What is a Psychologist?

A psychologist is a mental health professional who helps people understand and manage their emotional and mental well-being.

A psychologist must be qualified to receive a license from a State Board of professional registration. The license certifies that the professional has completed extensive educational and training requirements, and authorizes the psychologist to treat individuals seeking care.

A psychologist may have completed a master's degree, or if fully licensed, holds a doctorial degree from a university or a professional school, a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosphy) or a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology), or an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education).

If a psychologist interacts directly with patients, he or she will usually have a degree in Clinical Psychology. Clinical Psychologists may specialize in psychological testing and evaluation.

What do psychologists do?

Psychologists use a variety of approaches to help people with mental health issues, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance Abuse
  • ADHD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Sleep Disorders

Most commonly, psychologists use therapy (often referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy).

There are many different styles of therapy. A psychologist will choose the therapy that best addresses the person’s problem and best fits the patient’s goals, values and needs.

Some common types of therapy are: 

  • Cognitive 
  • Behavioral
  • Cognitive-behavioral, (interpersonal, humanistic)
  • Psychodynamic
  • Hypnosis
  • DBT

For some conditions, medication and therapy is a combination that works best. For those who benefit from medication, psychologists work with primary care physicians, pediatricians and psychiatrists to collaborate on their treatment.

Licensed Psychologists also offer a wide variety of services to the public: 

  • Work in schools to help students enhance learning.
  • Provide neuropsychological services to evaluate and treat learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, cognitive (thinking) problems, and head injuries. • Work with employees and employers to improve communication and increase productivity and improve job satisfaction
  • Work with athletes, actors and musicians to help reduce anxiety and enhance performance.
  • Consult with and provide expert testimony in court proceedings.
  • Many other services where aspects of human behavior and behavioral change are needed.

How is a psychiatrist different from a psychologist?

A psychiatrist has completed medical school and holds an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree. In Residency, he or she received specialized training in the field of psychiatry. As physicians, psychiatrists have achieved a complete medical education and abide by the medical traditions of professional ethics and medical responsibility for providing comprehensive care.

Where do psychologists work?

Many practicing psychologists manage their own private practice or work 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.

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Last updated: 1/9/2019