Does it mean I am "crazy" if I see a psychologist?
Seeing a psychologist does not mean that one is "crazy". Everyone can benefit from counselling services. Even if there is no particular concern or area of difficulty, you can still gain a tremendous amount of self-awareness through therapy sessions that would be beneficial for everyday life. Everyone experiences distress and emotional discomfort at least once in their lifetime. In some situations the distress self-rectifies or subsides within a reasonable amount of time and in other situations it does not. In prolonged or significant states of distress, you do not have to suffer in silence or alone as there are helpful resources in society that can be accessed to help yourself work through the difficulties and allow yourself the opportunity to feel better. Seeking the services of a psychologist can be a part of taking care of ourselves.
In the past, because of the stigma attached to taking care of one's emotional and psychological health, many people suffered in silence. Today, because of the significantly reduced stigma attached to accepting ourselves as both physical and emotional beings, a lot more people are taking care of their emotional needs. Hence it is only healthy for one to pay attention to this aspect of oneself as it often impacts physical wellbeing and effective participation in home, school, work, and social life.
How long does one need to attend therapy?
The specific condition, how long it has been present, and the extent to which it impacts one's life determines the nature and length of counselling. This can be gauged only after your initial appointment and even then it is only a rough estimate as no two individuals or families are alike and everyone progresses at their own pace.
According to an APA summary, "One major study showed that 50 percent of patients noticeably improved after eight sessions while 75 percent of individuals in psychotherapy improved by the end of six months." These benefits extend to children as well as adults (link to APA summary).
Typically, how frequently do therapy sessions occur?
This will be determined at your initial appointment. More often than not sessions are once weekly. If it is agreed that you need more support during a significantly distressful period, then more frequent sessions may be scheduled. As you progress and are nearing completion of the therapy process you may have farther spaced sessions. The timing of the gradual discontinuation and frequency of sessions will be decided jointly by you and your service provider.
What if my family member or friend is not agreeable to seek therapy?
Sometimes, others may notice that a friend or family member is suffering emotionally sooner than the individual does. You may notice the impact of your friend or family member's suffering on his or her behaviours or school, work, home, and social functioning. The individual who is suffering may be in denial, may not be ready to seek counselling services, may not know that help is available, and/or may be sceptical of the concept of therapy. To watch someone you care about suffer can sometimes be as painful as going through the suffering yourself. This is a very uncomfortable but common situation. Expressing your concern to the individual in a caring and compassionate way as opposed to a punitive, blaming, demanding and threatening way is helpful. Suggesting therapy as a way of helping himself or herself make things better for him or her may be helpful as well. As an expression of your caring, support, and commitment to him/her, your offer to accompany him/her to see a therapist may be encouraging and comforting to your friend or family member. For further assistance regarding how to help or encourage your friend or family member, please call the Centre for WellBeing.
Is medication the standard treatment for most mental health concerns?
Medication in and of itself is not the standard treatment for most concerns. It is recommended only if it is needed and even if your service provider recommends it, you make the final decision on whether you want to further explore this option.
What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
Although psychiatrists and psychologist are both mental health practitioners and have similar foundational training in the human brain, human development and functioning, psychiatrists undergo training to be a medical doctor or physician prior to specializing in psychiatry. Psychologists, on the other hand, undergo Bachelor's and Master's or Doctoral training in psychology. The specialised training prepares psychiatrists to effectively prescribe and manage medication and psychologists to conduct thorough evaluations and tests to determine an individual's intellectual functioning, personality functioning, etc. Though there are some psychiatrists who provide talk therapy, psychologists are the primary talk therapy providers. So, frequently, in order to provide clients with comprehensive services, psychologists and psychiatrists work closely together with individuals who can benefit from both forms of assistance.
Who qualifies to practice psychology?
This varies from country to country. For example, in the United States of America, completing a doctoral degree (either PhD or PsyD) alone does not permit one to call oneself a psychologist. A specified period of post-doctoral supervised training in providing therapy services (usually between 1500 and 3000 hours) and successful completion of stringent board certification examinations are required for one to legally and ethically use the term and practice as a Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, and Licensed Psychologist. Master's degree holders who have completed a specified amount of supervised training and board certification examinations are allowed to use the terms Licensed Clinician, Licensed Therapist, and Licensed Psychotherapist. All the above labels without the term "Licensed" indicate that the service provider has yet to meet board requirements to practice independently. The term Counsellor is typically used by Psychology Bachelor's degree holders and people who may not have significant professional training in psychology or mental health care practices.
In Singapore, there are currently no regulations or legal restrictions on who is legally allowed to call oneself a psychologist or a mental health care professional and what and how they are permitted to practice. The terms Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist and Counsellor are used somewhat freely and interchangeably. Hence, these professional labels include those who have and those who do not have the basic required training and qualifications typically required of psychologists in other developed countries. Until stringent regulations are established in Singapore for who is allowed to practice and in what capacity, it would be advisable for the service seeker to, without hesitation, ask professionals about their training, qualifications and extent of supervised clinical experience prior to establishing a therapeutic relationship. If you feel satisfied with the responses to your questions, proceed to engage the therapist to assist you. If the responses leave you feeling confused or are unsatisfactory, there is no harm in continuing your search for a qualified therapist or psychologist.
Do psychologists prescribe medication?
In most parts of the world where the medical profession is regulated, psychologists do not have prescription privileges. However, in two states within the United States of America, psychologists with additional extensive training in medication management are allowed to prescribe medication under the supervision of a physician.
What if I need or want medication?
You will be referred to an experienced psychiatrist who will evaluate, prescribe and manage the medication that you will be taking while you continue to work with your psychologist in therapy. Research shows that medication alone is usually not the most effective form of treatment for most conditions. Often, for conditions where medication is deemed beneficial or necessary, simultaneous therapy is strongly recommended.