Understanding what a psychologist actually is and does can be difficult.
This is because there are lots of common misconceptions and misunderstandings.
For example, it’s common for people to confuse my role with that of a psychiatrist. They sound similar and some psychologists even use the title of ‘Dr’ if they have completed a PhD.
Other misconceptions I’ve encountered include people saying things like, ‘But, you can read minds right?’ or ‘You can solve all my problems right?’ or even, ‘You only work with mentally unwell people right?’
Some of the people who come to see me experience understandable confusion around what a psychologist actually is.
And, of course, there are plenty more misunderstandings, thanks to the way psychologists and psychiatrists are portrayed in TV shows and movies.
Here’s some clear information about what a psychologist actually is and what interacting with a psychologist looks like.
What is a Psychologist?
A psychologist is a mental health professional who typically has studied psychological science at a university for at least four years in Australia to learn how to assess and treat mental health problems.
There are three types of psychologist: provisional (a graduate in training), registered (typically those who have completed two years of supervised training without a Clinical Master degree) and clinical (those who have completed a Clinical Masters degree and two years of supervised practice).
At Attuned, we have Registered Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists.
While there are certainly many aspects to being a psychologist, for me, it’s all about being a friendly and active listener who uses the science to apply help strategies that really make a difference.
This is called being a scientist-practitioner. I often think of the science as a high quality resource to ‘tap’ into to provide real help in real people’s lives.
What happens during an appointment with a Psychologist?
When you come to see me for your first appointment, I’ll start by getting to know you and learning more about the reasons that made you seek an appointment.
You’ll notice me taking some notes during our session. This helps me remember key details so that I don’t miss anything important.
As a psychologist, I’ll be using scientifically proven (evidence based) talk therapies (psychotherapies) to help you overcome your problems.
When we book our follow up appointments, we’ll be reviewing how the problems are going, identifying ways of dealing with the problem, providing explanations of how to deal with the problem (psychoeducation), and practising these skills or techniques in session.
This is your session, so I will be encouraging you to play an active part in deciding the direction of each session or asking questions.
Do Psychologists prescribe medication?
One major difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that we do not prescribe medication.
Medication may only be prescribed by a medical doctor such as a family doctor (GP) or a Psychiatrist (a specialist physician trained in treating mental health problems).
In rare cases, more severe mental health issues may require the involvement of a GP, a psychiatrist and a psychologist.
How do I find a Psychologist who is right for me?
Ask specific questions before booking an appointment.
- Start by establishing what the problems you are facing actually are and ask to see a psychologist who provides help for the issue you are facing. These could include depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, or many others.
- Consider if you need assessment, therapy or both. Not all psychologists offer what you may be seeking. At Attuned, we focus on providing therapy.
- Research the psychologist you are considering seeing by looking at their public profile or reading any material they have published such as papers or articles. Here’s an article I wrote about anxiety.
- Give seeing a psychologist a go! In my experience, one of the biggest factors for success when it comes to seeing a psychologist is fit (therapeutic alliance or rapport). You likely feel if the fit is right for you only after you have tried a session. Look for someone who understands you and your situation and provides helpful solutions that create measurable outcomes.
How do I pay for an appointment with a Psychologist?
After our session, you’ll head to reception to pay your account, and any rebates will be put back into your account via Medicare (if you have a Mental Health Care Plan) or via your fund if you have Private Health Insurance.
How can you arrange to see a Psychologist?
You can come and see us at Attuned Psychology by simply making contact via our website (click the Online Booking button), emailing us, or calling us.
You can also choose to see your GP before the appointment to receive a Mental Health Care Plan which gives you access to a government rebate from each appointment.
Several GPs in Adelaide already refer clients to Attuned. You can find out more at our GP referral page.
– Fergus McPharlin
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