What exactly is a psychologist?
In the State of Georgia, the term “psychologist” is a specific term that is restricted for use only by individuals who have completed a doctorate in psychology and are licensed by the State. Psychologists are mental health professionals who have completed anywhere from six to ten years of training, including graduate school courses, practicum training, a year of internship or residency, and a one-year post-doctoral supervised work experience (post-doctoral fellowship).
In general, a psychologist will have education and training in human development, cultural diversity, brain structure and function, behavioral dynamics, social and family dynamics, statistics and research methods, psychopharmacology, and ethics. Psychologists differ from other mental health professionals because they receive a broader and lengthier education than, for example, masters degree-level professionals. Clinical psychologists also have intensive training in treating mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, oppositional and defiant behavior, conduct problems, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), substance use problems, bipolar disorders, personality issues, trauma reactions, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and other concerns.
There are several different types of psychologists with different specializations and backgrounds. Some examples are clinical psychologists (those who evaluate and treat mental illness), neuropsychologists (clinical psychologists who specialize in brain function and behavior), academic psychologists (they specialize in research and teaching), industrial/organizational psychologists (those who specialize in personnel psychology and organizational/workplace behavior), forensic psychologists (clinical psychologists who specialize in behavior and the legal system), among others.
Within psychology, there are two different types of doctoral degrees - the Ph.D. and the Psy.D. (pronounced, “Sigh-D,” which stands for “Doctorate of Psychology”). The primary difference is that Ph.D. psychologists receive more training in research and statistics. In contrast, Psy.D. psychologists typically receive more training in applied psychology, such as evaluation and psychotherapy techniques.
The psychologists at Atlanta Psychological Services have background and training to work with clients in improving their mental health and overall functioning. This is done through psychotherapy for individuals, families, couples, and groups. Our psychologists also conduct psychological testing or evaluation to determine diagnosis and treatment needs and/or facilitate an administrative need (i.e., evaluations for court).
In general, a psychological evaluation involves completing a variety of different tests and interview techniques to determine if you have mental health needs warranting attention. Evaluations can also help determine what type of treatments or interventions may be most helpful. If you are trying to figure out if you have a mental health disorder and how to help yourself, a psychological evaluation is a great way to answer these questions.
There are several different approaches to therapy, stemming from different theoretical backgrounds. Some approaches to therapy are designed to treat different issues or disorders.
Approaches to therapy include psychoanalysis and psychodynamic treatment, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, humanistic therapy, and/or a combination of approaches (integrative approach).
Therapists use active listening skills, supportive reflections, dialogue, structured problem solving, mindfulness exercises, and activities to improve the presenting concerns.
A custom treatment plan is also commonly developed with the patient to identify areas of focus for treatment. This can specify what approaches or techniques will be used to address treatment goals and objectives, and it helps monitor the effectiveness of treatment and progress.
Psychologists provide non-medication interventions for mental health problems.
Psychiatrists typically prescribe medications to target symptoms, often without teaching non-medication techniques to manage symptoms.
Psychologists attend doctoral programs specifically for the study of psychology and receive a Psy.D. or Ph.D. degree.
Psychiatrists attend medical school and receive an M.D. degree.
For some major syndromes and disorders, such as Major Depression, Schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders, it is beneficial and often necessary to be treated by both a psychologist for psychotherapy AND a psychiatrist for psychopharmacologic management.
This article is for informational purposes only. Information provided on this website is not intended to be used in place of professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis, and/or treatment. If you are seeking mental health treatment, we welcome a call to this office at 770-457-5577. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.