Why work with a Clinical Psychologist?

Understanding Psychotherapy

What is a clinical psychologist?
In Virginia, the title "clinical psychologist" is reserved for those who have met the rigorous requirements set forth and governed by The Virginia Board of Psychology.  Those requirements include completing a doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) in psychology, completing a supervised clinical internship in a hospital or other organized health setting, and passing a national written exam and state required exam before becoming licensed. This extensive training takes at least five years of graduate school plus post-doctoral training in many cases (sometimes called "post doctoral fellowship"). By the time they are licensed, clinical psychologists, are VERY HIGHLY trained professionals with expertise in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Clinical psychologists work with children, adults, families, and groups to help change feelings, thoughts, and behaviors via techniques that are based on research. In fact, many clinical psychologists lead research efforts to better understand people's' feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and also develop new ways to help people live better lives. Most research-based clinical psychotherapy treatments for people suffering with mental illness were developed by clinical psychologist researchers. You may find many clinical psychologists have chosen to specialize in helping certain groups (e.g., children, adults) and offer specialized types of assessment (e.g, neuropsychological assessment) or treatment (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy). 

What about other mental health professionals like: psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and licensed mental health counselors? The consumer of mental health care has many options and it is important to be informed about the large differences in training depth and breadth. First, psychiatrists are medical doctors who have gone to medical school and done a three-year residency in psychiatry. They can prescribe and manage psychiatric medications. Some also do psychotherapy. There are a variety of licensed therapists (i.e., providers of psychotherapy) who have mostly have master's degrees plus supervised training prior to sitting for a licensure exam. These therapists include: licensed clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, and licensed mental health counselors.

Training and Licensure
Clinical psychologists receive a median of 7 years of education and training beyond their undergraduate degree, including practica and internship training in hospitals and other health care settings.  Professional licensure is generally uniform throughout the country, authorizing a clinical psychologist to independently diagnose and treat mental and nervous disorders upon completion of a doctoral degree in psychology and a minimum of two years supervised, direct clinical service. 

How to Help in an Emotional Crisis

Protecting Your Privacy:  Understanding Confidentiality

What is Psychotherapy?
An estimated 22.1% of Americans aged 18 and older, about 1 in 5 adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.  Clinical psychologists treat such disorders by providing psychotherapy that in many cases is equally, if not more, effective than medication.  Psychotherapy is effective alone or in combination with medication to address a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other disorders that can devastate an individual's personal, family, social, and work life.  Therapy is a collaborative process between client and clinical psychologist.  The clinical psychologist employs different orientations of therapy (see below for descriptions of orientations), that are rooted in research, to assist the client to understanding feelings, change his/her behavior, and navigate through changes in his/her life.  People may consider therapy when they are feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious, helpless, and hopeless.  People may also consider therapy when functioning day to day becomes difficult or when their actions become harmful to themselves or others.  Individuals may seek therapy in group settings, when family members or close friends are facing difficulty, or individually.

Psychotherapy: Understanding Group Therapy

Is therapy covered by insurance?
Therapy can be covered by insurance however, every policy differs.  It is best to contact your insurance company to find out about co-payments, deductibles, lifetime maximums, as well as annual maximums.  Ask how many treatment sessions will be covered and find out if there is a group of providers or a "network" that you must choose from.  Also ask if your insurance will only cover people with certain degrees.  Finally, you may contact our online referral service to assist you in finding a clinical psychologist with a particular specialty.

Are clinical psychologists trained to work with diverse populations?
Clinical psychologists are trained to provide services to an increasingly diversified national population.  Racial and ethnic minorities experience access-to-care and socio-cultural difficulties that must be addressed to ensure quality care.  Women, children, and adolescents, the elderly,, persons of doverso sexual orientation, and the disabled also have unique needs that call for the interventions clinical psychologists are trained to provide.

What are Diagnostic Services?
Physicians and other health care professionals turn to psychologists for their state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, including, for example, the detection and assessment of functional impairment, and for psychologists' rehabilitative services and treatment.

Understanding Psychological Testing & Assessment

In addition to mental health care, what other services can clinical psychologists provide?

  • Preventive Care - The screening and assessment services provided by clinical psychologists are key to detecting and indentifying patients' mental health issues, and clinical psychologists are trained to help patients develop coping strategies and helathy behaviors that promote and maintain both mental and physical health.
  • Primary Care - Mental health services are critical primary care services, especially in rural and medically-underserved areas.  As many as 70% of primary care visits are driven by patients' psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, and stress -- and 24% of patients who present themselves to promary care physicians suffer from a well-defined mental disorder.  Primary care physicians increasingly rely on the vital and unique mental and behavioral helath services that psycholgists provide to patients.  Increased access to clinical psychologists in primary care improves the coordination of care and treatment planning, while reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental and behavioral health treatment.
  • Chronic Disease Management - Clinical psychologists work in primary, acute, and long-term care settings to treat patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and conditions stemming from obesity, and patients with life-threatening illnesses, such as coronary artery disease and cancer. Clinical psychologists help patients manage pain, cope with medical interventions and their effects, and address family needs and the intangible aspects of illness.  Treatments include an array of individual, group, and family psychological interventions that are effective for depression, anxiety, pain, and adjustment issues associated with chronic illness.

Clinical psychologists provide services in health care facilities and many other settings such as outpatient care, inpatient and other settings, integrated health care, schools and the workplace, and the criminal justice system.  Clinical psychologists also help the victims of disasters or terrorist attacks understand and cope with their experiences.