The Status of Clinical Psychology in Malaysia

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Sultan Abdul Samad Building has been in Malaysia for a lot longer than Psychology!

Clinical Psychology is still in its infancy as a profession in Malaysia. However, an increased awareness of psychology in general and the younger generations’ more open approach to getting psychological help means that the profession as plenty of opportunity to grow.

There are currently around 140 Clinical Psychologists in Malaysia, most of whom were trained locally. The first training course was the Masters in Clinical Psychology at the National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kembangsaan Malaysia, UKM).

The Masters in Clinical Psychology at HELP University is the other long-established course. Newer courses have begun but one of the challenges to setting up a course is that there are few practising Clinical Psychologists who can supervise trainees. Trainee clinical psychologists need to be taught and trained by an experienced clinical psychologist. The lack of supervisors means it’s difficult for new courses to find their trainees enough high quality placements to complete their training.

Clinical psychologists in Malaysia tend to go into private practice or university posts because there are few suitable posts in the government health system. For a more detailed discussion about the lack of posts in the government health system you can read this article from The Malaysian Insight.

A professional association for Clinical Psychologists, the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology was set up in 2009. It aimed to advocate for the profession. This has worked well for Counsellors in Malaysia who have been professionalised for much longer and have more influence over government policy.

Recently a new law was enacted, The Allied Health Professions Act (2016), that legally protects the term Clinical Psychologist. Prior to the law anyone could call themselves a Clinical Psychologist (and there are several untrained practitioners that do). The law should prevent people claiming to be a Clinical Psychologist unless they are fully qualified. Unfortunately, it has yet to be enforced as the systems to register people are still being devised.

If you have any questions or comments about the profession of Clinical Psychology please let me know in the comments box at the end of this page.

50 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this blog! I am a clinical psychologist from Australia (phd and master of clin psych trained) and am moving to Malaysia end of this month. Im wondering about ways to get my training recognised and if i need to register with particular regulatory body in order to practice. Seems that there is no clear pathway for this? I’m very keen to learn more. Im glad that awareness of the importance of psychology is improving in Malaysia .

    Duska .

    • Hi Duska, it’s interesting to hear that you’re moving to Malaysia. As Malaysia has yet to enforce the Allied Health Professions Act then you don’t have to register. However, I’d recommend applying to become a member of the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (http://malaysiaclinicalpsychology.com/). Sometimes employers do require that you belong to some kind of professional body in Malaysia (it’s also a good way of finding out what’s happening in Clinical Psychology in Malaysia).

  2. Hello if I may ask what is the current progress on the future of clinical psychology especially in Sabah and Sarawak? From what I have been research there is only one clinical psychologist in each state and I wonder if there will be any more demands in the future for these states?

    • Hi, according to the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology’s Registry (http://malaysiaclinicalpsychology.com/mscp-member-registry/) there is one Clinical Psychologist in Sabah and three in Sarawak (although one of those psychologists may be working in KL or overseas). There are nearly 6 million people in Sabah & Sarawak. If we were to assume that 1 in 4 people have some sort of psychological difficulty (which is the number used by many mental health charities and even the WHO). Then there are lots of people in need. However, that’s different to there being a lot of demand for clinical psychology. Many people in psychological distress are unaware of the benefits of psychology or they feel too stigmatised to seek help. My hope is that we’ll see more clinical psychologists in East Malaysia and they will begin to demonstrate the advantages of seeing a psychologist.

  3. Hi! Thank you for the article, it was very helpful! If you don’t mind me asking, where did you get the “140 Clinical Psychologists in Malaysia” from? I tried searching up exact numbers, but couldn’t find any articles or statistics on it.
    Thanks again!

    • I’ve heard that statistic said verbally when I go to meetings and presentations by the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychologists (MSCP). I think it’s based on the number of members they have and an estimate of the number that haven’t joined the society.

  4. Hi, I am Janelle a Malaysian currently working in Jakarta. I’ve graduated with Bachelor of Science majoring in Food Science and been working for 6 years. I have the plan to pursue my study in Master in Clinical Psychology. Do you think it will be possible to do it without a degree in Psychology? Which university will be the best for me to attend this course in Malaysia? Or else overseas?

    • As far as I know it’s necessary to have a psychology degree before you can study clinical psychology. I think most clinical psychology courses require a psychology degree because the undergraduate degree gives you some background theory that is useful when you learn the practical skills.

