We have well and truly entered the second decade of the 21st Century and yet, for many of us wandering the streets of Charleville and Augathella, we still have questions about what Psychology is and why it is important. Since it is Mental Health Week, I thought it would be appropriate to give you my top five questions I have heard over the years about Psychology…
1. What is Psychology?
Psychology is both the name given to a scientific field as well as a profession. As a science, it is the study of the human mind and behaviour which forms the foundation on which many other professions and behaviour change is based. As a profession, like medicine or physiotherapy, psychology helps people become mentally, emotionally, and sometimes socially and physically well. While we are experts in our field, psychologists do not read minds nor tell you how to solve your problems but rather provide a safe, neutral, and confidential space to facilitate psychological functioning, wellness and thriving.
2. Is a Psychologist just someone with a Psychology degree?
The short answer is yes, all Psychologists have a Psychology Degree but not everyone with a Psychology degree is a Psychologist. People with Psychology degrees can be found in many industries and roles, because Psychology understands human behaviour in any context. Psychology is also valued for its research and evaluation skills so all who study psychology are not psychologists. The term ‘Psychologist’ is a protected word, like Nurses and Lawyers, we must be registered with the appropriate authority.
3. What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist, social worker or counsellor?
Psychologists are not Psychiatrists, Social Workers, or Counsellors, although there is an overlap. All these professions provide some form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) but it is their training, skillset and the ‘how and what’ they focus on that is different.
A simple way to understand the differences are as follows:
– Psychiatrists are specialist medical doctors whose specialty is the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. They can prescribe medication and tend to work with more complex cases in a medical setting.
– Counsellors provide counselling and talk-based therapies for people who have problems. This can include people with mental disorders, but they are not able to diagnose a disorder. They also focus on the current problem. Counsellors can do a three day course or study up to a Masters level.
– Psychologists sit somewhere between Counsellor and Psychiatrist – they can assess and diagnose mental disorders but cannot prescribe medication. Psychologists use a range of talk interventions, and some more specific/intensive treatments depending on the presentation of the problem/s. We also work towards finding and treating the cause of the problems using an evidence based assessments.
– Social workers are involved in connecting a person with community supports. An example of this difference is on a hospital ward: The psychologist will be assessing an older person for dementia or memory functioning, while the social worker will be assessing the same person for what supports such as accommodation needs and link them appropriately to community groups. The psychologist would work with the client or guide the social worker on how to communicate with a dementia patient or the psychological barriers to change. The social worker focuses on changing the environment around the client, while psychologist focuses on change in the individual.
4. Do Psychologists only help people who are very unwell?
It is a very damaging myth that you need to be critically unwell, depressed, suicidal or at breaking point to see a psychologist. You also don’t need to have to be assessed for diagnosis. Psychologists can support you to move from barely functioning in life, to functioning; but they can also help take you from functioning, to thriving in life! An example of this is when you see sports psychologists in high performing teams – they aren’t just working with the male athlete who is developing an addiction or the young female athlete developing an eating disorder, they are also supporting the coach and trainers to develop team cohesion and winning mindsets (A psychologist was instrumental in the mindset of the North Queensland Cowboys leading up to the grand final win in 2015!).We support people from all walks of life through grief, addiction, trauma, anxiety, relationship & family problems, stress management, decision making. We help to remove the barriers in people’s lives that are holding them back from deep joy and fulfilment.
Psychologists don’t just help with individuals, we can also help organisations and communities instigate and manage change. Examples might be health & wellness programs, tourist-friendly behaviour, drugs and alcohol programs, domestic violence reduction and updating workplace practices.
5. So what’s this about about the Chaise longe? Do all Psychologist rooms have a couch?
Some psychologists will have a couch but many don’t – and you absolutely don’t need to lie on it! It’s all about making you feel comfortable, relaxed and safe. There will usually be comfortable chairs because you might be sitting down for a while (although out here they certainly won’t look like the one below!), and there will always be tissues.
If you are curious about how a Psychologist might be able to help you, or your child, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at reception. Find the store located closest to you here.
Article by Sandra Bennett,
Vital Health Charleville based Psychologist.