As the stigma around mental illness is slowly eroding, people in India are slowly becoming open to seeking out help from mental health professionals. However, there is still a lack of awareness with regard to who constitutes a mental health professional, combined with lack of regulation.
To start with, it is important to distinguish between the three main types of mental health professionals: Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists.
Psychiatrists are medical professionals who have completed their MBBS degree, and further have a MD specialisation in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are qualified to prescribe medication and specialised treatments like ECT, and may also provide psychotherapy.
Next, clinical psychologists usually have a PhD MPhil, or professional diploma in Clinical Psychology. Only a person who holds a license from the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) can use the title of clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists offer psychotherapy for clinical
disorders like depression, OCD etc. Clinical Psychologists can carry out psychological assessments and make diagnoses. However, they do not provide medication.
Counselling psychology is largely unregulated in India, and there are no fixed criteria to practise as a counselling psychologist. Ideally, a counselling psychologist should hold a Master’s degree or equivalent post graduate diploma in psychology. However, as there are no legal guidelines, many individuals without the necessary qualifications may use the title of psychologist. Counselling psychologists help individuals, couples and families cope with mental disorders, negative life events, relationship issues and also help to promote well being.
If you seek out mental health services in India, it always helps to know the qualifications of your mental health professional. It is a always good idea to make sure that you only visit mental health professionals who are either referred to you by trusted sources or whose credentials you verify.
Offering services beyond one’s qualifications is highly unethical, and may end up causing clients more harm than good.
If you wish to check the list of registered clinical psychologists in your state, you can do so at the RCI website.
- NHS. (n.d.). Counselling Psychologist. Retrieved from: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/psychological-therapies/roles/counselling-psychologist
- UPS Education. (2019). Steps to become A Clinical Psychologist with RCI Approval. Retrieved from: https://www.upseducation.in/update/steps-to-become-a-clinical-psychologist-with-rci-approval/
- Link for checking RCI registration: http://rciregistration.nic.in/rehabcouncil/Select_Search.jsp
- RCI guidelines: http://iacp.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/RCI-State-Mental-Health-Rules-.pdf