How to choose a therapist

Choosing the right therapist is just as important as any other relationship. Depending on your mental health needs, there are counsellors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists with different specialisations to choose from. 

If you’re looking for a therapist and feel overwhelmed with all the terms, here’re a few tips to help you make that decision.

What is a psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (5-6 years of medical school) who specialise in preventing, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. After medical school, they will serve in a government hospital for 4 years and then they’ll be able to specialise in psychiatry. 

To qualify as a psychiatrist, a medical doctor will need to complete a 4 year masters degree and an additional 6 months of training. 

Every medical practitioner in Malaysia needs to be registered with the Malaysian Medical Council and so would psychiatrists. 

As psychiatrists would’ve had pharmacology training, they are able to prescribe medication to treat mental health issues. 

What is a clinical psychologist

Clinical psychologists registered with the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP) need at least a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. 

They will also need to have had 1,500 supervised hours during their master degree studies where 700 hours of that is working with clients.

Clinical psychologists provide psychotherapy and are able to diagnose and treat mental health issues, provide psychological assessments and treatment in the form of psychotherapy. They can treat mental disorders such as Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Bipolar disorders and many more.

What is a counsellor

Generally, a registered counsellor would have at least a Master’s in Counselling. In Malaysia, to become a registered counsellor, they’re required to complete 1 practicum (252 hours, of which 96 are direct client hours) and 1 internship (504 hours, of which 192 are direct client hours).

The Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia is where you can find the directory of all the registered counsellors in Malaysia. 

Registered counsellors usually provide both counselling and psychotherapy. They often deal with general mental health stressors, behavioural problems or emotional difficulties. Issues such as grief, relationship and career issues, stress, anxiety, depression, life transitions, abuse, trauma and more can be talked about. Registered counsellors do not provide psychological assessments and diagnosis nor prescribe medication.

Which therapist is right for me?

Choosing the right mental health professional also depends on what kind of treatment you need. 

Counselling pinpoints specific issues and helps a person recognise a particular problem such as stress management, anxiety, depression, grief or even addiction. The focus is on problem solving or learning specific techniques to cope or to avoid problem areas.

Psychotherapy is longer-term and focuses on a larger range of issues. The way someone thinks and behaves affects how they interact with the world. The goal of psychotherapy is helping people feel better equipped in managing stresses. It also helps people see patterns in their behaviour that may be holding them back from reaching their goals. Psychotherapy can also help people have more satisfying relationships, better thought and emotional response regulation.

If someone has a mental illness like depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, psychotherapy can also help to understand the illness and manage symptoms.

How to start?

Booking a mental health screening with our therapists is a great way to start. Ask our mental health processionals on how to deal with mental issues and how a session generally works. Describe the reason why you want to make an appointment and their experience with dealing with certain issues. If it feels right, go on and make an appointment!

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