Raise standards for psychologists to prevent fraud

Mikhy Farrera-Brochez successfully pretended to be qualified to teach students early childhood studies and psychology.
Mikhy Farrera-Brochez successfully pretended to be qualified to teach students early childhood studies and psychology. PHOTO: ST FILE

It was outrageous and shocking that Mikhy Farrera-Brochez successfully pretended to be qualified to teach students early childhood studies and psychology.

He fooled schools and students, and presumably had access to vulnerable children (Tangled web of love and lies led to data leak affecting many; Jan 30).

I spent five years studying and training in the field of clinical psychology in California.

After obtaining my doctorate, I spent two more years preparing for all of California's psychologist licensing exams as one cannot practise independently without a licence in many US states.

As a licensed psychologist in the state of California, I abide to a strict code of ethics and laws.

My licence will be suspended or revoked if the California Board of Psychology determines that I have acted unethically.

However, Singapore does not have similar standards governing psychologists. This means that I do not need a licence to practise psychology, and registration with the local psychology associations is voluntary.

In the light of this incident, I urge the local authorities to take a more serious stance towards regulating the practice of psychology to prevent similar cases from happening again.

For example, it should be made mandatory for a psychologist to register with local psychology associations, a formal ethics committee should be set up to regulate and monitor psychologists' professional activities, and local psychology associations should be given the legal authority to set up and enforce licensing requirements.

Those in this profession come into contact with the vulnerable population on a daily basis. These individuals should be protected from harm due to a higher susceptibility to fraud or unethical practices.

With more stringent control, such fraud cases can be deterred and detected before potential harm occurs.

Chua Mei Xiu (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'Raise standards for psychologists to prevent fraud'. Print Edition | Subscribe