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  • Writer's pictureAustin Aloysius Tay

Be Gone – ‘Pseudo Practitioners’

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

In most professions, there is a governing body to ensure its practitioners do not veer away from their professional standards and practice. For example, a certified public accountant cannot be called one if the individual did not pass the examination. Similarly, lawyers need to pass all relevant examinations before they can practice. The rules and regulations laid down by these governing bodies do mean that should there be malpractice by its members, the public can seek redress. Sadly such protection only deals with registered practitioners with these governing bodies. How can the public protect themselves from unregistered, unqualified practitioners?

In my work area, I have encountered many practitioners who will claim to be something they are not. I like to call them the ‘pseudo practitioners. Like most professions, there are strands of expertise within that profession, for example, lawyers who specialise in corporate law or criminal law. Similarly, psychologists are categorised by expert areas such as clinical, counselling, industrial organisational/occupational, educational, social etc.

While I cannot speak for my colleagues in other areas of psychological expertise, I can explicitly say that infiltration by ‘pseudo practitioners’ is common. Let me clarify. There are 2 types of infiltrators: those with a first degree in psychology and a few years of experience working in business consulting and experts in other forms of psychology who work in a business context. The first type of infiltrators is common in Singapore as the requirements in the Singapore Psychological Society (SPS) differ from those of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the Hong Kong Psychological Society (HKPS). SPS only has 6 sub-categories of membership: student, affiliate, associate, full, fellow and life. It does not have a divisional membership.

This means that SPS will have difficulty monitoring what its members are practising. Why is that so? Its requirements to be a member in any of the categories are not comparable to those of BPS, APA, APS and HKPS. Ironically, SPS, on its website, posted the notice below

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Membership in SPS does not imply that one is qualified to practice psychology in Singapore.

In Singapore, an individual who has finished a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology can call herself a psychologist. This I believe, is wrong, and I can imagine how frustrated those who are trained as psychologists are to have these pseudo-practitioners infiltrating into their profession, providing unsound advice to the public and using unethical practices.

For BPS, APA, APS and HKPS, to be a member of the occupational or industrial organisational division, an individual must have a Master’s degree. (N.B. the use of Occupational Psychologist in the UK is now a protected title governed by the Health & Care Professional Council –

In Hong Kong, an individual can be registered as a psychologist if one fulfils the criteria delineated by the Society. However, they will not be accepted into the 4 main divisions: Clinical, Educational, Counselling and Industrial Organisational if they do not have a Masters in those specific areas of expertise. So while individuals can use the registered title, (Reg. Psychol), they are not allowed to use the adjectival clause if they do not possess a Master’s degree in those specific areas such as Reg. Psychol (I/O Psych)

Please note that anyone with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology can be a student or graduate member of any psychological association and society, but that does not mean they are automatically experts in the area they claim they are in. You can easily check their credentials either on LinkedIn or their memberships in professional bodies or check with the university where they acquired their degree. For example, an individual with a Bachelor’s degree in composition of journalism and psychology does not qualify to call herself an Occupational Psychologist. (N.B. ‘Occupational Psychologist’ is a protected title in the UK. Although BPS has no control over ‘pseudo practitioners’ using the title outside the UK, it is fraudulent for an individual to misrepresent herself as an Occupational Psychologist when she is not).

The second type of infiltrator is even more insidious. These people are trained in other forms of psychology and decide to infiltrate occupational or industrial organisational psychology. For example, someone with a Master’s degree in sports psychology and 6 years of working in business consulting does not qualify to call himself an occupational industrial organisational or business psychologist. This is because he does not have the qualifications, and in working in a business environment, understanding assessment still does not magically make one an occupational or industrial organisational psychologist.

Why the fuss? Well, these psuedo practitioners, who are not trained, in providing talent management services, will likely not follow the right procedures and break all codes of practice. Because of this, their recipient will receive sub-standard services, which can be detrimental to individuals going through selection, assessment and development. Unfortunately, in Asia, while we wait for legislation to be in place to ensure these pseudo-practitioners are stopped, we can only stay vigilant and call them out when we encounter them.

P.S. Video courtesy of Youtube


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