What Can Psychologists Treat?
A psychologist is a mental health professional dedicated themselves to helping people overcome mental health challenges.
What Is a Psychologist?
There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, and it can be a big step for someone to see psychological advice or treatment. This can be exacerbated by the somewhat nebulous understanding that many people have regarding what psychologists do and how they can help treat mental health conditions and illnesses.
In the simplest terms, a psychologist is a mental health professional who has received extensive training and dedicated themselves to helping people find healthy and effective ways to overcome mental health challenges. There are countless types of psychologists, with each type specializing in a different aspect or subtype of mental health. The American Psychological Association (APA) estimates that there are about 106,000 psychologists in the U.S.1
Where Do Psychologists Work?
Psychologists work in all areas of society and can be found in many different settings. For example, psychologists can work in private practices, schools, rehab facilities, wellness clinics, hospitals, behavioral study centers, law enforcement agencies, and frequently in the role of consultants to government bodies or organizations.
Types of Psychologists
There are dozens of different types of psychologists, and while some have relatively far-reaching areas of practice, others are incredibly specialized and narrowly focused on their discipline and the patients they take on. Below is a list of various types of psychologists and what issues they can help treat.
Clinical neuropsychologists dedicate their work to thoroughly understanding how the brain impacts behavior. They study and research brain disorders and design and implement new treatments.
Clinical psychologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients living with mental illness or other psychological duress. They can create psychotherapeutic plans and implement them in treatment. In addition, clinical psychologists can work in many different settings, such as private practices, mental health and wellness clinics, and hospitals. While they receive training in a wide variety of methods, they will often specialize in one type of patient or demographic, such as pediatric mental health or substance use disorders.
Child and Adolescent Psychology
Child and adolescent psychologists help children and teens overcome psychological challenges unique to their life experiences. They will often work as school psychologists, focusing on helping children and adolescents deal with educational or academic challenges, social issues, and behavioral problems in educational environments or in conjunction with educational facilities. They can also be found in private practices, clinics, and hospitals.
Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology
Behavioral and cognitive psychologists investigate the thought patterns of their patients as they relate to problem-solving and decision-making. They are often focused on how the brain absorbs and handles various types of information, usually specializing in areas like memory or language functions, attention disorders, and other learning disabilities.
Behavioral and cognitive psychologists can be found in a wide variety of spaces like universities, corporate research teams, rehab facilities and recovery clinics, hospitals, private practices, and even in government psychological settings.
Forensic psychologists are intensely focused on the links between legality and psychology, so they are often found working in private practices or with law enforcement agencies. Forensic psychologists act as consultants in criminal investigations, civil matters, and custody battles and even help rehabilitate victims of crimes.
Rehabilitation psychologists investigate and apply psychological education to better understand the challenges of individuals living with chronic conditions or disabilities. Their goal is to help improve health, social growth, functional and useful abilities, and independence.
Group Psychology and Psychotherapy
Psychologists who enter into a specialty of group psychology and group psychotherapy use an evidence-based approach to help educate group leaders (e.g., managers, organizational owners) on identifying and improving the development and well-being of group members. They look largely at the dynamics of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, both as individual members and members of a collective or group.
Serious Mental Illness Psychology
What is Psychology?
What Can Psychologists Treat?
Psychologists help treat depression by teaching and guiding patients on how to effectively cope with the thoughts and triggers that occur with depression. They provide strategies for reducing intrusive thoughts or other similar tactics.
People looking for psychological help with reducing anxiety or panic will generally learn grounding techniques and coping mechanisms to reduce the symptoms and effects of having an anxiety or panic attack.
Treatments for addiction can have an incredible degree of variance, depending on the client and their specific situation. Often, addiction therapy will center around discovering the triggers that cause substance use, coping with those triggers more healthily, and learning ways to live without the burden of addiction.
Eating disorder treatments can require varying therapies, usually involving healthy eating habits, discovering and dealing with triggers, and improving mental health.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Grief, and Trauma
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly sought treatment for veterans and survivors of trauma or intense grief. There is often a focus on methods that help the patients calm themselves and regain control over their emotions.
Personality disorder treatment is often highly specialized and requires extensive attention from both the patient and the psychologist.
Treatments for chronic stress are common and often involve teaching mindfulness and relaxation exercises.
Psychologists frequently help identify, diagnose, and treat emotional regulation difficulties. The type of treatment and therapy depends on the cause and severity of the emotional problems.
How Can They Help?
There is a wide range of ways psychologists can help, and while the list below is far from exhaustive, it provides insight into the importance of psychologists’ roles in people’s lives. In most cases, they help people find the cause of their behavioral or mental conditions and help them create strategies to cope with and adapt to those conditions to overcome them eventually.
