Clinical psychologists: The future of mental health care in Malaysia


DESPITE clinical psychology being a very young profession in Malaysia, it does not mean the service is not needed by people.

Conversations surrounding mental health – once considered taboo – are steadily making their way to mainstream platforms through various efforts in awareness campaigns and psychoeducation.

Clinical psychologists in Malaysia, despite being few in numbers, play irreplaceable significant roles in providing assessment and treatment of psychological disorders.Clinical psychologists in Malaysia, despite being few in numbers, play irreplaceable significant roles in providing assessment and treatment of psychological disorders.

However, despite the widespread awareness of mental health and psychological illness, coupled with the increased psychological impacts during the pandemic, Malaysia faces another problem – we are not only lacking in mental health facilities and tools, but also trained professionals of the field.

To date, Malaysia records about 300 clinical psychologists registered as full members with the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP), but only around 200 are actively seeing clients.

We are at the ratio of clinical psychologist and Malaysian population of 1:980, 000, when the ideal ratio is 1:5, 000.

Clinical psychologists in Malaysia, despite being few in numbers, play irreplaceable significant roles in providing assessment and treatment of psychological disorders for all age groups in public and private settings.

Sadly, some aspiring professionals and even the general public are overly bounded by the perception that “the grass is always greener on the other side” – speculating that overseas trained professionals would usually provide better consultation and care.

What is often overlooked when learning and treating local clients is cross-cultural suitability, to fundamentally provide care with utmost precision that is sensitive to local ethics, practices and cultures.

Being a culturally competent practitioner can lead to more effective treatment outcomes.

Taylor’s University has launched a new postgraduate programme in clinical psychology to address the rising need for mental health specialists able to provide care and comfort that bind to local cultures and sensitivities.

This, in turn, ensures trained graduates are ready to play an indispensable role in providing mental health care in Malaysia with aligned societal expectations, needs and cultural sensitivity.

Taylor’s Master of Clinical Psychology adopts the scientist-practitioner model, allowing academics to focus on training students in clinical psychology to be both a scientist and a practitioner.

Local academics and industry experts imparted their expertise and experience when developing this programme, all with the vision and mission to produce competent clinical psychologists.

With Taylor’s Centre for Human Excellence and Development (CHED) – Malaysia’s and South-East Asia’s first artificial intelligence (AI) powered research facility for mental health and behavioural sciences – the country’s mental health care infrastructures are bound for progress into the next frontier of psychology study using AI technology that can produce tangible data and result to contribute to better understanding of psychological abnormalities, diagnoses and treatments.

The lab comes with 13 facetracking cameras, a virtual reality interface, an eye-tracker, brain-wave scanners, and an emotion recognition software.

During an observational or experimental study, the cameras can track and capture expressions and gestures of multiple participants at the same time, and simultaneously transmit the data to the emotion recognition software for analysis and visualisation.

Paired with the eye-tracker and brain-wave scanner, we can capture gaze and eye movement, as well as brain wave activity of the participants when exposed to different stimuli.

The holistic nature of the programme will provide students the added advantage for employment in future, while addressing the needs of the current market – closing the gaps to serve the community and answering the call of Malaysia’s national mental health policy.

From a career in research and academia, or even as a practitioner, this well-rounded education model hopes to bring impactful change in a psychology graduate, starting with the right programme.

Taylor’s University School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Master of Clinical Psychology programme director Dr Lim Hooi Shan: ‘Together, we can be the future clinical psychologists that revolutionise mental health care in Malaysia.’Taylor’s University School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Master of Clinical Psychology programme director Dr Lim Hooi Shan: ‘Together, we can be the future clinical psychologists that revolutionise mental health care in Malaysia.’

Dr Lim Hooi Shan, Taylor’s University School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Master of Clinical Psychology programme director, says: “I look forward to seeing more well-trained clinical psychologists in Malaysia, embarking on their specialist professions in clinical psychology either as a scientist, or a practitioner, or even both, like me.

“Together, we can be the future clinical psychologists that revolutionise mental health care in Malaysia.”

This article was contributed by Dr Lim Hooi Shan. Join Taylor's University Postgraduate Week this July 10 and 11. For more information, go to https://bit.ly/3jAP6kG.

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