What are the differences between a Registered Counsellor, Clinical Psychologist, and Psychiatrist?

Counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists all undergo many years of extensive formal training. The basic difference is the focus of the training they have received. As they are all related to mental health the terms therapist, psychologist, counsellor, and psychiatrist often get used interchangeably, but there are important distinctions between them. This table below highlights the similarities and differences between these different mental health professions.
Descriptions Registered Counsellor Clinical Psychologist Psychiatrist (Medical Doctor)
Academic background Bachelor in Counselling OR Master Degree in Counselling Bachelor in Psychology AND Master in Clinical Psychology Bachelor in Medicine AND Master of Medicine (Psychiatry)
Accreditation Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia Allied Health Professions Act 2016 & Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP) Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) & Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA)
Professional responsibility Helping people deal with life adjustment and personal issues. (e.g. academic, relationship, grief & loss) Provide clinical assessment, diagnosis and psychotherapy treatment of psychological dysfunctions. (e.g. IQ Test, OCD, learning disabilities) Provides diagnosis and treatment of a physical and mental disorder. (e.g. major depressive disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia)
Important note Do not provide clinical diagnosis nor prescribe medicine Do not prescribe medicine More often choose to prescribe medication
Where to get help? IUMW Counselling Unit (free) Private counselling centre (from RM 80/session) IUMW partner private psychology centre:
  • Government hospital (from RM 5)
  • Private hospital/clinic (RM 200-300/session, not including medicine)

Psychiatry Clinic: Referral Process

Government Hospital Private Hospital
Get a general consultation and referral letter from university counsellor
Get a clinical consultation and referral letter from General Practitioner at a private clinic or Klinik Kesihatan
Bring the referral letter, and set an appointment at Psychiatry Clinic
Come on the day. Get a consultation from a Psychiatrist. **Proceed to Emergency Department for emergency case (intense suicidal ideation)
Referral for blood tests or Psychotherapy
Come on your next appointment date
Call or schedule an appointment online at Psychiatry Clinic **referral letter is not required
Come on the day. Get a consultation from a Psychiatrist. **Private hospitals in Malaysia do not handle suicide emergency cases.
Come on your next appointment date