  5. Hi, i am a malaysian student who is very interested to pursue my study degree in psychology at ukm. However i am very scared because of the pressure from people around me. They keep telling me that i won’t be able find job or work in this area because of the demand. May i know, if i continue my studies by taking master in clinical psychology at ukm, can i be employed by any hospitals or clinics? I am 19 years old this year and going to further my studies this coming september in degree.

    • That’s a difficult question to answer. Psychology is growing and expanding in Malaysia but it’s still difficult to find a job as a Clinical Psychologist. There are only a few jobs in government hospitals. Most Clinical Psychologists have to be quite entrepreneurial in order to make a living. Psychology degrees in Malaysia are becoming more accepted by big local and international companies (particularly in HR). So you might still have some options even if you got the psychology degree but you didn’t go on to become a clinical psychologist. If you don’t take a psychology degree you can’t go on to be a clinical psychologist, however, you could look into a post graduate counselling qualification if you still liked the idea of helping people through talking therapies.

  6. Greetings! I just graduated with a degree in Psychology and I am currently working as a ABA therapist. I wish to pursue my Master’s degree next year but I am still quite unclear of what my future holds. Initially I set a goal for myself to work as a clinical psychologist like you, but on the other hand I wish to help those with eating disorder in Malaysia. Is there a way I can do both and what qualifications/courses should I pursue in other to be qualified to help eating disorder patients? Thank you very much!

    • Clinical Psychologists often work with people that have eating disorders (I have done so myself – and once worked on a specialist eating disorders inpatient unit in the UK). In those units specialist nurses, psychiatrists, counsellors and occupational therapists are important too. Malaysia doesn’t have a specialist unit or hospital for eating disorders that I’m aware of. So you’d probably be best working as a clinical psychologist and trying to get extra training and experience in eating disorders so that you can help that client group.

  7. Hi Dr, I graduated with a degree in Counseling Psychology, is it possible for me to continue my masters study in Clinical Psychology field?

    • Most Clinical Psychology courses require that applicants have a Psychology degree so I don’t think it is possible. You could contact the course admissions department to ask if they would consider your counselling degree. Counselling is a good profession in Malaysia so you could continue down that root if clinical psychology is not an option.

  8. Hi Dr Dan,

    I am an Australian who has just completed my psychology undergrad fully online through an Australian university. I am residing in Malaysia and plan to be here for some time. I have the necessary visas that allow me to work. Do you know if they allow foreigners to complete clinical psychology masters here in Malaysia? Or what I can do with my.degree…It feels such a waste to not take it further!

    Thanks
    Jane

    • I think it would be difficult to do a Masters in Clinical Psychology as a foreigner in Malaysia as the placements may require you to be able to speak at least one of the local languages. It also might not be that helpful for you to have a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Malaysia if you went back to Australia as I don’t know if the qualification would be recognised. I’d recommend this course: https://www.monash.edu.my/study/postgraduate-and-research/medicine-health-sciences/master-of-professional-counselling which is at Monash’s Malaysian Campus at Sunway, KL. I know some students from the course who only speak English and it gives you a counselling qualification that would be recognised in Australia.

  9. Hello, Dr. I graduated with a Degree in Psychology a year back but I havent done any job related to Psychology as of yet. I really would to like to start my Masters but Im confused. I used to want to do Masters in Clinical Psychology but now, Im also thinking of Masters in Counselling. Could you give me any advice, please? I want to be in the mental health care profession but Im not sure which is more suitable for me. My grades are good, Im an introvert by nature, Im a good listener but I have no work experience in psychology. What do you think, Dr?

    • Good question. Both careers are good options. The one disadvantage of Clinical Psychology in Malaysia is that there are not many jobs available. Most Clinical Psychologists work for themselves or in partnerships. So it’s often necessary to be more entrepreneurial. There seem to be more jobs in counselling but I don’t know how well paid they are. The Masters in Professional Counselling at Monash seems good (but expensive) and teaches many of the skills that clinical psychologists learn. However, counsellors don’t do cognitive assessments (e.g to assess brain damage or learning disabilities). Which option to choose is really up to each individual and their preferences so I can’t really say whether one is a better option than other. Perhaps you could look into the jobs available for counsellors or find a counsellor who is willing to share their experiences so you can get a better idea for yourself.

      • Thank you for your reply, Sir. I did check out the Masters programme at Monash but as you mentioned, it is very much expensive. Im still am confused but I am just going ahead with applications for both programmes.

        • I’m sure there are other less expensive counselling programmes – I just don’t know much about them. Perhaps you could look into other counselling courses and check that they are accredited by Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia.

