Psych Bill FAQs
The PAP President answers FAQs about the Psych Bill
(by Allan B. I. Bernardo, PAP President)
What is PAP doing about the Psych Bill?
In previous years the PAP has filed the Psych Bill in Congress, and in the previous session of the Lower House the Psych Bill was discussed at the committee level where comments were raised by various stakeholders. Some comments raised alternatives to the PAP proposed provisions in the Psych Bill, and were duly noted by the PAP. Unfortunately, the Bill did not prosper further in Congress and was not passed.
This year, the PAP is intensifying its efforts to have the Psych Bill passes in both houses of Congress during the current session, in response to the need to protect the practice of professional psychologists that has been put at risk by the current provisions of the IRR of the Guidance Act, and also consistent with the PAP mission to promote the professionalization of Psychology in the Philippines.
In particular, the PAP will be pushing for a revision that embodies the consensus position of the PAP that attempts to accommodate many of the concerns within the various sectors of the Psychology Committee?
How was the consensus position arrived at? What is stated in the consensus position?
As the Psych Bill has been proposed for over 25 years now, the PAP has heard the different and even opposing positions raised by various sectors, which sometimes seemed irresolvable. In most recent years, the main points of contention are (a) whether to license only clinical psychologists or all psychologists, (b) what should be the minimum educational degree requirement for licensure.
The positions on the two related points were often intertwined. Those who argue that only clinical psychologists should be licensed proposed that a Master’s degree should be the minimum. Those who argue that all psychologists should be licensed propose that a Bachelor’s degree should be sufficient. The PAP has been sensitive to the arguments for and against the counter positions.
In February 4, an unprecedented meeting was help with thirteen PAP Presidents attending. The thirteen Presidents formed an ad hoc council that discussed important issued related to the professionalization of psychology, including the prospects for the psychology bill. During this meeting, various counterarguments were proposed.
Finally, it was agreed that the PAP will push for a compromise consensus position that the Psych Bill will not only cover clinical psychologists. Instead the Psych Bill will cover all psychologists who will render higher level psychological services to the public (counseling, psychotherapy, assessment), and as such, should require at least a master’s degree to qualify for licensure. The consensus position reaffirmed the current provisions for licensing bachelor’s degree holders as psychometricians.
Why focus on only those providing counseling, psychotherapy and assessment services?
The Philippine government creates laws to regulate certain professions because the states wants to ensure that only qualified individuals render professional services to target clients. Thus, laws to regulate the profession ultimately seek to safeguard the welfare of the public from possible unqualified professionals.
With this perspective, the government does not regulate all professions; instead, it only regulates those professions which, if unregulated, might put the public at risk.
For example, the sick need to be safeguarded from unqualified physicians, nurses, and medical technologists, etc. The public needs to be protected from unqualified civil engineers who may construct buildings and bridges, etc.
However, the government has not sought to regulate professional historians, physicists, mathematicians, economists, sociologists, political scientists, environmental scientists, computer scientists, journalists, politicians, poets, composers, and other similar professions. Why? Because the practice of these professions does not pose any imminent threats or dangers to the public. Thus, there is no need to safeguard the interest of the public from unqualified professionals in these fields. The government assumes that these professions will regulate themselves in order to protect the integrity of the specific professions.
The profession of psychology is very broad and involves diverse functions. We call ourselves many different names under different specializations. Some of us render psychological services, which if not provided for properly, may cause harm to our clients. On the other hand, some of us render psychological services which do not pose any risks to our target clients. Thus, the Psych Bill seeks to regulate only those psychologists who provide counseling, psychotherapy and assessment services.
What about those doing in the appearing court to give expert witness testimony? Will they be covered in the Psych Bill?
Yes, definitely. Psychologists who appear in court to provide expert witness testimony based on psychological assessment will need to be licensed because they render at least one of the psychological services defined in the Psych Bill. Thus, psychologists who call themselves Forensic Psychologists in the Philippine context (n.b., forensic psychology means something very different in other countries) should be licensed under the Psych Bill.
What about those doing I/O psychology, or those working in industry? Will they be covered in the Psych Bill?
It depends on whether they provide counseling, psychotherapy and psychological assessment services. If they do, then they should be licensed under the Psych Bill. Otherwise, they do not need to.
What about other psychologists who have MA’s and PhD’s in psychology but who do not provide counseling, psychotherapy and assessment services?
According to the consensus version of the Psych Bill, they do not need to be licensed if they do not provide counseling, psychotherapy and assessment services.
Trained social psychologists, developmental psychologists, experimental psychologists, and psychologists who do not provide counseling, psychotherapy and assessment services do not pose any threats to the wellbeing of their clients, and thus, do not need to be regulated.
Note, however, that if an MA in Child Psychology wants to provide therapy for children and to engage in psychological assessment of children, that person should be licensed under the Psych Bill.
