Why Should I See a Psychologist?

There are undoubtedly fine practitioners among each different category of licensed mental health professional. How can you make the best choice for what you need? Here are some reasons to choose a psychologist:

  1. Psychologists study the entirety of human development and behavior. To be a “Psychologist” in Texas means that you have a doctorate and have studied not only case histories and clinical observations, but also scientific research.
  2. Licensed psychologists have all conducted their own research into some aspect of human behavior. They are “scientist/practitioners,” and thus are always seeking what works best to help people grow and change.
  3. Licensed psychologists have the most stringent ethical standards of all mental health practitioners.
  4. Psychology doctoral programs last from four to seven years, all of it devoted to human behavior and the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral disorders.
  5. Psychotherapy is a major part of training for licensed psychologists; and psychotherapy is much more effective than medication for treating most psychological problems.
  6. If you do need medication, your psychologist will refer you to a medical doctor.
  7. Psychologists begin their clinical practica (actually working with patients or clients) during graduate school. At the end of their studies, they do a clinical internship, followed by a year of professionally supervised practice AFTER receiving the doctoral degree.
  8. To obtain licensure, a psychologist must pass written and oral examinations in clinical issues and ethical practice. Psychologists are the most highly vetted mental health practitioners. (It is so tough that there is even a funny You Tube video about it.)

Feeling comfortable with your psychologist or other mental health professional is even more important than choosing your medical doctor. If it doesn’t feel right, ask questions or try someone else.

You are looking for someone who really listens carefully to you, understands what you are trying to communicate, respects what is important to you and feels like someone you can trust.

Licensed Mental Health Providers in Texas

The many different types of mental health professionals can present a confusing dilemma for most people. The fact is, there are seven different types of licensed mental health professionals, in Texas, and there are many other unlicensed folks who hang out a shingle and offer help without having had to meet any state requirements for training, experience and ethical practice. I recommend that you look for one of these professionals, who have had to prove their expertise before a regulatory body whose job is to protect the public:

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) – has a master’s degree in counseling, including principles of human development, and has completed 3000 hours of supervised experience.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) – usually has a master’s degree, including the study of family systems theories and techniques. The degree requirements include 3000 hours of supervised experience.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – has completed a master’s degree in Social Work, including the enhancement of social and psychosocial functioning of individuals and groups, and has completed two years of supervised clinical experience.

Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) – assists individuals or groups in treating chemical dependency problems. The LCDC has a two-year associate’s degree and is not authorized to treat mental health disorders or problems which do not include chemical dependency.

Licensed Sex Offender Treatment Providers (LSOTP)– must hold another mental health license and treats those who have been convicted or adjudicated of a sex crime or a sexually motivated offense.

Psychiatrist (MD) – is a medical doctor. This person has a four-year degree from an accredited medical school and the successful completion of a psychiatric residency program. This doctor will typically focus on medication in treating psychiatric problems. Some receive training in talk therapy as well.

Psychologist (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) – holds a doctoral degree from an accredited university graduate program in either clinical practice or research. All psychologists have been trained in psychological assessment, diagnosis and in different types of psychotherapeutic treatment (talking therapies) for various disorders. In Texas, a psychologist who engages in clinical practice must also be licensed, which involves a supervised internship, post-doctoral clinical supervision and written and oral examinations in practice and ethics.