A clinical psychologist is a licensed professional with a Ph.D. in psychology. Their goal is to work with individuals, families, couples, and groups to address mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, and interpersonal problems. Psychologists are not medical doctors, so, unlike psychiatrists or general practitioners, they are unable to prescribe medication. Instead, they focus on the underlying emotional, intellectual, and behavioral causes of mental disorders. They use psychotherapy (commonly referred to as “talk” therapy) to help clients overcome emotional or behavioral problems and live more productive, effective, and, above all, enjoyable lives.
In general, clinical psychologists use scientific approaches to encourage personal growth, improve adjustment, and help individuals adapt to situations that are causing them problems. Someone who is experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one might seek temporary help from a clinical psychologist during the adjustment period. Someone who is experiencing delusional thinking due to psychotic depression might also need the help of a clinical psychologist.
The type of psychotherapy used by the psychologist will depend on the types of problems you or a loved one are experiencing as well as the results you hope to gain from your therapeutic journey. If you’re coping with anxiety or depression, a clinical psychologist can help you get to the bottom of your disorder and guide you through techniques that will change your way of thinking.
When you seek the help of a clinical psychologist, their main goal is to promote positive change in the emotional landscape of your life. If necessary, they may also seek to change your behavior. They may employ many different therapeutic techniques to help you accomplish your goals. Most modern clinical psychologists don’t stick to one strict school of thought. Instead, they use a combination of therapies to fit your specific needs on an individual basis.
There are three basic types of psychotherapy used by psychologists to get to the root of your problem and help you overcome your difficulties.
The original psychodynamic technique was psychoanalysis,originated by Sigmund Freud. Psychodynamic therapies are based on the idea that insight leads to change. If an individual can become more aware of their internal drives, defenses, and motivations, they’ll be able to use this information to change themselves. Basically, the psychologist leads the client to a deeper level of self-awareness in an effort to discover what needs to be changed and how to change it.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the work of Dr. Albert Ellis and Dr. Aaron T. Beck. It is a combination of behaviorism and cognitive psychology, and it’s based on the idea that our thoughts create our feelings and behaviors. Psychologists use various forms of CBT (including rational emotive behavioral therapy) to change your thinking so that you can change your unwanted feelings and behaviors.
Humanistic therapies first came on the scene in the 1950s, originated by the work of Carl Rogers. Humanistic therapies are aimed at self-actualization, meaning that all parts of an individual’s personality are fully integrated. The idea is that, if a person accepts all parts of themselves, they’ll feel like a whole and complete person, and they will no longer feel the need to engage in self-destructive behavior.
Clinical psychologists study the bases of behavior, individual differences, and clinical practices such as diagnostics, assessments, psychotherapeutic techniques, and clinical ethics. Some specialize in certain fields including substance abuse, eating disorders, or mood disorders. When looking for a clinical psychologist, it’s important to find out what specialties, if any, they focus on.
During an initial visit to a clinical psychologist, the therapist will ask questions to assess the types of problems you’ve been experiencing and your desired goals for your therapeutic relationship. They aren’t going to tell you what to think, believe, or do. They’re goal is to help you determine the thoughts and feelings you’d like to change and teach you how to change them. Your therapist might ask you questions about any family history of mental illness, medical problems you might be experiencing, emotional symptoms you’re having trouble with, and how you’re dealing with your current life situation.
When looking for a therapist, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure that your therapist is fully degreed and licensed. They should have a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in clinical psychology, and they should be licensed by the state to practice clinical psychology. You can contact the state licensing board to find out about their history and any complaints that have been made against them.
- Contact your insurance provider. Does your insurance cover your therapeutic work? Many insurance companies now offer mental health coverage, and you might want to check with your specific insurance provider to find out which therapists in your area are covered by your plan.
- Pay attention to your comfort level. It’s ultimately most important that you feel comfortable with your therapist. While they’re interviewing you during the initial visit to find out what’s going on, you need to be aware of how you feel discussing your problems with them. If you feel for any reason that the relationship will not be beneficial to you, you should keep looking until you find someone with whom you feel at home. Therapy sometimes forces us to look at things with which we are uncomfortable, but there is no reason to go through the process with someone who is not supportive or helpful. Be aware of your personal preferences as well. If you’d prefer a certain gender, set of religious beliefs, or therapeutic technique, look for these attributes in your clinical psychologist.
If you’re suffering with depression or anxiety, have difficulties in relationships, are facing the loss of a loved one, or need some help moving forward professionally, a clinical psychologist can help you with these problems.
Finding a therapist is a very important step in overcoming personal difficulties you feel unable to handle on your own. There is help available. Don’t know where to begin? Speak with your healthcare provider for guidance and start your journey toward emotional well-being today.