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Frequently Asked Questions

What do psychologists do?

Psychology is the study of the mind, human experience and behavior.

Psychologists spend an average of 7.2 years, in addition to their undergraduate college degree, in education and training. Psychologists are trained to help people cope more effectively with life problems, using techniques based on best available research and their clinical skills and experience, and taking into account the person's unique values, goals and circumstances.

In California, psychologists conduct research, perform psychological testing, and evaluate and treat a full range of emotional and psychological challenges. They diagnose mental disorders and coordinate the care of their patients in both outpatient and hospital settings.

In addition to conducting individual, and group therapy with adults, adolescents, and children, psychologists are involved in many other areas of work. Many psychologists specialize in couple’s therapy, addressing communication problems, infidelity, emotional disengagement and conflict management. They coach other professionals to improve their communications skills, and to increase their productivity and job satisfaction. They work with athletes, actors and musicians to develop their concentration, reduce anxiety, and enhance their performance. They often obtain advanced training that allows them to provide specialized services such as the evaluation and treatment of stroke patients, assisting patients in the management of chronic pain, and providing expert testimony to our judicial system, offering guidance to the courts.

Psychology Overview

Psychologists are on the forefront of research studies on depression, stress reduction, pain control, substance abuse treatment, anxiety, and phobias. Their work has led to monumental advances in diagnosing and treating psychological problems, and has helped Americans achieve good psychological and physical health. 

Health means different things to different people. Generally speaking, however, psychologically healthy people enjoy life and feel good about themselves, are comfortable with other people, have satisfying relationships, meet most of life's challenges, and enjoy their jobs or school. However, coping with the stress of modern life can sometimes be too much to handle. This is one of the instances where psychological services can help.

One of the most important services psychologists provide is therapy. During therapy, the psychologist helps the client objectively look at behaviors, feelings, and thoughts in different situations in order to develop solutions to deal with those situations. Therapy is a collaborative effort, where the psychologist and his or her client identify goals, decide what they want to happen, and agree on how they will know when progress is being made.

Psychologists are active in nearly every sector of our society, from health to law, and sports to art. One of the areas where psychologists are increasingly visible is in the workplace. They extend their expertise in human behavior to corporate, business, and organizational settings, and provide assistance to individuals and groups on the psychological aspects of their work.

Clearly, psychology is working. Nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said that therapy helped them. In another major national study, half the patients studied were making improvement after eight sessions of therapy, three-quarters after six months of therapy. Through a scientific base of knowledge, psychologists have contributed to understanding human behavior and alleviating pain and suffering.

Psychology Questions & Answers

Q. How do I know when it is time to get help?
A. When the way you feel is affecting your sleep, your appetite, your job, your relationships. When you can't find the answers. When things are not getting better, or seem hopeless.

Q. How can I find a psychologist?
A. Gather information. Use the Find a Psychologist section of this website. Talk to your family doctor or other health professionals. Consult the department of psychology at your local college, university, or community health center. Ask a clergy member, family, or friends who may know about individual psychologists.

Q. How do I choose the psychologist who is right for me?
A. Once you have the names of one or more psychologists, ask the following questions:

  • Are you a licensed psychologist and how long have you been practicing?
  • In what areas do you specialize (children, families, workplace stress, etc.)?
  • How long do you expect my treatment to last?
  • What are your fees and do you accept my insurance or HMO coverage?

Q. How will therapy work for me?
A. By helping you look objectively at behaviors, feelings, and thoughts and giving you ways to deal with different situations. Therapy is a collaborative effort; you and your psychologist will identify your goals, discuss what you want to happen, and agree on how you will know when progress is being made.

Q. What about confidentiality?
A. Your privacy is important to both you and your psychologist. All licensed psychologists subscribe to a code of ethics that requires strict efforts to maintain patient confidentiality.

Q. How do I find out if my insurance covers psychological services?
A. Call your HMO or health insurance plan to find out exactly what is covered and what level of coverage you have. Ask if the full cost or only a portion of treatment is covered, what your share will be (copayments), and the limits on the number of visits, if any.

Psychology Facts and Figures

FACT: A three-year study conducted by a large corporation showed that 60 percent of employee absences were due to psychological problems such as stress.

FACT: The annual cost of depression surpasses that of heart disease, affecting about 11 million Americans each year at a cost of $43.7 billion -- over half of which comes from absenteeism and lost productivity at work.

FACT: Depression is experienced by nearly 8 million Americans in any one-month period. Minor depression, which affects even more people, may account for 51 percent more disability days than major depression.

FACT: Forty-eight percent of all Americans between the ages of 15 and 54 experience a psychological problem during their lifetime. As a matter of fact, one in four suffers a problem in any given year. Of these individuals, only 28 percent seek help.

FACT: Research estimates that between 50 and 70 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are by individuals who have no identifiable physical illness but whose complaints are related to psychological factors. In fact, anxiety and depression are among the six most common conditions seen in family practice.

FACT: Seventy percent of Americans consider access to psychological services to be very important, but only 35 percent believe they have adequate access.

FACT: Sixty-four percent of Americans believe that people should seek professional help when they have an emotional problem they can't solve.

FACT: Forty-seven percent of Americans do not know when it would be appropriate to seek psychological services, and 68 percent do know how to go about seeking help when they do need it.