What is a Psychologist?


  • Psychology is the study of the mind, human experience and behavior.
  • The discipline of psychology embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the environments in which humans and other animals develop; from child development to aging.
  • Psychology is a science based on a large body of social science and behavioral science research and which is expanding its boundaries to overlap with neuroscience and health science.
  • Psychologists study two critical relationships: one between brain function and behavior, and one between the environment and behavior.
  • As scientists, psychologists follow scientific methods, using careful observation experimentation and analysis to learn more about the world in which we live and its inhabitants.


A psychologist can help when you can’t do it on your own

Sometimes you may face overwhelming feelings or serious illness. A psychologist can help. Psychology has been shown to successfully treat depression, anxiety and other emotional health issues. Individuals struggling with medical problems such as heart conditions, diabetes, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain issues have been shown to live longer when their treatment included psychotherapy. When you reach a point in your life when you want professional help, you want to talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with. A good friend can listen, but a psychologist has the skills and professional training to help you learn to manage when you are overwhelmed.

  • Psychologists have doctoral degrees and are licensed by the state in which they practice.
  • Psychologists receive one of the highest levels of education of all health care professionals – in fact, psychologists spend an average of seven years in education and training after they receive their undergraduate degree.
  • Psychologists study human experience and behavior.
  • Psychologists are trained to help people cope more effectively with life problems, using techniques based on the best available research and their clinical skills and experience, and taking into account the person’s unique values, goals and circumstances.

A psychologist can help you to identify your problems and then figure out ways to best cope with them; to change contributing behaviors or habits; or to find constructive ways to deal with a situation that is beyond your control. In other words, a psychologist can improve both your physical and mental well-being.

  • It’s time to talk to a psychologist when…?
  • You want to prevent life’s stressors from threatening your physical health.
  • You want to build your confidence and resilience to meet challenges head-on.
  • You want to gain a mental edge to be your best at your job and with your family.
  • You or someone in your family has been diagnosed with a chronic illness.
  • You’re overwhelmed and can’t handle the problem yourself.


When seeking help from a Psychologist, you may consider asking the following questions about your Psychologist’s background, experience, and treatment approach for your condition:

  • What experience and training have you had in treating (my condition)?
  • What approach toward treatment do you use most frequently? Some examples of this might include cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, behavioral therapies, relational therapy, etc.
  • Based on your experience in treating my condition, what can I expect to see change or improve through my therapy with you?
  • What do I do if I have questions or concerns about my progress in treatment?
  • What is your availability, and charges, for contact on an emergency basis or between sessions?
  • I have insurance coverage through my employer, what benefits and limitations may this impose?
  • What are your fees?
  • What do we do when we meet together?

Psychologists often specialize in different areas of mental health treatment. Specializations may include:

  • Working with children or adolescents
  • Working with couples or families
  • Performing psychological evaluations using psychological or neuropsychological tests
  • Performing forensic evaluations (like a custody evaluation that is for a lawyer or judge)
  • Working with people who have health problems and need psychological treatment (for example, treatment for chronic pain)
  • Working with certain groups (for example, people with anxiety problems or people with eating disorders)
  • Doing psychotherapy from a specific theoretical model (for example, cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy)

To check on the area of specialization of a specific psychologist, use our Psychologist Referral Directory Search

What Is Psychological Testing and How Can It Help Me?

Psychologists are the only mental health providers who receive specialized training in the administration and interpretation of psychological tests.  These tests are designed to help the psychologist evaluate an individual's cognitive, neurological, emotional, social and behavioral functioning.  Psychological testing can be specific for a particular problem, for example, assessing an individual's cognitive functioning for memory problems.  Psychological testing can also be comprehensive in that it explores strengths and weaknesses in multiple areas that may include intelligence, personality style, and relationships with others.

People are referred for psychological testing for many different reasons.  Sometimes a doctor will request psychological testing to help determine a diagnosis or to better understand neurological problems.  Sometimes school personnel will suggest psychological testing to explore a child's behavioral problems.  Courts and lawyers may request psychological evaluations to assist them in making decisions about custody, competency, or the impact of an accident or injury.

Psychological tests may be administered by any psychologist. Some types of evaluations require more extensive training, such as neuropsychological evaluations or custody evaluations. You have the right to ask about your psychologists background and training in the administration and interpretation of the tests they give you and to understand the purpose and findings of any evaluation you participate in.