Practicing psychologists have the
professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more
effectively with life issues and mental health problems. After years of
graduate school and supervised training, they become licensed by their states
to provide a number of services, including evaluations and psychotherapy.
Psychologists help by using a variety of techniques based on the best available
research and consider somone's unique values, characteristics, goals and
Psychologists with doctoral degrees
(either a PhD, PsyD or EdD) receive one of the highest levels of education of
all health care professionals, spending an average of seven years in education
and training after they receive their undergraduate degrees. The American
Psychological Association estimates that there are about 85,000 licensed
psychologists in the United States.
Practicing psychologists help a wide
variety of people and can treat many kinds of problems. Some people may talk to
a psychologist because they have felt depressed, angry or anxious for a long
time. Or, they want help for a chronic condition that is interfering with their
lives or physical health. Others may have short-term problems they want help
navigating, such as feeling overwhelmed by a new job or grieving the death of a
family member. Psychologists can help people learn to cope with stressful
situations, overcome addictions, manage their chronic illnesses and break past
the barriers that keep them from reaching their goals.
Practicing psychologists are also
trained to administer and interpret a number of tests and assessments that can
help diagnose a condition or tell more about the way a person thinks, feels,
and behaves. These tests may evaluate intellectual skills, cognitive strengths
and weaknesses, vocational aptitude and preference, personality
characteristics, and neuropsychological functioning.
Practicing psychologists use an assortment of evidence-based
treatments to help people improve their lives. Most commonly, they use therapy
(often referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy). There are many different
styles of therapy, but the psychologist will choose the type that best
addresses the person’s problem and best fits the patient’s characteristics and
Some common types of therapy are cognitive, behavioral,
cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, humanistic, psychodynamic or a combination
of a few therapy styles. Therapy can be for an individual, couples, family or
other group. Some psychologists are trained to use hypnosis, which research has
found to be effective for a wide range of conditions including pain, anxiety
and mood disorders.
For some conditions, therapy and medication are a treatment
combination that works best. For people who benefit from medication,
psychologists work with primary care physicians, pediatricians and
psychiatrists on their overall treatment. Two states, New Mexico and Louisiana,
have laws allowing licensed psychologists with additional, specialized training
to prescribe from a list of medications that improve emotional and mental
health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
A doctoral degree to practice psychology requires at least
4-6 years of full-time study after completing an undergraduate degree.
Coursework includes areas such as ethics, statistics, individual differences
and the biological, cognitive-affective and social bases of behavior, as well
as specific training in psychological assessment and therapy.
While in graduate school, psychology students may also
participate in research and teaching. A one-year full-time supervised
internship is required prior to graduation and in most states an additional
year of supervised practice is required before licensure. Psychologists must
pass a national examination and addition examination specific to the state in
which they are being licensed.
Once licensed to practice, psychologists must keep up their
knowledge, which is demonstrated by earning several hours of continuing
education credits annually, as required by their state’s license and regulations.
the State of Florida, a Licensed Psychologist must have a doctoral degree in
psychology (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D.) from an accredited college or university;
have completed a one year pre-doctoral internship and a one year post-doctoral
residency; and have met licensure requirements which include passing both the
National and the State of Florida licensing examinations.