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PG psychologists without RCI numbers or MPhil being hired to fulfill demand

New Delhi: With the increased attention that mental wellbeing is getting amid this pandemic, many clinical psychologists in India have now been complaining about a steep rise in cases of duping, misguidance, and quack therapists, who are not only inducing trauma among patients but also aggravating people's clinical disorders.

Member Secretary of the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI), Dr Subodh Kumar has said, "We have been receiving over a hundred emails a week regarding duping and misguidance. And we have been sending legal notices to such organisations or practitioners."

Psychologists working with various institutions and hospitals suggest that the primary factor leading to such mishandling of patients is a lack of awareness among people. This is leading to a rise in clinics run by self-proclaimed psychologists, counsellors or therapists without proper qualification and registration.

Dr Kumar said, "We have issued our guidelines for the public clarifying that psychologists with MPhil and RCI registration numbers are clinical psychologists and are capable of dealing with clinically ill patients."

As demands for psychologists are rising, many leading online portals, too, are hiring psychologists with postgraduate degrees, who are now also assessing and diagnosing patients, despite legislation, circulars, guidelines and notices prohibiting such practices. As per the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, a clinical psychologist with an MPhil and RCI registration is capable of diagnosing and assessing clinical disorders.

Upasana Ravinder and Vartika Modi both clinical psychologists from Delhi said that counselling psychologists with postgraduate degrees can deal with day to day issues but are not qualified to take up serious disorders. They are putting patients at risk as the chances of discrepancy in diagnosis and assessment is very high, they said.

Various online mental healthcare portals have insisted that their focus was "customer satisfaction" and in order to go around the regulations, they either put these postgraduates through their own training programmes or simply refer patients to another therapist.

Indian Association of Clinical Psychology president, Dr Kalpana Srivastava, said, "Clinical psychologists are regulated by RCI, however, similar regulatory bodies/mechanisms are necessary for other related disciplines."

Dr Jamuna Rajeswaran, Additional Professor and Head of Clinical Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology Unit, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences focused on the need for a proper regulatory body or a singular body under which all departments of psychology can be defined and differentiated according to their roles which may help in curbing the issue.

Both the RCI and IACP have a list of psychologists with RCI numbers on their websites, whom people can consult and book sessions free of charge.

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