In most profession, there is a governing body to ensure its practitioners do not veer away from their professional standards and practice. For example, a certified public accountant cannot be called one if the individual did not pass the examination. Similarly, lawyers need to pass all relevant examinations before they can practice. The rules and regulations lay down by these governing bodies do mean that should there be malpractice by its members, the public is able to seek redress. Sadly such protection only deals with practitioners who are registered with these governing bodies. How then can the public protect themselves from those who are not registered, not qualified practitioners?
In my area of work, I have encountered a lot of practitioners who will claim to be something they are not. I like to call them the ‘pseudo practitioners. Like most professions, there are strands of expertise within that profession, for example, lawyers who specialise in corporate law or criminal law. Similarly, psychologists are categorised by expert areas such as clinical, counselling, industrial organisational/occupational, educational, social etc.
While I cannot speak for my colleagues in other areas of psychological expertise, I can explicitly say that in my area of expertise, infiltration by ‘psuedo practitioners’ is common. Let me clarify. There are 2 types of infiltrators: those who have a first degree in psychology and have a few years of experience working in business consulting and those who are actually experts in other forms of psychology who happen to work in a business context. The first type of infiltrators is common in Singapore as the requirements in the Singapore Psychological Society (SPS) differ from that of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the Hong Kong Psychological Society (HKPS). SPS only has 6 sub-categories of membership: student, affiliate, associate, full, fellow and life, it does not have divisional membership.
This means that SPS will have a difficult time to monitor what its members are practising. Why is that so? Looking at its requirements to be a member in any of the categories, they are not comparable to that of BPS, APA, APS and HKPS. Ironically, SPS in its website posted the notice below
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Membership in SPS does not in itself imply that one is qualified to practice psychology in Singapore.
In reality, in Singapore, an individual who has finished a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology can call herself a psychologist. This I believe is wrong and I can imagine how frustrated those who are actually trained as psychologists are to have these pseudo practitioners infiltrating into their profession providing unsound advice to the public and using unethical practices.
For BPS, APA, APS and HKPS, to be a member of the occupational or industrial organisational division, an individual is required to have a Master’s degree. (N.B. the use of Occupational Psychologist in the UK is now a protected title governed by the Health & Care Professional Council – http://www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/protectedtitles/
In Hong Kong, an individual can be registered as a psychologist if one fulfils the criteria delineated by the Society. However, they will not be accepted into the 4 main divisions: Clinical, Educational, Counselling and Industrial Organisational if they do not have a Masters in those specific areas of expertise. So while individuals can use the registered title, (Reg. Psychol) they are not allowed to use the adjectival clause if they do not possess a Master’s degree in those specific areas such as Reg. Psychol (I/O Psych)
Please note that anyone who has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology can be a student or graduate member of any psychological association and societies but that does not mean that they are automatically expert in the area they claimed they are in. You can easily check their credentials either on LinkedIn or their memberships in professional bodies or check with the university they acquired their degree. For example, if an individual has a Bachelor’s degree with the composition of journalism and psychology, that does not qualify her to call herself as an Occupational Psychologist. (N.B. ‘Occupational Psychologist’ is a protected title in the UK. Although BPS has no control over ‘pseudo practitioners’ using the title outside the UK, it is fraudulent for an individual to misrepresent herself as an Occupational Psychologist when she is not).
The second type of infiltrators is even more insidious. These are people who are trained in other forms of psychology and decide to infiltrate to occupational or industrial organisational psychology. For example, someone who has a Master’s degree in sports psychology who has 6 years of working in business consulting does not qualify him to call himself an occupational or industrial organisational or business psychologist. This is because he does not have the qualification and in working in a business environment, understanding about assessment still does not magically make one an occupational or industrial organisational psychologist.
Why the fuss? Well, these pseudo practitioners, who are not trained, providing talent management services are likely to be not following the right procedures and breaking all code of practices. Because of this, their recipient will receive sub-standard services as a result and can be detrimental to individuals who are going through selection, assessment and development. Unfortunately in Asia, while we wait for legislation to be in place to ensure these pseudo practitioners are stopped, we can only stay vigilant and call them out when we encounter them.
P.S. Video courtesy of Youtube