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Understanding What Your Psychologist Does

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Updated June 23, 2009

What Is a Psychologist - Overview:

If you have a mental health concern, such as a phobia, a psychologist will be the cornerstone of your treatment team. Depending on your treatment plan, you might see a range of professionals, but the psychologist is a very important member of the team. Here is an overview of what to expect from your psychologist.

Education and Training:

In most states, a psychologist holds a doctoral degree in psychology. A few states still allow masters level psychologists to become licensed, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Psychologists are expected to complete an internship after earning their degrees, so a fully licensed psychologist generally has at least five years of post-graduate training and experience. Some psychologists complete additional specialized training in addictions, testing, or other fields. Most elect to take an optional exam in order to become board certified.

Approach:

There is no single approach or school of thought that applies to all psychologists. Like counselors, they may choose a particular field of emphasis such as behaviorism, cognitivism, or rational-emotive therapy, or they may utilize a more eclectic approach.

Some states, including Louisiana and New Mexico, allow psychologists to become licensed to prescribe psychiatric medications. These psychologists have additional training and generally incorporate a medical model into their practices.

Specialties:

Many psychologists choose to focus on a particular area of interest. Mental health testing, such as personality tests and IQ tests, is most often performed by psychologists. Some do testing as a small part of a larger practice, while others focus exclusively on this area of interest.

Other possible areas of specialization include child psychology, geriatric psychology, and community mental health. Many psychologists choose to focus on research rather than seeing clients. Some specializations require additional certifications, while others may be practiced by any licensed psychologist.

Source:

Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition: Psychologists. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm

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