February is Psychology Month and in honour of that, we thought we’d put together a little piece to answer some common questions and misconceptions about psychologists and the practice of psychotherapy.
What is a psychologist?
A psychologist is a licensed practitioner who specializes in the practice of psychotherapy. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, psychologists study “how we think, feel and behave from a scientific viewpoint and apply this knowledge to help people understand, explain and change their behaviour.”
In Alberta, the governing body for psychologists is the College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP). Psychologists have to be registered with CAP in order to be considered a “registered psychologist.” CAP helps to regulate and ensure that all members adhere to a strict code of ethics and protects public safety. These ethical standards are in place to ensure that: clients are receiving the best care they can, and their psychologist is practicing in their best interest, protecting their client’s safety and confidentiality. If you ever have any ethical concerns regarding your, these can be brought directly to CAP.
What is a psychologist not?
There are many terms out there that people often view synonymously with “psychologist” but they don’t all mean the same thing. To become a registered psychologist in Alberta, a Master’s degree is required, although many also have a doctoral degree. In addition to this schooling, one year of supervised practice (totalling 1600 hours) is required before the registration process can occur. Both an oral and written examination must also be passed to obtain registration. These standards ensure that “registered psychologists” have proven the competencies required to effectively practice psychotherapy. The credentials “R. Psych.” are often used to denote registered psychologists, so be sure to look for this when searching for a psychologist. You can also contact the College of Alberta Psychologists to confirm whether a person is registered psychologist www.cap.ab.ca.
Psychologists often refer to themselves as “therapists” or “counsellors”, however because these terms are not protected by law or are regulated, technically anyone can use them. In order to ensure your practitioner has the credentials you are looking for, you can ask questions like:
- Are you a registered psychologist?
- How long have you been practicing for?
- Where did you do your schooling and what degree did you obtain?
- What are your areas of expertise and what experience do you have treating these concerns?
What does a psychologist do?
As mentioned, psychologists offer psychotherapy to clients. Psychologists assist people with a diverse range of concerns such as:
- interpersonal issues
- grief and loss
- chronic pain
- abuse and trauma
- substance abuse
- self esteem and body image
Psychologists may also work with couples and families regarding their relationship concerns.
It should be noted that psychotherapy isn’t devoted exclusively to improving mental health concerns. Rather, it can also be used to help achieve your personal best. Many psychologists specialize in performance enhancement in sports, career, or the workplace to name a few.
What to consider when choosing a psychologist?
Finding a psychologist can be a daunting task, so here are some things to keep in mind when searching for the practitioner that is right for you.
As with most searches nowadays, your hunt for a psychologist will likely start on Google. However, it is also important to talk to your potential therapist face-to-face or over the phone to get the opportunity to ask questions and get to know them. Many psychologists offer a free consultation prior to the start of therapy in order for you each to get the chance to determine if working together will be the right fit.
During these consults, it is often helpful to consider questions like:
- Do they have experience addressing the particular concern you are facing?
- If so, what is their therapeutic approach or treatment orientation? Has research shown this to be an effective approach? Does this sound like it is going to be the right fit for you as their client?
- How long do they anticipate that the process of therapy will be for you?
- What are the fees associated with therapy?
One of the most important aspects to evaluate is whether or not you feel rapport with your potential psychologist. If you don’t feel like you are on the same page, therapy likely will not be effective and it would be better to look for someone else.
Hopefully this provides you with some basic information to get started. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us.
At Defining Solutions, we offer services across a wide area of domains, from individual and couples counselling, to career counselling and organizational services.
Happy Psychology Month!