More and more people want to study psychology.  “Access is increasing, but the quality of education is not.”

Experiences of the pandemic, increased awareness of mental health, and job opportunities in many fields – all make psychology one of the most popular fields of study in Poland. The number of students has increased by more than 60 percent in recent years. However, most universities received a negative evaluation from the Polish Accreditation Commission. The problems do not end with obtaining a diploma.

Psychology has been one of the most popular fields of study for years, and in 2024 only computer science is more popular. The number of students is systematically increasing – in 2019, more than 34,000 students studied psychology. People in Poland. Three years later – 56 thousand. This is an increase of more than 60%.

The breakthrough in psychology is huge. These have always been popular studies, but for a long time it was difficult to get into them – comments Dr. Giulietta Koszor, Deputy Dean for Teaching at the Faculty of Psychology at SWPS University in Wrocław and co-author of the report “Report on Psychological Studies in Poland”, prepared by Jagiellonian University and SWPS. – After the higher education reform implemented by Minister Gwen in 2019, the minimum staff disappeared and many universities began to open fields of psychology. The offer has expanded significantly. The scientist adds that this comprehensive scope risks reducing the quality of teaching.

Standards not available

“The profession of psychologist is recognized as a profession of general trust, but there are no educational standards in this field, similar to those applied to the professions of medicine, architect and teacher,” – we read in the “Report on Psychological Studies in Poland”. “It shows that more than 40 in The hundred students were educated in universities that were not subject to scientific evaluation.

In turn, the Polish Accreditation Commission, which provides an external system for monitoring the quality of education in Polish public and private universities, issued a negative opinion of more than 60 percent. Universities wishing to open the field of psychology (93 fields out of 140). Despite the negative opinion, some of them are still recruiting.

Experts point out that there are no specific guidelines on what students should actually learn. According to announcements from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, this matter is about to change. A few months ago, Minister Darius Wieczorek announced the creation of a team to define standards for the education of future psychologists.

Darius Wieczorek, Minister of Science and Higher EducationTVN24

The biggest problem currently is the great diversity of forms of education and curricula. Everyone teaches a little differently and something different, says Dr. Kozor. He adds that it is also difficult to assess the quality of education in different centres. – He emphasizes that analyzing the quality of education by the Polish Accreditation Commission is boring, there is a lot of bureaucracy, and paper will accept everything.

Dr. Kozor adds that she is not in favor of standardizing everything. In her view, universities should retain at least partial freedom to create teaching programmes, for example, related to university-conducted research. – explains that one of the most important competencies that future psychologists must have is the willingness to undergo continuous training and stay informed of research results, just as is the case with doctors.

We talk more about mental health

In 2023, there were 254 offers to study psychology at Polish universities. For comparison, in 2018 there were 144 of them. Interest in psychology studies is also growing in other European countries. Eurostat data shows that from 2016 to 2021, the proportion of people studying psychology among other students increased in all EU countries.

Why is it so popular? Dr. Kozor believes that this includes, among other things: the impact of the pandemic. – We started talking more about mental health. People appreciated having professionals who could help you feel better. We are talking more and more boldly about mental health, and going to a psychologist or psychiatrist is no longer burdened with such hatred – he mentions.

Psychological competencies are quite universal and can be used in many professions. He adds that in many workplaces, it will be helpful to build relationships, have conversations, provide support, resolve conflicts, and understand complex human motivations.

Dr. Joanna Gotral, a psychologist, sees the same thing. – After psychology, many paths open up, and working with patients is just one of them. You can also work in marketing or public relations. In addition, awareness of mental health and people’s interest in it are increasing. Unfortunately, the availability of education is increasing, but not the quality of education.

Read also: Half a candidate for one seat. Few people want to study these fields

Psychologist, psychotherapist, therapist – who are they?

It’s worth sorting out the terminology here. The names psychotherapist, therapist and psychiatrist are used interchangeably in everyday language. However, in reality they mean slightly different professions and different qualifications, although a psychiatrist, for example, may also be a psychotherapist (and vice versa). A psychologist is a person who has completed psychology studies. Unless he completes graduate studies and obtains a license, he cannot perform treatment with patients. On the other hand, a psychotherapist is a person who has completed any studies and completed an accredited psychotherapy school, often in a specific field. And the treating physician? This is the most general term. To carry out treatment, you do not need to complete a specialized course. Before you decide to start working with someone, it is helpful to ask about their qualifications.

Companies are at risk

There is a lack of teaching standards, but this is not the only problem. There are also no regulations regarding the profession of therapist. – Currently, you can finish, for example, studying architecture and open a treatment office. This is not organized – said Marcin Szafranski, spokesman for the Polish Psychological Society in the program “Poland and the World”.

Ombudsman for Children: There is no shame in seeking help from a psychiatrist or psychiatrist

Ombudsman for Children: There is no shame in seeking help from a psychiatrist or psychiatristTVN24

At the end of November, the Parliamentary Group on the Legal Regulation of the Psychotherapy Profession was established. It is chaired by MP Marta Golbeck (KO). We were able to convince most members of the community to accept our proposals, although the divisions are still clear. Law is difficult because it relates to various directions, areas and methods of education. Golbeck says it’s not easy to put it into a unified framework.

– In their industries, people don’t always want regulation. They have different reasons for this. Some people find the lack of organization comforting, thanks to which they can manage their business: organize training, issue certifications – says Golbeck. He stressed that the team’s work is nearing completion.

Dr. Joanna Gutral acknowledges that there are reasons for cautious optimism. She is happy with the fact that work on the regulations began at the beginning of the House term. – However, there are some worrying things – he says. – In Western countries, when working on regulations related to the profession of psychologist, the importance of using scientifically proven effective methods was emphasized. The parliamentary team seems to be moving away from this trend. Why? I can’t understand this, says Dr. Gotral.

He adds that the law on the profession of psychotherapist will reduce the possibility of abuse, but will not eliminate it.

– I hope it will bring more transparency. He says that when we need medical help, we can decide whether we want to go to the doctor or to the quack. – The doctor must have basic medical education. One of the proposed laws regarding the profession of psychotherapy does not include any provision regarding basic education. Therefore, anyone who wants to can become a psychotherapist. This, in my opinion, is wrong. There is no consensus in the community, so the Ministry of Health will bear responsibility for these decisions. Patients suffer from a lack of regulations and may end up being cared for by phony specialists. “I think if it doesn’t help someone, they’re actually causing harm,” Gutral says.

Maybe a psychology exam?

The law on the profession of psychiatrist, prepared by the Ministry of Labour, is already undergoing consultations. Mental health requires cooperation between ministries. We have been saying for some time that we need one person or unit to coordinate activities on this topic, says Rep. Golbeck.

But it does not fully agree with the vision of unifying the educational path. – He says that education standards are a complex topic. – In the profession of psychotherapist, practice is the most important thing, psychotherapy schools work fantastically in many cases, notorious weekend training courses after which people can accept patients are rare.

– The quality of education depends on many things, one of which is linking programs to research and current scientific knowledge – confirms Dr. Kozor. – It would be useful to carry out a state examination at the end of the study, similar to the examination carried out by doctors, for example. This would allow us to assess whether the graduate is truly prepared to work with patients.

Author/Author:Natalia Szostak

Main image source: Stock struggle

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