Psychologists are highly trained professionals with expertise in the areas of human behavior, mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, and behavior change. Psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people change their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and to cope better with difficult situations.
In North Carolina, licensed psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology. After graduation from college, licensed psychologists spend an average of 7 years in graduate education, training, and research. As part of their professional training they complete a supervised clinical internship in a hospital or organized health setting, and at least one year of post-doctoral supervised experience before they can practice independently in any health care arena. Licensed psychological associates have a master's degree in psychology. They also have graduate-level training, a clinical internship, and post-graduate supervision.
Therapy works by helping you look objectively at behaviors, feelings, and thoughts in situations which you find problematic. It helps you to learn more effective ways to deal with those situations.
Therapy is a collaborative effort. You and your psychologist will identify your goals - what you want to have happen - and agree on how you'll know when you are making progress. Your psychologist will talk with you about the length of time it may take to help you see changes.
Progress and change can happen. Nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said that psychotherapy had helped them. And, in another recent major national study, half of the clients studied were making improvement after eight sessions of therapy, 75% after six months of therapy.
First, gather information. Talk to your doctor or other health professionals. Today, many family practitioners work with a team of providers, including psychologists, and can refer you to one that they know and trust. Consult the department of psychology at a local college or university, or the local community mental health center. You could also ask a clergy member, as well as family members and friends who may know or have heard about individual psychologists in your community. To utilize NCPA's Referral Service, click on the link that says "Referral Service" located at the top left side of this page.
Once you have the name of several psychologists, there are several questions you'll want to ask, including:
A psychiatrist is a physician (MD or DO) who completes medical school and an additional three or four year psychiatric residency, and is licensed to prescribe medications.
Psychotherapists and counselors may have various kinds of training of varying quality. Some therapist/counselors have only a bachelor's degree, some have a master's degree, and some have a doctorate. A person who describes himself/herself as a "psychotherapist" is not necessarily a licensed psychologist.
Many health plans, including HMO's, provide some level of coverage for psychological services.
If you do not have coverage and will be paying out of pocket, you can talk with your psychologist about sliding scale fees or working out a payment plan. Community mental health centers are also an alternative.
You can talk with the benefits or human resource manager at your place of employment. Let him/her know that you believe mental health services are important, and that you are concerned that you have limited or no coverage. If you belong to a union, you can talk to your union leaders.