Psychologists in Singapore: Who are they? What do they do?

Essential facts about Psychology and Psychologists

Psychology is one of the fastest growing university subjects around the world, and it is becoming more and more available as a service in the community. There is an increasing number of psychologists in Singapore. The general public and organisations want to be more fully informed about who psychologists are and what professional skills or techniques they employ. Psychologists specialise in a number of different areas within the field and identify themselves by many different names. The information below provides an overview of the roles of the differing psychologists and allows for a clearer understanding of the distinctions across the field.

SPS, in collaboration with 60 different psychology associations around the world, have come up with a global statement on the relevance and importance of psychology. Find out more below:

What Do Psychology and Psychologists Offer Humanity?

What Do Psychology and Psychologists Offer Humanity? (Mandarin Version)

Statement on qualifications in Psychology

Psychology is the study of people: how they think, how they act, react and interact. Psychology is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts, feelings and motivation underlying such behaviour' (British Psychological Society). The field of psychology encompasses both research, through which we learn fundamental principles about human and animal behaviour, and practice, where psychologists work directly with adults and children. Research helps to guide practising psychologists about the most suitable ways of assisting people with their problems. In psychology there are a number of distinct specialisations. Within each specialty there are psychologists who work primarily as researchers, others who work primarily as practitioners and also some who do both.

Clinical psychologists are scientist-practitioners who integrate scientific training in psychology and clinical experience to assess and address a wide variety of mental health issues ranging from psychiatric disorders to struggles in regular life. Their educational pathway often starts with an excellent Honours bachelor degree followed by postgraduate training with coursework, research, and supervised clinical practice. This educational pathway typically takes 6 or more years. Their professional training and career usually entails working with people who are experiencing moderate or severe issues.

Clinical psychologists may work in healthcare settings, community services, school/university clinics, government entities, private practice clinics, and sometimes in corporations. Some examples of the services they provide include psychotherapy for psychiatric issues (e.g. Mood and Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders, Eating Disorders and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). They also work with difficulties like functional health disorders with a psychological loading, adjustment and coping, relationship difficulties, stress and anger management and self-esteem issues. In addition, they also provide psychological assessment and psychometric testing, and consultation for multidisciplinary teams or management/corporate stakeholders. Very often, they are also involved in giving talks and conducting workshops for a variety of general public and healthcare audiences. Being a scientist, clinical psychologists also find themselves involved in research for the above.

Counselling psychologists aim to help people to improve their sense of wellbeing, alleviate their distress, manage personal crisis, and enhance their capacity to solve problems and make decisions. Counselling psychologists usually have an accredited first degree with further qualifications in Counselling (at least a Master in Counselling Psychology) together with a period of supervised practice.

Educational Psychologists help assess and support children and young people whose learning and developmental paths have deviated from the expected norms and have resulted in delays or distress in the individual’s learning and socio-emotional functioning in educational settings. Educational psychologists work at the individual, group and/or whole-school level, as well as collaboratively with families, teachers and other professionals. Other settings that Educational Psychologists work in in Singapore include Social Service Agencies, Mainstream, international and special schools, hospitals and private clinics. The populations they serve range from preschoolers to adult learners.

The professional training of an Educational Psychologist therefore encompasses the study of psychological principles and theories on learning and developmental, assessment and diagnosis, academic and socio-emotional intervention techniques, and case management and support for clients, at the post-graduate level (at least a Master in Educational Psychology). Educational psychologists are also required to complete a period of supervised clinical practicum as part of their training.

Neuropsychologists specialise in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behaviour. They often work in research or clinical settings where they assess and treat people with brain injuries or dysfunctions. Neuropsychologists have postgraduate training in neuropsychology.

Occupational psychologists are concerned with human behaviours and performance in the workplace. They are often involved with issues such as selection, assessment, and training of staff, individual and collective attitudes and behaviours in the work setting, design of tasks and the working environment. Since the age of industrialization to the current changes brought about by technology and automation, their services have remained in demand. They can be found as independent consultants or working in large corporations or government institutions. There are quite a few such psychologists in private and public services in Singapore. At present, many occupational psychologists simply require an accredited post-graduate degree (at least a Masters) and supervised practice for 2 years to be internationally recognised.

Social psychologists study interpersonal and group dynamics and social challenges. Some social psychologists teach and conduct research in universities while others employed in organisations to lend their expertise in designing programmes and policies. Social psychologists have a postgraduate degree in social psychology.

"For professional standards set by Singapore Register of Psychologists (SRP), please refer to the following page: Singapore Register of Psychologist.

2nd Revision: Dr Cynthia Yeo, SIG Chair & Adrian Toh, Vice President (Development) (2021)
1st Revision: Dr Lim Kok Kwang, President (2005)
Original: Ms Laura Cockburn, Publications Chair (1999)