When and Why You Need a Psychologist

by Ashley Solomon

Disclaimer: The intent of this post is not in any way to diminish the real and important contributions of other fields and other professional counselors. On the contrary, it is intended to help consumers understand the role of a psychologist and the value added that psychologists may provide.

You have a general feeling of dissatisfaction with your life. You notice yourself avoiding certain places or situations. You seem to spend an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror. You are constantly fighting with your wife. You find yourself eating lots of food in secret. You feel an odd sense of disconnection with your surroundings. People say you drink a little too much. Others say the things you believe are not true. You feel panic when you think about giving that presentation at work. You notice yourself forgetting things more than you used to.

There are likely thousands of reasons that an individual may require mental health intervention and probably almost as many means people use to acquire help. They read self-help books or talk to friends or consult their psychic… But how do you know when you need more intensive help, such as the assistance of a psychologist?

Common signs that one might benefit from consultation with a psychologist include,

  • Less intensive intervention (e.g. talking to friends at church) has not helped.
  • Feeling that things are “out of control”; you “just can’t handle it anymore.”
  • Relationships, work, or other areas of life are being impacted by your thoughts, feelings or behaviors.
  • Others who care about you are suggesting that you get help.

So, why a psychologist? Allow me to elaborate…

Licensed clinical psychologists are professionals with the highest degree in their field (a Psy.D or Ph.D), which means they have received intensive education and training in mental health. This usually includes courses in psychopathology, assessment and diagnosis, neuroscience, family therapy, and other subjects, as well as the completion of intensive independent research (i.e. a dissertation). In addition to this, psychologists have completed as many as six thousand or more of hours of clinical training in various mental health settings, such as hospitals, universities, clinics, etc. After all that, psychologists are required to take national licensing exam and state ethics and law exam in order to demonstrate their competence in all things psychology (and even some things not so psychology…). Thus, when you see a psychologist, you should be able to feel confident that you will receive the best possible care from individuals with the most rigorous training and who are under significant scrutiny to perform competently.

This is, of course, not to say that there are not significant differences among psychologists. And, in fact, “fit” is one of the most important factors, in my opinion, in the success of a therapeutic experience. Finding a psychologist with whom you feel comfortable and who has a style and approach that fits your needs and expectations is vital, and it may take some browsing. It’s important for you as a consumer to remember that you are just that – a consumer. You should remember that psychologists are working for you just like anyone else you hire. This means letting the psychologist know when your needs aren’t being met and taking your business elsewhere if problems aren’t resolved.

If you’re looking for a psychologist, check out locator.apa.org or www.findapsychologist.org, both of which offer free provider listings. And feel free to leave a comment below with any questions. Cheers to a healthy mind!

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2 Comments to “When and Why You Need a Psychologist”

  1. As usual, a succinct and insightful posting. What if I don’t hate my mother and don’t wear aluminum foil around my head? Am I still normal? A lot of people I know and work with would say ………………………. NO! But at least my daugther turned out right!!

  2. Thanks for the checklist. 🙂

    Somewhat related: When I was in college, I took a service- / cause-oriented design class, and one of our assignments was to design a postcard that could be sent campus-wide to promote our cause. One girl created a “mental health checkup” postcard, explaining that just like for our teeth, we should get annual checkups for our brains. I thought that was a really good idea, and would probably help reduce the stigma attached to seeing a counselor. Not just in colleges, but across society.

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