What does the word “psychologist” (psikolog) mean in Indonesia? How does it compare to the US or Germany?

The word “psychologist” conveys different professional meaning in different countries. To many, the word “psychologist” triggers a picture of a person talking to clients to help them with their problems. However, this is not always correct and that mind picture mostly relates to a more specific form: “clinical psychologist”. So, is “psychologist” equals to “clinical psychologist”? It all depends on the regulation and system of the particularly country. I will first try to briefly describe the system in United States and Germany, so that I can contrast it with the Indonesian system.

Now from what I have read in various sources, in the US, the exact word “psychologist” just means anyone with a degree in psychology. However, to deliver psychotherapy and give clinical diagnosis, a special degree and license is required. This is usually achieved by completing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology (PhD.Clin. or Psy.D.) and then, a person can apply for a license to practice. This profession is called clinical psychologist.

In a somewhat similar situation, “psychologist” in Germany is an open profession and is not a protected professional word (unlike medical doctor). Sometimes one does not even need to have a degree in psychology! Still similar with the US system, delivering psychotherapy and giving clinical diagnosis require a special degree and license. Now, unlike the US system, this profession is called psychotherapeut (psychotherapist), not clinical psychologist. To enter this profession, one has to finish a master degree in psychology and then, finish an Ausbildung (training program) for specific psychotherapy format. There are generally two main options: Tiefenpsychotherapeut (literally translated, deep psychotherapy – psychoanalysis) and Verhaltenspsychotherapeut (behavioural psychotherapy – behavioural therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy). The training program can take from three to five years, but some finish it in seven years (for Verhaltenspsychotherapeut). After the training, one still has to apply for license to practice at a certain geographical area (the number of insurance covered practice is limited according to the needs of a geographical area).

Now the Indonesian system is unlike the US and Germany. First, the word “psychologist” is a protected profession in Indonesia. Not everyone can call themselves psychologist without having the proper credential. To become a psychologist there are two requirements: a professional master degree (M.Psi.) and a license from the professional organisation (Himpunan Psikologi Indonesia – HIMPSI – Indonesian Psychology Organisation). Both can usually be obtained in 2 years, but now I hear 2.5 years is the norm for adult clinical psychologist. There are 4 types of professional master degree program: adult clinical psychologist (for clients aged 15 years and above), child clinical psychologist (for clients aged 15 years and below), educational psychologist, and industrial/organizational psychologist.


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