A psychologist is a professionally trained mental health professional who helps patients navigate challenging life situations or mental health issues. To become a psychologist you must earn a doctoral degree; qualifying degrees include a Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D. To actively practice, a psychologist must be licensed in their state and maintain good standing. Psychologists are trained to administer tests that can evaluate a patient’s cognitive strength and weaknesses, intellectual skills, vocational aptitude and preference, personality characteristics, and neuropsychological functioning, explains the American Psychological Association (APA).
A psychologist meets with patients in an office and may work with a variety of methods, depending on patient need, such as cognitive, behavioral or interpersonal. According to the APA, common reasons a person may visit a psychologist include:
- Dealing with depression, anger or anxiety over a long period of time.
- Help with a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health.
- Help with grieving and other abrupt transitions.
- Overcoming addictions.
- Managing chronic illness.
- Breaking old and harmful patterns of thinking or behavior.
Psychologists are healthcare professionals who use scientific methods to understand the relationships between the brain, environment and behavior. Psychologists may focus on research — studying how the brain and various environments drive behaviors to better understand the issues that trouble patients and society as a whole — or they may focus on practice — interacting with people using therapeutic methods. The American Psychological Association shares some of the more prevalent types of psychologists:
- Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
- Cognitive and perceptual psychologists study human perception, thinking and memory.
- Community psychologists work to strengthen the abilities of communities, settings, organizations and broader social systems to meet people’s needs — such as improving support for victims of natural disasters, or working to improve health policies.
- Counseling psychologists help people understand and take action on everyday issues, career and work problems, and serious adversity.
- Developmental psychologists study the psychological development of the human being throughout life.
- Educational psychologists concentrate on how effective teaching and learning take place.
- Engineering psychologists conduct research on how people work best with machines.
- Environmental psychologists study the dynamics of how people interact with their environments.
- Evolutionary psychologists study how evolutionary principles such as mutation, adaptation and selective fitness influence human thought, feeling and behavior.
- Experimental psychologists study cognitive processes, comparative psychology (cross-species comparisons), and learning and conditioning.
- Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues.
- Health psychologists specialize in how biological, psychological and social factors affect health and illness.
- Industrial/organizational psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the workplace to improve productivity, health and the quality of work life.
- Neuropsychologists and behavioral neuropsychologists explore the relationships between brain systems and behavior.
- Quantitative and measurement psychologists focus on methods and techniques for designing experiments and analyzing psychological data.
- Rehabilitation psychologists work with stroke and accident victims, people with mental disabilities, and those with developmental disabilities caused by such conditions as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism.
- School psychologists assess and counsel students, consult with parents and school staff, and conduct behavioral interventions when appropriate.
- Social psychologists study how a person’s mental life and behavior are shaped by interactions with other people.
- Sport psychologists help athletes refine their focus on competition goals, become more motivated, and learn to deal with anxiety and fear of failure around competition.
Hypnosis is a wellness technique that works by promoting positive behavioral or cognitive changes. During successful hypnosis, the client should be eased into a state of deep relaxation in which the conscious mind takes a back seat and the subconscious mind becomes more active. The client is often able to let go of critical thoughts and become receptive to the therapist’s suggestions. In this state of hypnosis, motivating suggestions can bypass your usual mental resistance and internal defense mechanisms. For example, even if you want to quit overeating cupcakes, you may have some level of resistance that your rational mind can’t overcome. During hypnosis, the positive suggestions made by the hypnotherapist can bypass your usual blocks, helping you to achieve the formerly unachievable: stopping overeating, quitting smoking, mastering public speaking, or losing your fear of heights. The goal of hypnosis is to strengthen and empower the client’s motivation, commitment and focus. Consider working with someone who is not just trained in hypnosis but also is a licensed therapist or psychotherapist who can bring their academic background into your session.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool to help clients overcome challenging issues such as anxiety, phobias, pain management, hot flashes and more. Hypnosis is also a way to help let go of addictions like smoking, overeating and gambling. In and of itself, hypnosis is not a therapy, but it can be used in conjunction with therapy to empower and encourage the person receiving it to make positive change. Some people are more susceptible to hypnosis and will benefit more from hypnotherapy than others.
According to Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus, speaking for Psychology Today, hypnosis is a “genuine psychological phenomenon that has valid uses in clinical practice … hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation, and heightened suggestibility. While under hypnosis (i.e., in a hypnotic trance), it seems many people are much more open to helpful suggestions than they usually are.” The suggestions made in a therapeutic setting get deep into a person’s brain, beyond their conscious thinking, leading to behavior change and the ability to overcome challenges that might otherwise seem insurmountable.
To be able to write a prescription, a clinical psychologist must practice in a state that permits them to do so, and must either have a master’s degree in psychopharmacology or have completed the required advanced training program. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), five states currently permit psychologists to write prescriptions: Idaho, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa and Louisiana. Many psychologists who are not able to write prescriptions work in partnership with psychiatrists, pediatricians or primary care doctors to help their patients who need medication.