What is a Psychologist?
It can be confusing trying to find a qualified mental health practitioner for help with a particular emotional or psychological problem. In Ontario, the words “counsellor” and “therapist” are not regulated by the government – that means that anyone can refer to him/herself in this way, regardless of training or education. Given this, it is wise to ask questions before you begin to see a new practitioner. Ask about previous training and experience, as well as credentials and qualifications.
A psychologist studies how we think, feel, and behave from a scientific viewpoint and applies this knowledge to help people understand, explain, and change their behaviour.
Where Do Psychologists Work?
Some psychologists work primarily as researchers and faculty at universities and at governmental and non-governmental organizations. Others work primarily as practitioners in hospitals, schools, clinics, correctional facilities, employee assistance programs, and private offices. Many psychologists are active in both research and practice.
What Do Psychologists Do?
Psychologists engage in research, practice, and teaching across a wide range of topics having to do with how people think, feel, and behave. Their work can involve individuals, groups, families, as well as larger organizations in government and industry. Here are some of the kinds of issues with which psychologists focus their research and practice:
- Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, phobias, etc.
- Neurological, genetic, psychological, and social determinants of behaviour.
- Brain injury, degenerative brain diseases.
- The perception and management of chronic pain.
- Psychological factors and problems associated with physical conditions and disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke).
- Psychological factors and management of terminal illnesses.
- Cognitive functions such as learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability, performance, and academic achievement.
- Developmental and behavioural abilities and problems across the lifespan.
- Criminal behaviour, crime prevention, services for victims and perpetrators of criminal activity.
- Addictions and substance use and abuse (e.g. smoking, alcohol).
- Stress, anger, and other aspects of lifestyle management.
- Court consultations addressing the impact and role of psychological and cognitive factors in accidents and injury, parental capacity, and competence to manage one’s personal affairs.
- The application of psychological factors and issues to work such as motivation, leadership, productivity, marketing, healthy workplaces, and ergonomics.
- Marital and family relationships and problems.
- Psychological factors necessary for maintaining wellness and prevention of disease.
- Social and cultural behaviour and attitudes, the relationship between the individual and the many groups of which he or she is part (e.g. work, family, society).
- The role and impact of psychological factors on performance at work, recreation, and sport.
What is the Difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?
In Canada, the professionals who most commonly treat people with mental health problems are psychologists and psychiatrists. A psychologist holds a master’s and/or doctoral degree in psychology that involves from 6 to 10 years of university study of how people think, feel, and behave. Psychologists who hold doctoral degrees can use the title ‘Dr.’. Psychologists who practice (and hence those who are licensed) typically will have completed their graduate university training in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, clinical neuropsychology or educational/school psychology.
Psychologists are licensed professionals who are required to declare their areas of competency to the regulatory body and required to practice within the bounds of their competence. For example, it is required that a psychologist working with children has been appropriately trained in the area of child developmental psychology and so on. Psychologists are trained to assess and diagnose problems related to thinking, feeling, and behaviour, as well as trained to help people overcome and/or manage these difficulties. A psychologist is uniquely trained to use psychological tests to help with assessment and diagnosis. Psychologists help people to overcome or manage their problems using a variety of treatments or psychotherapies. Psychologists do no prescribe medications, so clients often consult his/her physician or psychiatrist about medication while seeing a psychologist for psychotherapy.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who go on to specialize in mental health and mental health disorders. Psychiatrists often use medication to help their clients manage their mental health disorders and there are some disorders for which medications are very necessary. Some psychiatrists also do psychotherapy, much like psychologists do. For more information on the study and practice of psychiatry, please visit the website of the Canadian Psychiatric Association at http://www.cpa-apc.org.
***Information above taken from Canadian Psychological Association