Unfortunately for Thailand, fraud, piracy and scams are the norm. and as it would be, Thais are not the only culprits. There are plenty of non Thais playing the game. But when it comes to the need of finding western professional help particularly when it comes to mental health, identifying the real deal can be a bit of a problem.
There are some jobs that are for Thais only and you can not get a work permit even if you are fully qualified. Doctors are just one such job. A non Thai doctor simply can not work as a doctor in Thailand. Although they make the option available, there is a written test that must be taken, and it is all in Thai. And even if you do manage to pass the test, granting a work permit is discretionary and not guaranteed.
Generally speaking in the medical field this is not a problem. An infection is an infection, a broken bone is a broken bone, and an inflamed appendix is an inflamed appendix no matter what language you speak or what color your skin is. The treatment is the same so in this case medicine becomes universal.
However when it comes to mental health it becomes another story. psychiatrists are doctors and the same Thai only laws apply. That is because psychiatrists are the only people in the mental health field that can prescribe medications. Psychologists and others can not, even if that person holds a doctorates in psychology. So once the psychiatrist gives you the psychiatric medication you are quickly off to your new private world masking all the problems.
Psychologists, clinical hypnotherapists and other such mental health professionals simply work with the grey matter between the ears. However as each country has different electric voltages, so do the way people think. When it comes to counseling or various forms of psychotherapy, if the counselor and the client do not have common ground being life experiences, it becomes difficult or impossible for the counseling/therapy to move forward. That is because talking about life experiences to use as examples during counseling is a necessary tool. To talk about sick buffalos or a poor rice harvest as a reference point when you are more use to dealing with rush hour traffic in New York, you can quickly see the problem as to how therapy can quickly stall and you begin to think this professional is a nut case. Because of that there is a need for western mental health professionals in Thailand.
Because this profession so closely mirrors a Thai only job, the need to hide or be deceptive about credentials is a necessary evil to get a work permit. A person who holds a doctors degree in psychology or clinical hypnotherapy may need to hide that fact if their additional qualifications come to close to that Thai only job. Because of that, it adds to the difficulty of identifying a qualified western mental health professional working in Thailand.
In places that have high foreign populations like Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, there are plenty of people who claim to be mental health professionals but are actually not qualified at all. Then again there are some who are qualified but are not allowed to work because they lack a proper visa and work permit. So this leaves a person in need with a real dilemma.
but as it would be it appears help is on the horizon. Connecting the Dots was made aware of a seed that is being planted that will hopefully provide an answer. International schools in Thailand have the need to send some of their students and perhaps the entire family to counseling if a situation is having a negative effect on the student. So they have requested from the real counselors that some sort of self governing body be created to insure the best possible professional help is available.
Eventually this new body looks to be available to the general public some time in 2010. Perhaps you could call this the ‘Seal Of Approval’ and should set you mind at rest that the people listed have been checked out. There is little more than a single web page announcing this at the moment, and you can see it here and it is worth bookmarking. But no matter how you look at it, this eventually will be a good thing for ex-pats in Thailand.