  10. Hi Dr, you said that counsellors in Malaysia have more work options, but essential aren’t clinical psychologist able to do what counsellors do and more? So can a clinical psychologist get the job vacancies of counsellors?

    • Yes, you’re correct clinical psychologists should be able to do the work of counsellors and in some cases they will compete for the same jobs. However, I think employers, such as schools, tend to recruit counsellors rather than clinical psychologists. In many countries clinical psychologists expect higher pay than counsellors and that might explain why some jobs are only open to counsellors. However, I don’t know what counsellors are paid in Malaysia so I’m not sure if that’s a factor here.

  11. Hi Dr. Seal! I am from east Malaysia; Sabah, currently a clinical psychology major doing my undergraduate in the US. It has come to my attention that the access for mental health care system on the east part of Malaysia is very limited, if there is one it would be a private sector and the cost of it is usually very high. I hope to somehow bring accessibility and quality mental health care system when I’m back. Why do you think there are more access and better health care system in the capital city like KL but not much on the other side of the region?

    • Hi Amanda, good question – I think it’s common for services to be concentrated in bigger cities. In Malaysia I suspect it’s both a supply and demand problem. Many Malaysians aren’t really aware of how a psychologist could be of help to them. This is particularly true outside of the bog cities. They may prefer to seek out traditional help instead. That means there is a lot less demand for psychologists than we’d expect given that there’s certainly lots of people in psychological distress. On the supply side I think psychologists tend to stick to the bigger cities where they think they’ll find more clients. Psychologists might also tend to stay in the cities where they trained as they build up contacts. It’s a braver move to start up a psychological service in a place where nothing has come before. However, I think it would probably be a good idea – people in Malaysia are becoming increasingly open to psychologists.

  12. Hi Dr. Dan Seal, I would like to know whether an undergraduate psychology student can apply for internship in the area of clinical psychology? My interests are in mental health, children, counselling, clinical psychology, etc. May I ask for your suggestion that where would be a good place to intern? And I want to pursue Master in Clinical Psychology in the future.

    • Hi Christina, good question! I don’t actually know of many good places where it is possible to intern. I am planning to do a survey of recent Clinical Psychology graduates/trainees to find out where they went for internships. That might take a while to organise though. In the meantime I know Rekindle have an internship programme (https://www.rekindletherapy.com/academy).

  13. Thank you Dr.Dan, your suggestion is very helpful as I never come across Rekindle. I’ve done some research on it but it’s quite difficult to get the answer so I ended up asking here haha. Not sure this could help you in your survey but i think MMHA has internship for undergraduate student but without stipend. Appreciate that your reply was fast!

  14. Hi Dr! I am currently doing my undergraduate psychology degree in Malaysia, and is considering to pursue Masters in Clinical Psychology overseas (either US, UK or Australia). However, I have been hearing news that Masters degree in Clinical Psych from UK is not recognized in Malaysia, may I know if its true?

    • Hi Charmaine, Yes that is true. A Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from the UK is not recognised in Malaysia (or anywhere else, including the UK) because you must do a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology to qualify as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK. The Masters courses in the UK are just academic – they don’t teach you how to do therapy or practical clinical work. I wrote a bit more of an explanation here: https://resolve.my/uk-clinical-psychology/ . You can do a Masters in Clinical Psychology in Australia but not in the US. You need to find out if the course will accredit you to practice as a Clinical Psychologist in the country where you train. If it doesn’t then you should look for a different course.

      • Hi Dr. Dan. May I know why do you say that we cannot do a Masters in Clinical Psychology in US with a Malaysian undergraduate psychology degree?

        • Hi Yong Jian, it’s not about the Malaysian undergraduate degree. It’s that most states in the US require a doctorate qualification before you can work as a clinical psychologist. I’ve pasted the information from the American Psychological Association https://www.apa.org/support/us below

          In the United States, regulations about the practice of psychology are determined by each state. There is no federal regulation. You must be licensed to practice psychology according to the laws and regulations in effect in each state where you provide services. These laws are regulated by state boards of psychology. Requirements for licensure are not standardized across states, but generally, candidates are assessed on their education, supervised training and examination performance.

          The doctoral degree is generally considered the entry-level degree for the independent, licensed practice of psychology as a profession in the United States. In addition to the doctoral degree, licensure for professional practice usually requires two years of supervised training: one year during the doctoral program (an internship in most cases) and an additional year after receipt of the doctoral degree (postdoctoral residency).

          You can find out information about U.S. state and Canadian province requirements by contacting the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

  15. Hi Dr. Dan,

    You mentioned in the comments earlier that the job prospects are few for clinical psychology graduates are few and that one needs to be more entrepreneurial. Could you further elaborate on that? A sensitive question but also one that I’m sure most students are curious about, what is the starting salary range of a clinical psychologist in Malaysia?

