CHENNAI: The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has done away with the MPhil programme in higher education institutions.
The programme however, is mandatory under the Mental Health Act (MHA), for clinical psychologists to practice.
This contradiction is causing confusion. The NEP under section 11.10 explicitly says, “The MPhil programme shall be discontinued.”
In India, a Master of Philosophy, has been often used as a bridge between Master’s and PhD programmes.
It is typically a two-year research-based course also opted by students who want to pursue a PhD but still seek to develop a niche in a discipline.
While the NEP does away with the programme it barely offers any clarification for students currently pursuing the course and the lack of clarity is a greater problem for clinical psychologists, who compulsorily need the programme to be recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) as a licensed practitioner under the MHA.
The MPhil in clinical psychology is offered at RCI-recognised institutions. The two-year course trains students both theoretically and clinically.
Vasundharaa S Nair, senior research fellow, from NIMHANS, who has an MPhil in Psychiatric Social Work, said that rigorous and diverse clinical training is crucial for one’s career.
“We received training in 14 fields. We received training in 14 fields including forensic psychology, emergency care, child psychology, maternal mental health and neuro-science, among others. We are made to interact with patients every day, giving us the confidence to work with patients from diverse backgrounds,” she said.
The course work builds a very strong foundation for practicing clinical psychologists that cannot be replaced even with a Ph.D, saidPN Thomas, a clinical psychologist and a retired head of the department at Sri Ramachandra Hospital.
“PhD scholars have six months of posting at hospital. Many institutions found that these scholars did not have the confidence to practice. So the MPhil course became an entry-level programme for the doctoral programme at institutions like NIMHANS,” he said.
He added in MPhil, three-prong evaluation including theoretical tests, therapy skills and research-dissertation are done. After clearing all three, candidates are awarded license. In order to renew license, you have to present papers, publish in journals, attend conferences, etc which are recognised by the RCI and submit a paper-trail for the same.
“It is an important rigorous process. The government can choose to change the nomenclature of the programme’s title and remove the MPhil. But the nature of the programme itself is extremely important for training clinical psychologists,” he asserted.
Meanwhile many institutions that offer MPhil in various fields of Psychology are confused.
“Master’s graduates also practice as counsellors. But one has to pursue an MPhil to be recognised as a clinical psychologist,” said S Thenmozhi, Head of the Department of Counselling Psychology, University of Madras.
Dr V Surendran who teaches MPhil course on Psycho-Oncology at the Cancer Institute said all institutes are awaiting clarity on the continuation of the programme.
“The demand for students with MPhil is high in the field of mental health as they have field experience and clinical training. The courses cannot obviously be discontinued. We need a standardised methodology to be licensed instead,” he said.