic program) that you are currently pursuing, and I have tried to find out a little bit more about it.  I came across this research paper on NLP, which you may be interested to read: Neuro-linguistic programming: its potential for learning and teaching in formal education.

To answer your question, we would first have to clarify what you mean by psychotherapy? What is the difference between counseling and psychotherapy? Can these terms be used interchangeable?  These are confusing questions.  I have listed this question under the FAQ, but unfortunately, I have not had time to write an answer.  Traditionally, psychotherapy is traditionally referred to long-term therapy for more pathological clients (i.e. clients who often have a more serious clinical diagnosis such as Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder), while counseling refers to short-term therapy for the less pathological clients (i.e. relatively normal functioning people who have adjustment issues, such as marital problems, anger management, self-esteem issues and abuse, which they would like to work on).  This is why a psychiatrist would almost always say that he provides psychotherapy services (as opposed to counseling services), and someone who does marriage and family therapy would refer this as counseling as oppose to psychotherapy.

These days, however, most graduate programs in Counseling or Counseling Psychology and even Marriage and Family Therapy include training for their students to work with both the more pathological clients (i.e. a long term therapy) and the less pathological clients (i.e. short term therapy).  Clinicla Psychologists, however, tend to work with the more pathological clients in hospital settings.  On the other hand, certificate/diploma-level programs, which provide some short term basic training to lay counselors or para counselors (i.e. people with some short term training in therapy, like yourself) tend to focus more on short term therapy with the less pathological clients.  Most graduates in Counseling/Counseling Psychology call themselves counselors or therapists.

In USA, psychologists are Ph.D level graduates (4 – 6 years of training, followed by post-doctoral training).  Counselors and Therapists must at least have a Masters’ level degree, and completed a required amount of direct client hours).  In Malaysia, however, it is almost like the other way round.  Although the Malaysian Counselor Act provides for diploma level holders to be licensed, counselors usually are required to have a Masters’ level degree.  I have heard that the board, as a practice, does not really approve diploma level holders to be licensed.  Since there are no regulations for Psychologists, anybody who have some kind of training in psychology can call themselves a psychologists.  The same goes for psychotherapists, there are also no regulations.

So to answer your question, what are you goals – to be a lay/para-counselor or a licensed counselor.  If you are interested in being a licensed counselor, please visit our Student page for a listing of some of the graduate level programs in counseling available in Malaysia. I know that HELP offers a Masters in Counseling with working adults who are interested in studying on a part-time basis by attending night classes. Again, you can find the information and link on our page here. Any graduate level program should have at least a two semester internship, where you would have to be attached to an agency and do actual therapy under supervision (should be by a licensed counselor). This is where you would get the practical training experience.

I hope this has been helpful for you, Cheng.  All the best!





2 responses

17 11 2008

I believe in addition to a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree, being a psychologist in USA has to be licensed or certified. Besides that, licensing and certification is different in each state of USA, so basically you can use your license from New York to provide services in California. It is all the ethical procedures you need to follow. USA has a huge deal on ethics code. Also, if you have a Masters degree, you can go take an exam for limited licensed psychologist to provide limited services to the public. Nevertheless, in USA you can get a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) instead of PhD where can you go into the program without having a Master first.

I am currently trying to locate some school with real low cost tuition and living fees for PsyD while studying for my Bachelor degree. I was astonished by the contents of this website stating that there is no ethics code in Malaysia. That is the biggest news of the day for me.

30 11 2008

Hi August,

Thanks for your comments. You are right that the licensing requirements are different for each state in USA. This can be confusing!

I have some comments on your reply:

To be a Clinical or Counseling psychologist in USA, you need to have your PhD in Psychology. Therefore, (those who earn a PhD in Education (Counseling) cannot be called Clinical Psychologistsor Counseling Psychologists. If you want to be a Clinical Psychologist or a Counseling Psychologist, you will definitely need a bachelors in Psychology or at least take the chore undergraduate psychology courses to do your PhD in Clinical Psychology or Counseling Psychology. Many programs in USA do not require you to have a Masters in Clinical Psychology or in Counseling Psychology to apply for their doctorate program. In fact, it is much faster to earn your PhD in Counseling if you apply to enter the program straight after you get your Bachelors in Psychology instead of doing your Master’s in Psychology first.

The same is not the same if you do your PhD in the field of Counseling. In many countries such as in Malaysia, Australia and USA, you can apply to do your Masters in Counseling without a psychology background. Once you’ve obtained your Masters in Counseling, you may proceed to earn your Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Some of these programs require you to have your Masters in Counseling first. In some USA states, you can take the licensure exam to be an Educational Psychologist or a School Psychologist after you earn your Masters. However, some post-graduate clinical experience may be required.

The PsyD is for people who wish to pursue their doctorate in Psychology but are not interested in research and who want to avoid doing a desertation. Most people who do their PsyD are more interested in becoming practitioners instead of scientist/researchers. Clinical Psychologists and Counseling Psychologists with a PhD in Psychology, are ranked the higest and tend to look down with people with PsyD, EdD or PhD (Philosophy). Most members of the public do not know the difference, however!

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