How safe is a psychologist “doctor”?

Lately with a number of cases surfacing where quacks are found practicing medicine, the seriousness of misuse of the title “doctor” is getting highlighted.

Unfortunately, this is common practice not just for quacks, it is very easy to play mischief with the professional title of “Dr.” as there is another loophole available for those who want to gain by cheating.

This easy-to-exploit loophole exists because the title bestowed for doing a PhD too is a “Doctor”, and we have far too many obscure “universities” where PhD can simply be procured by paying money.

While both titles are completely different; we have cosmetologists, nutrition experts and many others playing the smart game of getting a PhD on any random subject, often from a nondescript or even a fake university and using “Dr.” to create an image in public mind that they are qualified doctors.

This is made worse as we have various AYUSH-driven branches of ancient medicinal traditions that also get to reap advantage of claiming doctor-hood even though they all have traditional titles like Vaidya or Homeopath available!

But, of all the “doctor” title user non-allopathic practitioners, the one that needs our urgent attention is a rising number of “psychologists” who are proliferating today because when we are making a dangerous error of spreading awareness about mental health without having enough professionals to cater to the floodgates of demand such awareness can open up.

This issue needs urgent attention because a real allopathic doctor of mind/brain, i.e. a psychiatrist or a neurologist earns his/her title after a vigorous training of more than seven years and registration with Medical Council of India (now getting replaced by National Medical Commission), while a “psychologist” can be anybody from a smooth talking person to a distance learning certificate holder or a BA/MA in psychology.

As the title “psychologist” has no authority backing or checking it, any random person claiming it can start “treating patients”.

What makes it worse is that, of all the branches of medicine, the most complicated one is obviously related to the most complex organisation of our body, i.e. human brain. As we are still trying to understand how it works, treating mental problems is a task difficult, if not impossible.

So, when a person armed an Ayurveda qualification or even a BA and having a PhD starts (mis)using the title of “Doctor” and provides treatment for serious malaise like “depression” or “anxiety” that medical science itself is struggling with, they have potential to destroy lives.

If this is not enough, we have these “psychologists” turning into communicators and writing and speaking on clinical subjects that are best left to closed-door expert-meets of highly qualified professionals.

Armed with (mostly Freudian) theories, they bravely take up discussing “patients” that they have “diagnosed” and “cured” on public platforms (with or) without realising that the symptoms they describe are so common that they cause mass hypochondria.

While I do not deny that psychology is a recognised branch for dealing with mental issues, I see a dire need for the state to define the qualification and roll of its practitioners.

As I was just listening to one such “Doctor” psychologist telling the listeners how unconscious (sic) mind gets impacted by childhood experiences and how he cured anxiety, I am worried.

Let us understand that human mind essence of a human being. Allowing anyone to trifle with the serious job of curing it is worse than allowing a murder.

As it is very easy to push even a normal mind down the slippery path of self-doubt, those engaged in treating it must realise the seriousness of talking fast and loose about mental problems.

We need to curb our enthusiasm for spreading awareness about mental health, as we have very few properly qualified professionals and we have a lawless market of psychologists.

Hyper-awareness about mental health problem is a mistake made in past by developed nations too and they now have 10-15% of population on anti-depressants with no one really getting cured.

India can do let worse if such awareness is spread by self-styled psychologist “doctors”, as laypeople are not going to be able to see the difference.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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