A psychologist is an expert at helping people resolve personal, emotional and relationship problems. 

You can expect a psychologist to conduct himself or herself in an ethical, professional manner, to show sensitivity to your feelings and to explain the issues of privacy and confidentiality regarding  your visits.

Some people are a little apprehensive about their initial visit to see a psychologist because they don’t know what to expect. Most people feel considerably relieved after their first visit because an experienced psychologist will make them feel comfortable talking about their problems.

An example of what you might expect in my own approach.

I use my initial visit to get a clear idea of the problem that brings my patient in and to establish some goals, based on what they want to accomplish. I usually start out by asking a few questions to get some general background information and to find out how they have dealt with their problems in the past, and what the results have been.

People resolve many life problems on their own. When they find themselves stuck on a disturbing problem in spite of their best efforts to resolve it, professional help may make a big difference.  I try to determine why their usual, common sense efforts have been unsuccessful. Sometimes blind spots are interfering with their efforts; sometimes they are taking actions which work exactly against their goals. It is my goal to identify their mistakes and the obstacles that are getting in the way of a successful resolution of the problem and to help them establish some more effective solutions.

Problems often treated by psychologists include:

Anxiety, fears, phobias, panic attacks, depression, marital and family problems, sexual problems and other relationship and emotional problems.

The professional services of a licensed psychologist are often covered by medical insurance plans. You should feel free to ask a psychologist questions about fees and about insurance coverage. 

You should also feel free to ask any psychologist you consult about his or her qualifications and experience. A well-qualified psychologist will not be offended by such questions and will be happy to provide the information you request. These are some of the things you should look for.

A psychologist should hold a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in psychology from an accredited university of good reputation, and should have specialized training in the field of clinical psychology. A psychologist must be licensed to practice in most states. Feel free to ask any psychologist where he or she  took their doctorate degree in psychology, and about their psychology license number. Ask how long the psychologist has been in practice in your community and whether he or she has any university or hospital affiliations. Ask if the psychologist is listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, which is a useful resource for information about psychologists. For further information about resources to check on the qualifications of a psychologist or other mental health professional click on how to check qualifications.

A commonly asked question is, “What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?” 

The short answer is that a psychologist’s training is focused mainly in the field of psychology. A psychologist’s undergraduate (B.A.) and graduate (M.A. and Ph.D.) degrees are all in the field of psychology, including learning theory, developmental psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology and abnormal psychology. In addition to this academic training, the psychologist gets his clinical training and experience in post-graduate clinical psychology training program. The training of a psychologist includes the psychodiagnosis and treatment of emotional or mental disorders. In addition, a psychologist is trained in psychodiagnostic testing and in research. 

While a psychologist’s doctorate degree (Ph.D.) is a graduate degree in psychology, a psychiatrist’s doctorate degree is an undergraduate degree in medicine (M.D.) A psychiatrist spends four years in medical school, learning all the things that any physician learns. The psychiatrist’s training in the psychodiagnosis and treatment of emotional and mental disorders comes in a “residency” program after he gets his degree in medicine. This is essentially “on the job training” under the supervision of other psychiatrists. A psychiatrist’s medical training qualifies him to prescribe medications and to administer other medical forms of treatment such electroshock treatment. A psychiatrist is not trained at all in many the fields of psychology, such as learning theory, developmental psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology, abnormal psychology, psychodiagnostic testing and research methods.

As an example of information about qualifications and training that a psychologist might provide, here is the information I would provide about myself:

I took my B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles. My field of concentration was clinical psychology. In addition to my full time private practice of clinical psychology I was an Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California at Irvine for more than 20 years.  .

I am licensed in the State of California as a Psychologist (license no. PSY 1036) and as a Marriage and Family Therapist (license no. M676). My National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology number is 1288. I have been in the practice of clinical psychology and marriage counseling in the Long Beach, California and Orange County, California communities for more than 20 years. For further information about my training, experience and office locations, click on Marvin S. Beitner, Ph.D

For information about why you might prefer to choose a clinical psychologist for professional help rather than another type of professional, see my copy of the Orange County Psychological Association’s Web Page entitled “What is a Psychologist?