What is Psychology ?

The word psychology comes from the Greek Logos (study, science) and Psukhê (soul). Literally speaking Psychology is “the study or the science of the soul”.
The Société Française de Psychologie (SFP) defines psychology as “the science that aims to understand the structure and functioning of mental activity and associated behaviours. As in any science, psychological knowledge is established through observation and experimentation.”

Psychology involves several areas of research:

  • Developmental Psychology

The study of the development and evolution of the mental and behavioural processes from the beginning to the end of life.

  • General psychology

The study of the major cognitive functions such as memory, reasoning, learning, categorization, emotion and action.

  • Neuropsychology

The study of mental and behavioural manifestations related to brain dysfunction or damage.

  • Psychopathology and Health Psychology

The study of mental disorders and of the psychological consequences of somatic diseases.

  • Social Psychology

The study of social interactions and representations.

  • Occupational Psychology

The study of human relationships related to the physical and social environment of work.

Why consult a clinical psychologist?

Although times change many people who suffer are reluctant to see a Psychologist. They think their difficulties are not serious enough for a consultation.

And yet… psychotherapy is for those whose desires do not correspond with the reality of their life. This prevents personal fulfilment. Psychotherapy is also to help people who feel overwhelmed by diffuse symptoms such as grief, depression, discontent, lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, social professional family or conjugal difficulties. Psychotherapy can help people with more specific symptoms such as phobias, panic attacks, compulsive disorders, sexual disorders, addiction or eating disorders.

It is rational to feel strong resistance to making the first appointment. It is not easy to recognize that we need help from a third party to understand and overcome our difficulties.

What are the differences of the « Psy’s » ?

In Hong Kong because of the lack of regulation, it is better to ensure your practitioner is:

  • A Psychiatrist declared on the list of registered Psychiatrists of the Medical Council (www.mchk.org.hk)
  • A Psychologist declared on the list of registered Clinical Psychologists with an independent or private practice (www.hkps.org.hk)

The Psychotherapist

Psychotherapists use a specific psychological method to help patients having issues. There are several psychotherapeutical orientations: analytical, humanistic, interactional and behavioural.
In France, there is no state-registered diploma of Psychotherapy. The law protects the title; only Psychologists and Psychiatrists can declare themselves Psychotherapists.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, law does not protect the title of Psychotherapist and there is no university training. So the title of “psychotherapist” can be use by Psychologists who offer psychotherapy services but also by anybody whether this person has an appropriate training or not.

The Psychologist

Psychologists have a state-registered diploma in Psychology.

They have a clinical function:

  • They can be psychotherapists supporting the development of the person
  • They can make diagnostic hypothesis

The training of Clinical Psychologists focuses on the study of the psyche, the understanding of human behaviour and the learning of techniques. Those techniques include for example psychological assessment to evaluate cognitive abilities and various aspects of personality. It also includes clinical interview to help patients understand and solve their personal difficulties.

Psychologists can work in a private practice or in various institutional settings such as hospitals, schools, prisons, courts or companies. They are full members of multidisciplinary teams. There aim is to contribute to changing individual and collective behaviours.

Most of the time, Psychologists also go through their own psychoanalysis with their therapist. It enables them to differentiate between their patients issues and their own.

The Société Française de Psychologie (SFP) adds that « regardless of personal commitment terms, the psychologist is an authentic relationship specialist, who works for mankind and with mankind, a responsible and competent professional, unique by the specificity of his intervention and plural by his creative force, his potential for adaptation and the diversity of his actions. »

In France, law protects the title of Psychologist. Only people who have the appropriate training can call themselves Psychologists.

In Hong Kong the title is not protected. As there is no legal requirement to work as a Psychologist, anybody can call themself a Psychologist. This is why patients must ensure that the Psychologist they meet has the appropriate training.The Hong Kong Psychological Society provides a list of registered Clinical Psychologists with an independent or private practice (www.hkps.org.hk). To get round this lack of regulation and better protect patients from a therapy malpractice, the HKPS ensures the qualification of those registered professionals.

The Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists have a state-registered diploma in Medicine. They are doctors specialised in the study and treatment of mental illnesses.

In France and in Hong Kong the title of Psychiatrist is regulated and protected by law. A list of registered Psychiatrist is available on the Medical Council of Hong Kong website (www.mchk.org.hk).

They take care of patients with various mental disorders. Those disorders often necessitate prescribing medication. Psychiatrists primarily specialised in treatment using drugs. But in France in addition to the psychopharmacological approach, Psychiatrists can also be psychotherapists. They can train in psychology to use different psychological methods and concepts to treat patients.

The Psychoanalyst

Psychoanalysts are Psychotherapists who use the analytical method to treat their patients. Psychoanalysis was founded by Freud. This method requires several years of analytical therapy for the patient. It aims to enhance the patient’s understanding of the meaning of their subconscious symptoms and behaviours.

Psychoanalysts must undergo several years of personal analytical therapy themselves; this is imperative to practice. On a weekly basis, they have to present to a supervisor a detailed report of the psychoanalysis they lead. Referring to a colleague controls and ensures the quality of work with patients.
Psychoanalysts don’t have a state-registered diploma and the title is not protected. This is why patients should ensure that their Psychoanalyst is also qualified as a Psychologist.