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Stress management: Soaring jobs

As the year closes every time, lakhs of students tighten their belts to take on the initial most important examinations of their life – board examinations of class Xth and XIIth. It’s natural that the stress level of students rises, sometimes to unmanageable proportions. Clinical and counseling psychologists are ready with the answer.

Clinical and counseling psychologists deal with the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with psychological problems. These problems vary considerably as to their degree of severity. Although very similar, clinical and counseling psychologists differ with respect to the disorders of the patients they treat. Typically, clinical psychologists treat more severe disorders, such as phobias, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. On the other hand, counseling psychologists work with patients suffering from everyday stresses, including career planning, academic performance, and marriage and family difficulties.

Modus operandi

Clinical and counseling psychologists can be found working in individual practices, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, and other mental health facilities. The particular method of therapy utilized by each clinical and counseling psychologist is often influenced by the theoretical orientation they adhere to. There are a total of over 200 theoretical orientations, each providing a different explanation behind the causes of psychological disorders and their appropriate treatments. Some orientations are more popular than others; however, most psychologists integrate two or more into their therapy. Furthermore, some theoretical orientations are better at explaining and treating certain disorders more than others. Regardless of their orientation preference, clinical and counseling psychologists are trained to assist a variety of individuals and their emotional difficulties.

The number game

There are more than 3000 qualified psychiatrists, 500 clinical psychologists, 300 psychiatric social workers and about 600 trained psychiatric nurses in the country. The per-capita practicing psychiatrists works out to be one psychiatrist per 4,50,000 people, approximately.

In lieu of the tragedy involving death of 25 mentally ill persons in Erwadi, government ordered to establish Mental Health Authority (MHA) entrusted with the task of issuing licences to psychiatric nursing homes. The MHA also directed that all psychiatric nursing homes anywhere in the country must have at least one registered clinical psychologist on its premises. The Registration Number issued by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) on the pattern of the licence issued to doctors by the Medical Council of India has to be renewed every seven years.

Some time ago, an RCI manpower assessment report had estimated that we need to produce at least 200 registered clinical psychologists every year but our current output is only 20.

The consequence is that nearly two to three clinical psychologist posts are lying vacant at the 45 licensed psychiatrist hospitals in the country, and at least 50 per cent of the 1/3 occupied posts are filled by non-qualified people.

Where to study

IHBAS started two-year M.Phil. programme in Clinical Psychology two years ago, recognised by RCI, and the response has been so good that last year 125 students appeared for the entrance test to contest for the 12 stipendiary seats that IHBAS has. The institute offers a stipend of Rs. 5,000 per month to every student who is inducted into this programme. This stipend provision exists at the other two, nationally recognized institutes, as well, namely, the Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP), Ranchi and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science (NIMHANS), Bangalore. All three institutes offer M.Phil. programmes in Clinical Psychology.

Clinical experience is, however, very important in counselling. That’s why RCI rules mandate that any institute offering a degree, diploma or certificate course in counselling must also have an Out Patient Department (OPD) and that nearly 70 per cent of a student’s curriculum must be practice-oriented and only 30 per cent be theory related.

Besides, the three institutes, that offer degree programmes mentioned here, there are several others that offer Diploma courses (such as those offered by a few Regional Centres of the National Council of Education Research and Training or NCERT and more recently by Jamia Millia Islamia) as well as certificate courses, but not all meet all the quality parameters laid down by the RCI. Perhaps the profession is still too young in India for it to be totally regulated.

Entry requirement

The minimum educational requirement for admission to an M.Phil programme anywhere in India is an MA/M.Sc degree in Psychology with a minimum of 55 per cent marks in aggregate, preferably with a special paper in clinical Psychology. Some institutes also insist on a two-year clinical experience.

The career scope

The scope in this profession is tremendous, not just in the government sector with all the licensed psychiatrist nursing homes but also with schools, the disability and the non-governmental sector. Clinical psychologists can also specialize as marital counselors. For every 5,000 psychiatrists in the country, we only have 500 clinical psychologists.

The bottom line is that clinical psychology, as an applied branch of psychology is a very young profession in India. At present, there are over 600 clinical psychologists working in the country but the field is fast expanding and so will the career scope of people working in this sector.

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