What does a counsellor do?
Counselling is a talking therapy that involves a trained therapist listening to you and helping you find ways to deal with emotional issues.
What a Counsellor actually does and how they are trained varies from country to country. In Malaysia most Counsellors are taught Person-Centred Therapy. The Person-Centered approach trusts in others’ potential. It aims to give clients empathy and unconditional positive regard because this is shown to help them change. Counsellors avoid telling people what to do and instead allow the person to explore their issues so that they can discover solutions for themselves.
Counsellors usually work with particular life problems, such as difficulties at school or issues in a marriage. In Malaysia, some counsellors have received a few weeks training whilst others hold a Masters qualification.
Some counsellors in Malaysia and counsellors who have trained outside of Malaysia will have been taught a wider range of therapeutic skills and approaches that they can use to help their clients.
I should note that most of the information on Counsellors in Malaysia is written in Malay so the above information is based on the Counsellors I have met. The Malaysian Board of Counselors should give you more information. If their website Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia is down you can access their Facebook pages.
What does a Clinical Psychologist do?
Clinical Psychologists are also taught to listen to others in a supportive, non-judgemental manner. However, we also teach people new skills that will help them resolve the emotional difficulty they are facing.
Clinical Psychologists will decide which skills to teach using the ‘scientist-practitioner’ approach. This approach involves applying our knowledge of psychological research and theory and using a scientific approach to working with people. First we ‘assess’ what difficulties a person has, then we hypothesise how their problems may have started and what’s keeping them going (‘formulation’) and then we use this information to decide on the best ‘intervention’.
The intervention may involve teaching the person new skills or helping them see things in a different way so those problems trouble them less. Following the intervention we ‘evaluate’ the effectiveness of the intervention. If we haven’t made a positive change then we go back to the assessment phase so we can develop a new formulation (hypothesis) that leads to a better intervention. This new intervention will be evaluated and the process begins again unless the person is satisfied with the changes that they’ve made. This is the same approach that scientists use to gain new knowledge.
Clinical Psychologists can work with problems ranging from every-day life problems to severe psychological problems.
One competency that is unique to Clinical Psychologists is that we are trained to use neuropsychological assessments. These assessments look at the patterns of an individual’s different cognitive abilities such as verbal intelligence, visual-spatial ability memory, executive functioning etc to determine why they may be having academic or professional difficulties. You can read more about them here.
In Malaysia Clinical Psychologists must have at least a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology in order to practice.
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