Psychologists are trained professionals that have a doctorate level degree who conduct research, perform testing, and evaluate and treat a full range of emotional and psychological issues. Psychologists utilize either individual sessions or group therapy and can work with patients of any age. Some of the more common types of issues addressed are depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and helping students become more effective in the classroom by evaluating and treating many different learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, cognitive deficiencies, head injuries, and stroke symptoms. Psychologists can also help individuals improve communication skills, increase productivity, and improve job satisfaction. Many performers such as athletes, actors, and musicians use psychologists to improve concentration, reduce anxiety, and improve performance. Psychologists are also frequently consulted to provide expert testimony in court cases. Psychologists are often consulted when aspects of human behavior and behavioral change are the primary issues.
Licensed Psychologists are specialists in clinical psychology, the direct, practical application of psychological principles to improve the mental health of individuals, couples, families, and groups. The primary activities of clinical Psychologists are psychological testing and evaluation, diagnosis of psychological difficulties, psychotherapy, research to discover ways to improve well-being, teaching, and consultation. Clinical Psychologists are present in a variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, independent practices, primary and secondary schools, employee assistance programs, and corporations.
Clinical Psychologists rely on research pertaining to the study of human behavior and experiences. Many Psychologists and other professionals dedicate their careers to research and teaching, serving as Professors of Psychology at medical schools, universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher learning. Practicing psychologists utilize the wealth of information developed through years of research and clinical skills developed through decades of practice to help people learn to deal with life’s issues more effectively.
What they do
Practicing psychologists help a wide variety of people and can treat many kinds of problems. Some people may talk to a psychologist because they have felt depressed, angry, or anxious over an extended period. They want help for a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health. Others may have short-term problems they want help overcoming, such as feeling overwhelmed, grieving a death, or a significant loss. Psychologists can help people learn to manage a stressful situation, overcome addictions, successfully manage a chronic illness, and overcome barriers that keep patients from attaining goals. Practicing psychologists are also trained to administer and interpret many different tests and assessments that can help diagnose a condition or tell more about the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. These tests may evaluate intellectual skills, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, vocational aptitude and preference, personality characteristics and neuro-psychological functioning.
How they Help
Practicing psychologists can help with a range of health problems and use an assortment of evidence-based treatments to help people improve their lives. Most commonly, they use therapy (often referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy). There are many different styles of therapy, but the psychologist will choose the type that best addresses the person’s problem and best fits the patient’s characteristics and preferences. Some common types of therapy are cognitive, behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, humanistic, psycho-dynamic or a combination of a few therapy styles. Therapy can be for an individual, couples, family, or other group. Some psychologists are trained to use hypnosis, which research has found to be effective for a wide range of conditions including pain, anxiety, and mood disorders. For some conditions, therapy and medication are a treatment combination that works best. For people who benefit from medication, psychologists work with primary care physicians, pediatricians, and psychiatrists to create a comprehensive treatment plan. Three states, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Illinois, have laws allowing licensed psychologists with additional, specialized training to prescribe from a list of medications that improve emotional and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
How they are Trained
A doctoral degree to practice psychology requires at least 4-6 years of full-time study after completing an undergraduate degree. Coursework includes areas such as ethics, statistics, individual differences, and the biological, cognitive-affective, and social bases of behavior, as well as specific training in psychological assessment and therapy. While in graduate school, psychology students may also participate in research and teaching. A one-year full-time supervised internship is required prior to graduation and in most states an additional year of supervised practice is required before licensure. Psychologists must pass a national examination and addition examination specific to the state in which they are being licensed. Once licensed to practice, psychologists must keep up their knowledge, which is demonstrated by earning several hours of continuing education credits annually, as required by their state’s license and regulations. For the states where psychologists can prescribe medication, they must have advanced training after they are licensed. Specific education guidelines vary by state, but they must complete a specialized training program or master’s degree in psychopharmacology.
Where they Work
Many practicing psychologists manage their own private practice or working with a group of other psychologists or health care providers. Practicing psychologists work in many other places too. They are found in schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and prisons, veterans’ medical centers, community health and mental health clinics, businesses and industry, nursing homes, and rehabilitation and long-term care centers.
As a legal term, a Psychologist is a person who has received a license from a State Board of professional registration. After years of graduate school and supervised training, they become licensed by their states to provide several services, including evaluations and psychotherapy. The license certifies the completion of extensive educational and training requirements, and authorizes the Psychologist to independently diagnose and treat mental disorders and other psychological problems. The license grants the rights and responsibilities of providing mental health treatment.
After a license has been granted, the Psychologist must continue his or her professional education, and must maintain the highest professional and ethical standards of practice and conduct. Any Psychologist who does not maintain the high standards of the profession is subject to discipline by the State and may have his or her license revoked. Psychologists with doctoral degrees (PhD, PsyD or EdD) receive one of the highest levels of education of all health care professionals, spending an average of seven years in education and training after they receive their undergraduate degrees. The American Psychological Association estimates that there are about 105,000 licensed psychologists in the United States.