February is Psychology Month: Learn more about psychologists and what they do

February is Psychology Month. It’s a good time to learn about psychology, psychologists and psychological associates.

Mental Health statistics are dire. Here are some fast facts:

There is an enormous cost in lives lost if we consider the families and communities that are affected when one person takes their life. The economic cost is also significant, not for the dollars lost: being unable to contribute in a fulfilling way through our jobs feeds into the cycle of depression and anxiety.


 

How can psychology help us?

 

Psychology is the study of human mind and behaviour. What we discover about the mind helps us understand how and why we interact with each other and our environment in the ways we do. Through psychological research, we’ve come to understand

  • what motivates us,
  • how addictions develop,
  • what makes us happy (sort of!), and
  • how our emotions can support or sabotage our intentions.

With this understanding (and it’s not perfect yet by any means), psychologists have developed various approaches to help us when we’re stuck in loops of helplessness or frozen by our fears and worries. This is the primary work of psychotherapy, which includes a number of different approaches. Here are a few:

  • psychoanalytic therapy (originally developed by Freud and Jung, there are many forms of psychoanalytic therapies today)
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • humanistic therapy
  • mindfulness-informed or mindfulness-based therapies
  • trauma-informed therapies
  • somatic sensory therapies

Each form of therapy is intended to help us with our psychological distress. Whether a therapy will suit us is a personal experience. Some of us really get into the cognitive behavioural therapies, others find a values-focused approach more helpful. Success in the early stages of therapy depends on the relationship between the psychologist we choose and the reasons we are seeking help.

What does a psychologist do?

Psychologists and psychological associates who offer treatments for psychological distress are trained in clinical skills. These include interviewing us for information that may help in choosing the right approach to dealing with our distress. It could include administering questionnaires that clarify symptoms and issues that are important in knowing what’s happening in our lives. Psychologists and psychological associates also work in areas such as

  • Counselling Psychology
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Rehabilitation Psychology
  • School Psychology (see Ontario Psychological Association for more details)

This document from the OPA offers a detailed list of what psychologists do.

Psychologists and psychiatrists differ in important ways too. Scroll to the bottom of this page for an explanation.

 

What kind of training do psychologists have?

Psychologists and psychological associates have post-graduate training in an area of psychology (clinical, neuropsychological, neuroscience, psychometric assessments, etc.). To use the title “Psychologist”, they must be registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario; that means they are certified as proficient in their field of expertise and are able to work autonomously in various settings, including private practice.

With the new Ontario legislation declaring Psychotherapy as a controlled act, by December 30, 2019, only professional in five regulatory colleges will be allowed to offer Psychotherapy:

 

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