Psychology in the Philippines: A Profession on the Rise-A A +A
Thursday, September 26, 2013
“PSYCHOLOGY major? So, can you read my mind?” -- Questions such as these are still commonly encountered by psychology students and practitioners alike, who usually take such queries as either amusing or annoying, depending on how many times they’ve been asked such questions in a single day. The general public holds a number of interesting ideas as to what it means to be a practitioner in the field of psychology, and the view of the psychologist as the mind-reading psychic is just one of the still all-too-common false impressions of the field in current society.
Psychology, which is defined as “the study of human behavior and mental processes,” is a scientific discipline that vastly differs from other such nonscientific systems that also try to explain and predict human behavior, like telepathic mind reading, palmistry, and fortune telling. While not everyone is unaware as to the nature and scope of psychology as a scientific field of study, many people have little idea as to what psychologists actually do in a regular work day. Do they just observe human behavior, conduct research studies, make theories about how people think and act, and have nothing much to do with practical work and applications done in the real world? Do they simply sit in their private clinics and lend a patiently listening (paid-by-the-hour) ear to emotionally troubled people all day long?
This picture of the psychologist as a clipboard-bearing therapist jotting down notes while an upset individual pours out his or her personal problems is not too far off from what a number of psychologists specialize in—the practice of psychotherapy. But this image is not a complete picture of what the field of psychology truly encompasses. Clinical psychology, the specialty division mainly dealing with emotional, mental, and behavioral problems, is just one facet of the mosaic of psychology; there are many other subfields not necessarily involving the diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill or the therapy of the emotionally troubled. Psychologists can be found working in a wide variety of other areas such as education, research, business, advertising, law, sports, and other fields significant to the development and improvement of human life and health.
But if psychology is so wide-reaching and influential in almost all areas in life and across a person’s lifespan, why is its practice not as defined and known to the public as that of other professions, like medicine, nursing, engineering, or teaching? It’s safe to say that the general public has a pretty good idea of what a doctor, nurse, engineer or teacher does in any regular work day, and many people are aware that such professionals have passed licensure examinations to ensure that they are indeed competent and qualified to discharge the duties of their respective professions. But what’s the deal with psychologists? How can the public be assured that those psychologists who engage in psychological practice in general hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, counseling centers, and other venues are in fact knowledgeable, skilled and fit enough to provide competent, effective psychological services?
For many, many years past, psychology in the Philippines could not satisfactorily answer this question as strongly and soundly as it now can. Fortunately for psychologists and the general public alike, a new era of psychology in the Philippines has recently been ushered in by the signing of Republic Act 10029, which is also known as the Philippine Psychology Act of 2009 or simply the Psychology Law. Before the passing of this law, psychology in the Philippines was not a profession regulated by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC). Thus its standards of practice have not been as codified as those of other professions, and the attachment of the title “psychologist” has not been that regulated. But with the signing of the Psychology Law, the title “psychologist” has now become a legally protected job title, and only those who have passed the licensure exam for psychologists (except those eligible for registration without examination) and fulfilled the requirements set by the PRC for registration can rightfully take on the title of “professional psychologist.”
The Psychology Law obviously has huge impacts on the practice of psychology in the Philippines and thus concerns psychology practitioners in all its diverse areas, especially those engaging in clinical work. But what does the law mean for the general public—the individuals and groups to whom such psychological services are discharged? Why should it concern the rest of the Filipino people—or more to the point, should it?
Much as many of us wouldn’t dream of putting our health and safety on the line by undergoing medical treatment from some sloppy quack doctor not holding a valid license to practice medicine, so should we be not vulnerable to incompetent or untrained individuals engaging in psychological practice. The Psychology Law does not only work for the welfare of psychologists; more importantly, it’s for the good of the general public as well. It works to regulate and set the standards for the professional practice of psychology in the country, and by so doing protect the public from obtaining poor quality, substandard services from individuals unfit or unqualified to practice psychology.
“The main purpose of the law is to professionalize the practice once and for all. This will not only uplift the practice of psychology as a profession (after passing the board exam) but it will also give a concrete distinction as to what a psychometrician, a licensed psychologist, and a graduate of a Psychology degree can and cannot practice. The keyword, actually, is professionalization,” explains Mr. David Karlo I. Equipaje, OTRP, PhD (cand.), President of the Recoletos de Bacolod Graduate School (RBGS) Psychological Society.
The rule on the conduct of the licensure examinations for psychologists is just one stipulation of the Psychology Law. The law also delineates the scope of practice of psychology, the legal requirements and procedures for registration as a professional psychologist, and other important provisions that serve to define and regulate psychology as a profession in the Philippines. The PRC Board of Psychology has been going around the country conducting orientation briefings on the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Psychology Law, and this coming Saturday, September 28, an IRR Orientation Briefing is scheduled to be held at the Little Theater, University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos, from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.
“This IRR briefing on the Psychology Law is the first in Bacolod City and the entire province of Negros Occidental, so please come and join us as we listen to Dr. Imelda Virginia G. Villar, Member, Professional Regulatory Board of Psychology,” invites Mr. Calvin Dave D. Ganub, MSGC, RGC, Vice President of the RBGS Psychological Society.
The signing of the Philippine Psychology Act and the approval of its IRR mark the setting of the cornerstones of psychology as a legally protected profession. We are lucky to be currently witnessing the foundations of lawful, professional psychological practice being laid down right before our very eyes, and it would be interesting to see—and certainly a thing to watch out for—how it builds up to be the profession this country needs to assist it towards nation-building and progress. For psychology as a branch of learning offers valuable knowledge and insight into human behavior and mental processes, but as a profession it can do so much more to apply such knowledge and principles for the promotion of mental health, the eradication of the stigma of mental illness, and the maximal utilization of psychological knowhow for the betterment of the Filipino citizenry and the Philippines as a nation.
Again, the Psychology Law doesn’t concern only the psychologists, but the rest of the general public as well. After all, the understanding, improvement, and protection of mental health is not just the responsibility of mental health professionals, but the work of all. You and I, psychologist or non-psychologist, practitioners of the field and laypeople alike, let us see to it that the groundwork of this emerging field is stable, its cornerstones are strong, its builders dedicated, and the building well-designed and reliably constructed, so that all those who wish to enter, be sheltered, and avail of the services it offers shall be provided with the right kind of service they need and deserve.
Psychology as a profession in the Philippines is on the rise.
And indeed, it’s about time.
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For those interested in attending the upcoming Briefing on the IRR of the Philippine Psychology Law, it will be on Sept. 28 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Little Theater, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos. All psychology practitioners, guidance counselors, assessment and testing professionals, HR practitioners, graduate and undergraduate students of psychology are invited to attend. Registration fee for undergraduate psychology students is 200php; for professionals and MS/MA Psych students, 550php. For registration and more information, you may contact Mr. Ganub at (034) 433-2449 or 0999-994-6598. On-site registration is also welcome.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 26, 2013.