Singapore Psychologists Seek Regulation and Recognition Amid Mental Health Push

mental health psychologists singapore

As Singapore intensifies its efforts to improve mental health services, psychologists nationwide advocate for better regulation and formal recognition of their profession. This call for change emerges in light of the government’s plans to augment the cadre of psychologists in the public sector, a strategic move aimed at bolstering the national mental health infrastructure.

The push for regulatory oversight comes amidst grievances from private practitioners who felt constrained by the Healthcare Services Act (HCSA) implemented in 2023. Under the Act, psychologists are barred from using the term “treatment” in their advertisements and must explicitly state that they are not medical doctors. This mandate has sparked discontent among mental health professionals in the field.

The Singapore Psychological Society (SPS), along with other psychologists and observers, argues that a formal regulatory framework would not only elevate the standards of practice but also instil robust safeguards within the profession. Such a framework would entail the establishment of a professional body, ensuring accountability among practitioners.

The Impact of Current Regulations

Recent updates to the HCSA have restricted psychologists from purporting to “treat” any ailment. ‘Treat’ is a term that the Ministry of Health (MOH) interprets as claims of treating a physical condition. Furthermore, individuals holding a PhD or doctorate must clarify in advertisements that their “Dr” title does not signify a medical or dental qualification. These rules aim to enhance transparency and prevent public misinterpretation of healthcare service advertisements.

Despite the intention behind these regulations, the psychological community expresses concerns that such restrictions might inadvertently undermine the perceived efficacy of psychological therapy. Principal clinical psychologists Sanveen Kang and Dr Shawn Ee, among others, emphasise that psychological interventions play a critical role in treating mental health conditions and should not be undervalued.

Calls for Regulation and Public Education

The SPS proactively communicated the changes the HCSA brought about CSA to its members. However, the society’s 700 registered psychologists, especially the 174 with doctorate degrees, have voiced dissatisfaction with the new advertising constraints. They argue that these limitations may impede the public’s understanding of the valuable treatments psychologists provide. It could, therefore, potentially deter individuals from seeking psychological support.

In response to these challenges, the psychological community is advocating for more public education on the role and work of psychologists. Such efforts would help demystify the profession and clarify the distinct yet complementary roles in mental health care. Additionally, there are ongoing discussions with MOH representatives to reconsider the use of “treatment” of psychologists’ psychologists’ advertisements, acknowledging the evidence-based interventions they offer.

Towards a Collaborative and Regulated Future

The call for a regulatory framework for psychologists resonates with broader initiatives to enhance mental health services in Singapore. By establishing clear standards and accountability mechanisms, regulation could prevent unqualified individuals from practising. Subsequently, it would ensure high-quality care for those in need. As Singapore continues to expand its mental health workforce, integrating regulated psychological services will be crucial in addressing the complex needs of the community.

As the nation advances its mental health agenda, the collaboration between government bodies, professional societies, and practitioners will bvitaley in crafting a cohesive and effective mental health ecosystem. Through regulation, recognition, and public education, Singapore can pave the way for a future where psychological services are valued and accessible and improve its citizens’ overall health and well-being.

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