    • Hi Brenda, I meant there aren’t that many full time paid roles available for clinical psychologists. My understanding is that the government and NGO’s pay clinical psychologists around RM4,000 per month even when the psychologist has several years experience. Many psychologists get paid by the number of sessions they have with clients and they work across a number of different private clinics. I’m not sure what most clinical psychologists in Malaysia earn (as you mention it’s a sensitive question so I don’t usually ask).

  16. Good day Dr. I have just passed my bachelor in psychology with distinction from local university. I am looking forward to do my Masters soon. My interest was to pursue masters in clinical psychology but looking at the low job demand in Malaysia, I wonder if this is not the best choice. I am strongly looking into job prospect. Dr you have any idea about industrial and organizational psychology demand in Malaysia? Is it a good field?

    • Hi Veen, Industrial and Organisational Psychology is quite a small sector across most of the world. You’d have to be very entrepreneurial and very good at convincing senior management that you have good ideas. I think there are probably less jobs in Organisational Psychology than there are in Clinical Psychology. It may be helpful to know that some clinical psychologists move into working as organisational psychologists but it’s not possible for organisational psychologists to start doing the work of clinical psychologists.

      • Thank you Dr. Heard it as well we need to be good to market ourself in order to do really good in Industrial Organizational sector. Dr am currently employed in health sector, I will only be able to pursue master in clinical psychology as part time, do you think it is okay as I hear from many Clinical Psychology is very tough one to go? Part time will it be fine? Kinda worried.Thanks in advance.

        • Hi Veen, I’m not sure if any of the universities are offering part time study. Most clinical psychology courses are full time. However, there are several new clinical psychology courses in Malaysia so it may be that some of them are more flexible.

  17. Thank you Dr . Universiti Sains Malaysia is currently offering part time masters in clinical psychology for 3 years. Need to think wisely which course to take clinical psychology or Industrial Organizational Psychology. Tough decision to make. Thanks once again for the guidance Dr. Take care.

  18. Dear Dr Dan, I’m from Malaysia. How do I become neuropsychologist in Malaysia ? I lack information about it. Please help me . Thank you

    • Hi Deena, there aren’t any Neuro-psychology courses in Malaysia. However, if you become a clinical psychologist you should be trained how to do neuropsychological assessments. You would then be qualified to use the neuropsychology tests but in order to use them well you’d need to spend more time training and practising the assessments. The challenge for neuropsychology in Malaysia is that we don’t have assessment tools developed for Malaysia. That means we have to use tools from the US or UK.

  19. Hi Dr, I am Suga, I did Industrial & Organisational Psychology for my Bachelor degree. Now i am continuing my Master’s in Psychological Medicine ( research mode). I’m thinking to continue my Phd in Clinical Psychology since i wanted to become a clinical psychologist. Is that possible Dr?

    • Hi Suga, it’s difficult to say without knowing more about your first degree and where you are planning to study. Different countries have different rules. If you’re staying in Malaysia then I think you should be fine (you only need to do a Masters to be qualified but I think some newer courses are now offering PhDs). However, you should check with the individual training courses if you’re not sure as they should be able to give you more information.

  20. I am about to complete my PhD in Counseling Psychology from the US and am curious as Malaysian who has lived in the US for almost 10 years, of what the prospects are for a Counseling Psychologist in Malaysia. I see much discussion about Clinical Psychology. It seems as though there may be a difference in definition of what Counseling Psych training is to me than it is to the Malaysian context? Not sure. Either way, I am curious to know what your thoughts are as you are in the field. Thanks!

    • Hi Baanu, you’re correct that there is much less reference to Counselling Psychologists in Malaysia. In the UK Counselling Psychologists who have a doctorate compete for the same jobs as Clinical Psychologists. In Malaysia the counselling profession arose first and created it’s own accrediting body etc. Clinical Psychology took longer to establish a professional body. The counselling body has more influence with the government and they understandably protect the term ‘counselling’. I’m not sure if it’s for this reason that Counselling Psychologists haven’t really emerged in Malaysia. People are either counsellers or clinical psychologists. That can make it a bit more difficult to explain your competencies if you are a counselling psychologist (but if you have qualifications from overseas I think it wouldn’t be a problem).

  21. Hi Dr. I am Annie. I am about to complete my Biomedicine degree. Can i do Masters in Psychology (Clinical Psychology) at USM after that?

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