A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional with training in the diagnosis and psychological treatment of mental, behavioral and emotional illnesses. However, unlike a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist does not have a medical degree and therefore, cannot prescribe medicines.
Further, the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 defines a clinical psychologist as a person having:
- A recognized qualification in Clinical Psychology from an institution approved and recognized by the Rehabilitation Council of India, or
- A postgraduate degree in Psychology or Clinical Psychology or Applied Psychology and a Master of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology or Medical and Social Psychology after completing a full time course of two years. This should include supervised clinical training from any University recognized by the University Grants Commission and approved and recognized by the Rehabilitation Council of India.
Clinical Psychologists come under the broad category of Rehabilitation Professionals. For instance, this includes other professions such as audiologists, speech therapists etc. The Rehabilitation Council of India maintains a register of all the registered rehabilitation professionals in India. You can search for details of clinical psychologists here.
Given below are some of the duties of a clinical psychologist:
A clinical psychologist should not:
- Solicit any person with disabilities, directly or indirectly. This includes advertisements, circulars, hand-bills etc. However, clinical psychologists can formally announce through the press about starting/resumption of practice, change of practice, change of address, winding up of practice, and temporary absence from practice.
- Display qualifications on the sign board, letter head pad, prescription slip, visiting card, certificate, report and other documents that carry the psychologist’s signature. The Registration Certificate should also be fixed in the place of practice, in a clearly visible manner.
- Not undertake practice in any field other than the psychologist’s field of specialization.
Fee and Payment
Clinical psychologists should not charge an exorbitant fee. Also, a psychologist should not enter into a deal of ‘No payment, no cure’.
Details of Patients
Clinical psychologists should maintain a register of the details of patients, prescriptions issued, fees charged etc.
Moreover, clinical psychologists have the duty to maintain confidentiality. This includes keeping the information about their patient’s mental health, mental healthcare treatment, and physical healthcare confidential.
Treatment and Care of Patients
A clinical psychologist should undertake rehabilitation or treatment of people with disabilities at regular and required intervals, or the proper time. However, they should not:
- Exaggerate the course of disease or the gravity of the condition of any person with disability.
- Indulge in any indecent activity or have any improper relations.
- Make use of harsh and rough language with any person with disability.
- Take undue advantage of the condition of a person with disability.
- Intentionally and knowingly neglect any person with disability.
- Avail or attempt to avail any benefit meant for people with disability.
Violation of these duties will qualify as misconduct and can make a psychologist liable to disciplinary proceedings by the Rehabilitation Council of India.
Psychologists have to follow a code of conduct adopted by the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists to ensure that they are responsible for every patient’s health.
You can complain to multiple forums regarding the misconduct of clinical psychologists. The violation of any of the general duties of a psychologist can be grounds to take action against them. Some of the forums include:
Rehabilitation Council of India
The Rehabilitation Council of India is the forum that oversees the work of a clinical psychologist. You can lodge a complaint against a professional on the ground of ‘Professional Misconduct’. The Council can order the removal of a psychologist’s name from the register of Rehabilitation Professionals (permanently or for a specified period of time), if found guilty.
State Commissioner of Disability/ Chief Commissioners of Disabilities
If you are a person with a disability who was treated by a clinical psychologist who violated their duties/ethics, you have the option to complain to the State Commissioner of Disability or Chief Commissioner of Disabilities, Government of India. You can find the list of State Commissioners here.
Mental Health Review Board/State Mental Health Boards
You can approach three main authorities if you have been treated by a clinical psychologist at a mental health establishment for mental health issues:
- Central Mental Health Authority – It is the central authority under the law, which has functions including registering all mental health establishments under the Central Government, maintaining a register of all mental health establishments in the country, developing quality/service norms for mental health establishments under the Central Government, supervising all mental health establishments under the Central Government, receiving complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, etc.
- State Mental Health Authority – It is the authority at the state level which has functions including registration of mental health establishments in the State, developing quality/service norms for mental health establishments in the State, supervising all mental health establishments in the State , receiving complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, etc.
- Mental Health Review Board – It is the authority at the district level under the law, which has functions to register, review, alter, modify or cancel an advance directive, to appoint a nominated representative, to adjudicate complaints regarding deficiencies in care, etc.
As of now, the authorities, particularly the Central Mental Health Authority and the Mental Health Review Boards are functioning. However, some States, such as Delhi, Kerala, etc. have constituted the State Mental Health Authority. You should seek information about the functioning of these authorities from your respective State.