Controversial Changes in Psychology Licensing: RCI’s New Regulations Spark Backlash Among Professionals and Students

In accordance with the National Education Policy 2020, which mandates the discontinuation of all M.Phil programs, the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) has announced significant changes to its clinical psychology licensing pathway. Historically, the M.Phil in Clinical Psychology offered by RCI was a well-known route for graduates to become licensed clinical psychologists. However, per an official notification released on March 3, 2024, RCI will eliminate the M.Phil Clinical Psychology program starting with the 2024-25 academic session and, in its place, introduce three courses: PG Diploma (Postgraduate Diploma), M.Psy (Master of Psychology), and Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology). The educational qualification to apply for any of these courses was stated as “UGC recognised Bachelor’s Degree (Hons) of 4-years duration (8 semesters).” The only bachelor’s degree in psychology provided in India is a 3-year B.Sc/BA course. Additionally, another option was provided: “UGC recognised Masters’ Degree in any branch of Psychology of 2-year duration (4 semesters) (NHEQF 6.5) after obtaining a 3-year duration Bachelor’s Degree with Psychology as one of the major/core subjects in all three years of the Bachelor’s Degree.” Essentially, this forces already masters graduates to reapply and do another master’s in psychology due to the inefficiency of RCI as a statutory body.

On June 14, 2024, another notification was published by RCI, which introduced an RCI-approved B.Sc Clinical Psychology (Hons), a 4-year course upon the completion of which graduates will be given a license to practice as counseling psychologists and rehabilitation psychologists. This became a landmark decision as, prior to this, there was no licensing body for counseling psychologists. However, it also became a landmark notification as it conveniently ignored the huge number of practicing and pursuing psychologists who are graduates of UGC-regulated MA/M.Sc/M.Phil/Ph.D. courses, who will now be deemed unqualified by RCI and will not be provided any licensing to practice as counseling psychologists. Additionally, the education requirement to apply to the new RCI-approved B.Sc Clinical Psychology (Hons) program is “Students who have completed the 12th class with science stream or equivalent.” It did not come as a surprise when RCI again conveniently ignored that the majority of the schools only provide psychology as an optional subject in school only with the humanities stream, hence ignoring the many young aspiring psychology students and sidelining them from getting this degree. This notification also overruled the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2021, published in The Gazette of India on March 28, 2021, which explicitly stated that NCAHP will regulate Behavioral Health Sciences Professionals such as psychologists, “Except Clinical Psychologists covered under RCI for PWD.” This raises the most important question of all: why is RCI overstepping its jurisdiction and trying to regulate a profession that’s supposed to be regulated by another statutory body of the same status?

Dr Lakshmi TK Founder MMF & Mind Care

Dr. Lakshmi T.K., founder and President of Mastermind Foundation and The Mind Care, who has been practicing as a psychologist for over 20 years and extended mental health services during difficult times such as COVID and natural calamities, and conducted many workshops for police departments, armed forces, and even prisons, has strongly condemned the ruling: “As a practicing professional in this field, I find this very disheartening to see the field of psychology being divided by various statutory bodies. Psychology as a field should be regulated by a single body and should offer licensure and training to various subdivisions of psychology to ensure proper regulation and centralization of the field.”

Prof Sam Manickam NIMHANS

Prof. Sam Manickam, founder of the Indian Psychological Network (IPN), addressed Prof. Vaya and other colleagues in his minutes of meeting on Implementation of Alternative Educational Pathways to the M.Phil. Programs in Clinical Psychology and Psychiatric Social Work held at NITI Aayog on February 9, 2024. He stated, “We need to use our psychological skills better in helping the entire psychology community in India to achieve our objectives. We need to help the policymakers to arrive at decisions by helping them answer the questions that are before the nation rather than questioning them as to why. I repeat, we are psychologists before we are into any specialization either military or forensic or clinical or counseling or child and adolescent. The way some of us argue gives a different impression to the policymakers on the other side of the table.”

Yudhajt Roychowdhury practicing psychologist

Yudhajt Roychowdhury, a B.Sc and M.Sc Clinical Psychology graduate (NET qualified), stated, “I was practicing as a counseling psychologist till now, and from next month I’ll move into the role of assistant professor. This notification by RCI spells doom for both professions since I’ll be unregistered as a counseling psychologist unless I go back to college for 4 years, and since many students will not opt to enroll in general psychology programs, which means that I can be terminated from my job if the student inflow declines and consequently the department’s financial inflow does too.”

Shruti Balaji Babar Psychology Student SRIHER

Shruti Balaji Babar, pursuing an M.Sc in Medical Psychology from Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, also conveyed her plight: “As a student nearing the completion of my master’s program, I am concerned and troubled about the implications of the RCI’s recent licensure bill. The council’s silence on the licensure eligibility of current master’s students is causing widespread panic and uncertainty. RCI’s failure to address these concerns is nothing short of negligent, leaving us students’ futures hanging in the balance. This situation necessitates immediate academic inquiry and policy clarification to ensure equitable treatment and professional stability, to alleviate these concerns and ensure a smooth transition into our professional careers.”

Smriti Gupta, Student, Delhi University

Smriti Gupta, pursuing a BA in psychology from Delhi University, also stated, “The recent notification from the RCI has presented itself as nothing short of a disaster. All of us have been shocked and deeply saddened by the state of affairs. It has served to promote nothing but confusion and fear among students and professionals in the field alike. It almost seems as if someone who barely knows anything about our field is making regulations for such an important line of work as counseling and clinical psychology.”

These overlapping and contradictory notifications and rulings not only affect the professionals and students of the nation but also the mental health of the country. With this new regulation, there will be a lesser number of psychologists, as RCI has a paucity of universities regulated under it, leading to a monopoly of licensed professionals who may charge more, and also an influx of underqualified bachelor’s graduates coming into the market as professional and licensed counseling psychologists. The unlawful activity of RCI bypassing the government order “THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR ALLIED AND

Anchita Thiagarajan
Anchita Thiagarajan

About Author

Anchita Thiagarajan is currently pursuing an M.Sc in Clinical Psychology at SRIHER. She has collaborated with various NGOs to promote mental health awareness. She has published research on the efficacy of Indian psychology and has written numerous articles and blog posts on mental health topics.