Psychology/ Counselling – An Overview

What do psychologists do?

Psychologists are experts in how the mind works. They have studied the anatomy of the brain, memory, learning, human development and the processes determining how people think, feel, behave and react. The profession is considered a science. In having knowledge of research findings of different treatment approaches, a psychologist can tailor therapy to your individual needs/goals.

A psychologist can assist you to:

  • Develop insight into the effects of your life experiences on your thoughts, emotions and behavior
  • Resolve issues that are adversely impacting on your quality of life
  • Identify and implement changes you may benefit from.

What can psychologists help with?

Oftentimes clients attend psychologists to resolve or better manage mental health disorders (for example, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress). Nonetheless, having been diagnosed with a mental health disorder is not a requirement to attend a psychologist.

Other matters that psychologists can provide clients assistance with include:

  • Developing skills to better manage stress and other emotions
  • Identifying and achieve personal goals
  • Improving relationships
  • Adapting to changes that arise through the course of life
  • Coping better with adverse life experiences (for example, trauma, abuse, death of a loved one)
  • Growing on a personal level.

Why choose psychology?

Research shows psychological treatments are effective in alleviating mental health disorders 1. Some treatments are at least as successful as medication in treating the most prevalent conditions 2, such as depression and anxiety.

Around one in five Australians (16- 85 year olds) identify as having a mental health disorder each year, and nearly half of the Australian population aged 16-85 years identify as having experienced an anxiety, mood or substance use disorder during their lifetime 3. Psychological approaches are designed to assist in alleviating these, without medication. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing psychological treatments are effective without prescribed medication. Nonetheless, prescribed medication taken in conjunction with psychological treatment, can enhance treatment benefits times 4. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication, and so you should consult your GP to determine whether medication may benefit you.

Various types of psychologists

Psychologists practice in a range of settings, in which they conduct assessments, diagnose, treat or prevent mental health problems. As a result of the field of psychology being extensive, psychologists are often referred to according to the specific area that relates to their skillset. The governing body of psychology in Australia recognizes nine specialist areas.

  • Counselling Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Organisational Psychology
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • Educational and Developmental Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Community Psychology

Psychologists are not required to be recognised as a specialist in one of these areas in order to practice. However, specialist endorsement indicates that a psychologist has completed advanced training and has significant experience working in a particular field.

Notes:

  1. Hollon, S.D. Stewart, M.O., & Strunk, D. (2006). Enduring Effects for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety. Annual Review of Psychology, 57: 285-315.
  2. Olatunji, B.O., & Hollon, S.D. (2010). Preface: the current status of cognitive behavioral therapy for psychiatric disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33 (3).
  3. Slade, T, Johnston, A, Teesson, M, Whiteford, H, Burgess, P, Pirkis, J, Saw, S. (2009) The mental health of Australians 2. Report on the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra.
  4. Magill, M, & RAY, L.A., (2009). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment With Adult Alcohol and Illicit Drug Users: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70 (4):, 516-527.