Some of the ways psychologists can help people include:
- Understanding and dealing with addiction
- Treating depression and anxiety symptoms
- Diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- Supporting people with dementia
- Helping people lose weight or live a more healthful lifestyle
- Addressing problems in people with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease
- Diagnosing and treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Dealing with sleep issues
When to Seek Help From a Psychologist
Knowing when it is necessary to seek help can frequently be as simple as recognizing a few signs. Once you know what to look for, you will be better equipped to seek psychological advice. This is crucial to an effective treatment plan since conditions diagnosed earlier tend to be easier to treat. Some of the most common signs that indicate you should seek the consultation of a psychologist include:
- Feeling anxious on a regular basis
- Not feeling like your “usual” self
- Experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness or helplessness
- Having difficulty with everyday challenges or work
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope, potentially developing a substance use disorder
- Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm
- Experiencing abuse or other trauma that has caused a major change in your life
- Friends or family have expressed concerns over your well-being
What Education Is Required for a Psychologist?
Types of Psychotherapy
Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Therapy
Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies focus primarily on changing established behaviors, whether desirable or undesirable. They are also used to address behaviors, thought patterns, or emotions and feelings that are potentially problematic.
The objective is to uncover the meanings and motivations, generally subconscious, behind the behaviors. The most well-known doctor of psychoanalysis was Freud, with his theories acting as a strong foundation for today’s psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies.
Behavioral therapy focuses on how the process of learning impacts the development of behaviors, both normal and abnormal. Some of the most famous examples of behavioral therapy include Ivan Pavlov, the creator of classical conditioning, and the use of a method called “desensitizing” that is frequently used to help patients overcome intense anxieties or even phobias.
Group therapy emphasizes a heavy reliance on socialization, generally performed with a group of five to fifteen patients and at least one or two psychologists. This type of therapy focuses on hearing each member’s unique experiences and stories behind why they are seeking treatment and will generally have a common theme.
Some of the common group therapy models are designed to overcome or live with grief, substance use disorder, and similar illnesses like cancer or PTSD and will usually feature members that are similar in age and life experience.
Humanistic therapy emphasizes how each person has the capacity, whether innate or learned, to make rational choices. These choices are designed to help clients reach their maximum developmental potential. A recurring theme in humanistic therapy is that a person’s decision-making should respect and concern other people.
Humanistic therapies can often take one of three major styles—client-centered, existential, or gestalt. These will be detailed below.
Client-centered therapy helps people realize that they are the expert on their own experiences and the ultimate best authority to enact change.
Gestalt therapy focuses primarily on mindfulness of the present and people accepting responsibility for their own actions.
Integrative or Holistic Therapy
Holistic therapy involves using traditional and non-traditional treatments. Many practicing therapists don’t bind themselves to one particular approach. Instead, they will either use components from all of the various types of therapies or determine what type of therapy will be the most beneficial for a specific client. This allows a therapeutic approach that is far more tailored to each person’s needs.
Differences Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist
Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist
Education and Training
Both psychologists and psychiatrists require extensive education. Education considerations will be explained below.
Psychiatrists must complete their bachelor’s degree and then get accepted to medical school. In medical school, they will study anatomy, biology, neurology, pharmacology, and more, which are required to be able to prescribe psychiatric medication. Once they graduate from medical school, they will need to complete a residency program, often lasting another four years, before obtaining a license to practice. In total, the average doctor of psychiatry will spend about twelve years in school.
Authority to Medicate
One of the most significant differences between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychologists cannot prescribe medication, whereas psychiatrists can. This is a crucial difference for clients who require medication to help treat their conditions.
Both psychologists and psychiatrists are able to perform psychotherapy; nonetheless, psychologists will center their treatments more around talking in therapy sessions and behavioral therapy. The primary treatment for patients of psychiatrists will be pharmaceutical since they are permitted to prescribe medication.
Psychologists’ primary area of treatment is mental health and trauma recovery, often focusing on the factors that influence them, such as cognitive processes or societal influences. On the other hand, psychiatrists are more narrowly focused on mental health diagnostics and treatment of disorders. They will use psychotherapy to some extent, but they also have extensive training in biology and neurology and will address mental health disorders with medications.
Receive Psychotherapy at Pacific Beach Health
If you’ve been experiencing mental health issues and feel like it may be time for professional psychological advice, contact us today at Pacific Beach Health. We offer personalized and supportive treatments to help people get back on their feet and improve various aspects of their lives. Our well-trained and experienced psychologists provide compassionate care and evidence-based therapies with complete confidentiality. Take the first step to a more positive and healthy life with Pacific Beach Health.