We all experience stress at work, relationship difficulties or personal setbacks at some point. These may lead to a range of issues such as anxiety or depression. Reaching out for help and taking control of our mental health is a courageous step, and finding the right therapist is essential. Here is an overview of clinical psychology in Hong Kong.
What is clinical psychology?
Clinical psychology aims at helping people through the study of mind and behaviour. This discipline observes and interprets based on conduct and how people interact with their environment. Clinical psychologists help treating emotional, mental and behavioural disorders. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe drugs. However they are the only ones trained and qualified to give psychological tests such as intelligence tests or personality types tests.
What is the difference between a psychologist, a counsellor and a psychiatrist?
Different experts can help treat mental health conditions. Here are the main differences.
Counsellors work with individuals, groups or couples to help them cope with immediate issues such as relationship conflicts, important professional or personal decisions. Usually, seeing a counsellor will be for a short period of time. They are not allowed to diagnose a condition or to prescribe medication, but they can treat and evaluate mental health through therapy and dialogue.
Psychiatrists are trained doctors. They have a degree in medicine with specialized training in treatment and diagnosis of mental illnesses, behavioral and emotional disorders. They deal with patients having more severe conditions. They are trained for psychotherapy but will also focus on biology and neurochemistry to understand the issues faced by their patients.
Psychologists are trained in psychology and may have a PsyD or Ph.D. doctoral degree. They provide psychotherapy and may work in collaboration with psychiatrists in order to give the most efficient treatment. They treat behavioral, mental and emotional suffering. The main differences with counsellor or psychiatrist have to do with education background and prescription power.
If you have trouble knowing if you need to see a counsellor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, you can ask for assistance from your GP.
How many psychologists practice in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong the ratio of clinical psychologists is quite low. It is about 8.2 practitioners per 100,000 inhabitants. To compare, the ratio is 58 in Canada, 28 in the United Kingdom and 33.9 in the US.
How are psychologists regulated in Hong Kong?
Currently there is no official regulation for psychologists in Hong Kong. Psychologists are under no obligation to be licensed or registered with a professional board or government agency in order to practice.
However, private organizations have been created to attempt to set up a framework and regulatory standards. These include:
- The Hong Kong Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP), and
- The Hong Kong Association of Doctors in Clinical Psychology (HKADCP).
The Department of Health decided at the end of 2016 to regulate clinical psychologists in Hong Kong, amongst other health professions. Discussions are still ongoing. To learn more about the proposed Accredited Registers (AR) Scheme for Clinical Psychologists, please read our article below
The Proposed Hong Kong Regulation Would Limit Expats’ Choice For Psychologists Trained Overseas By Setting Impossible Criteria
What is the typical qualification of a clinical psychologist in Hong Kong?
To become a clinical psychologist in Hong Kong, candidates usually have a Master’s degree or a Doctorate’s degree in clinical psychology. However as said above, the profession is not regulated and this is not a hard requirement. It is best that you first check the qualifications of the practitioner you plan to visit.
What about psychologists practicing in Hong Kong who are trained overseas?
Clinical psychologists trained overseas are able to practice in Hong Kong. They can also be part of the two organizations listed above, upon submitting necessary documentation and with proof of training.
How much does it cost to see a psychologist in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong the cost of seeing a psychologist varies greatly (just like for other health practitioners), and it largely depends on private practices’ locations. Average consultation costs range from $1,000 HKD and $3,000 HKD.
Looking for a psychologist in Hong Kong? Read our comprehensive guide here.
Does insurance cover psychology sessions?
According to our partner AD MediLink, psychological consultations are rarely covered in Hong Kong by health insurance plans and if they are, they are subject to sub-limits. If you have questions, contact AD MediLink’s healthcare and health insurance experts at [email protected].
Some useful links:
If you need instant support, here is a list of 24/7 Hotlines you can call:
Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre → 18288
Hotline Service (Family Crisis)
Hospital Authority → +852 2466 7350
Mental Health Direct
Social Welfare Department → +852 2343 2255
Hotline Service: 24 hours
Suicide Prevention Services → +852 2382 0000
Hotline Service: 24 hours
The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong → +852 2389 2222
Hotline Service: 24 hours
The Samaritans → +852 2896 0000
Multi-Lingual Suicide Prevention Hotline: 24 hours
For a list of other useful mental health services, please click here.