Why can’t the Psych Bill be like Medicine and license “general practitioners”?
There is no “general practice” in psychology. In the Philippine and in other countries, there is no clearly defined set of professional services that ALL psychologists can provide. In international forums that seek to define the common core functions and competencies of psychologists, the only common competencies agreed upon relate to the general knowledge and use of psychological theories to understand human behavior, and the ability to apply such knowledge in various domains. There is also no acknowledgement that such general functions actually pose possible harm or threats to any particular sector of the public.
In the absence of a clear definition of the competencies and functions of a general practitioner in psychology, and in the absence of any apparent threat posed by vague statements of competencies and functions, it does not make sense to license psychologists as general practitioners.
Why doesn’t the Psych Bill seek to provide licenses to all those who have advanced degrees in psychology?
The Philippine government regulates particular professions to ensure that all practitioners of the profession are qualified and to protect the public from unqualified persons who seek to render professional services. The regulation of professions is not supposed to be a credentialing of academic degrees. The government has different systems and processes for ensuring the quality of academic degrees (i.e., through the CHED). Thus, there is no clear and compelling need for the government to license all master’s degree holders in psychology.
Wouldn’t requiring a Master’s degree mean that those with BA or BS Psych cannot get work?
Completely false. BA/BS Psychology graduates get work in a variety of professions after they graduate. A good number get jobs in industry working in the HR department. They can be licensed as psychometricians under the Psych Bill and can continue to prosper in such careers. Some work in psychology clinics, hospitals, schools doing basic testing functions, and they too, can be licensed as psychometricians under the psych bill and do their work in these settings. Many other BA/BS psychology graduates take on jobs that are not related to psychology at all (i.e., they start a business, work in management positions, call center agencies, research and consulting firms, training centers, etc.); these jobs do not require any license. Some BA/BS psychology graduates take on jobs in professions that require licenses (i.e., teaching in elementary and high schools, guidance and counseling in schools). Some BA/BS psychology graduates use their bachelor’s degree as a preparatory course for another profession, which has its own licensing systems (e.g., medicine, law). Thus, the requirement of a master’s degree to be a licensed psychologist will in no way limit the job opportunities of BA/BS Psych graduates.
However, the requirement of a master’s degree will prevent BA/BS Psych graduates from taking jobs that will allow them to do counseling, psychotherapy, and advanced psychological assessment services.
How are professional psychologists regulated in other countries? Will the provisions of the Psych Bill allow for mutual recognition of psychologists?
In the United States, only clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, and school psychologists are licensed by different state boards (see e.g. http://www.asppb.org, http://www.psychologyinfo.com/license.html, and http://www.psychologyinfo.com/psych.htm). The minimum degree requirement is a PhD. All other types of psychologists are not required to be licensed.
In the United Kingdom, the British Psychological Society has been authorized by the Crown to maintain the Registry of Chartered Psychologists to protect the public (see http://www.bps.org.uk/membership/grades/chartered_psy.cfm). The Registry covers only psychologists who provide direct services to individuals or groups. In particular, it only includes, clinical, counseling, forensic, sport, educational, and health psychologists, and requires post-graduate training (i.e., Master’s level) in psychology. Similar requirements are in place in most other Commonwealth states (e.g., Australia, New Zealand, etc.)
In 2005, all member countries of the European Union adopted common guidelines for the European Certificate of Psychology which regulates the practice of applied psychologists in the clinical, educational, and industrial settings, who render the following six basic services: goal specification, assessment, development, intervention, evaluation, and communication (see http://www.europsy.eu.com/register). A Master’s degree or equivalent is required for all certified psychologists. All other psychologists are not included in the certification system.
In Singapore, also maintains a Register of Psychologists, which include only qualified applied psychologists and for which the minimum academic requirement is the Master’s degree (see http://www.singaporepsychologicalsociety.org). Psychologists working in non-applied field, and who do not render direct psychological services to individuals and groups are not required to be registered.
Generally, the provisions of the Psych Bill are consistent with the professional requirements of the above countries. Thus, there is a good chance that those that will be licensed under the Psych Bill can enjoy mutual recognition in said countries.
However, we should be noted that for all the countries cited above, an intensive supervised internship is required beyond the Master’s or Doctoral degree. This additional requirement might not be explicitly complied with in the Psych Bill, thus these foreign countries might look for additional requirements beyond the government licensure specified under the psychology bill.
We should further note that if the Philippine grants licenses for psychologists for Bachelor’s degree holders, such a license will definitely not be recognized by other countries at it fall way below their minimum requirements.
The PAP aims to keep its members and other Philippine psychologists updated about developments regarding the Psych Bill. If you and your colleagues have other questions about the Psych Bill, please send an email to email@example.com and the PAP will do its best to answer.