There is something on my mind that I need to talk about. It’s been bubbling away under the surface and I just can’t keep it in any longer. Since becoming a psychologist I feel that I have been stereotyped.
So what do I mean by this? Well, it’s about what people think I do as a psychologist. No, it’s not about people thinking I have superpowers and I can read their minds. I find that one very amusing.
This is different, it’s about everyone thinking that psychologists only diagnose and treat mental health conditions. I have news for you, this is a misconception, this is only one part of what psychologists do and not all psychologists do this. Because of this people have this idea that you have to be crazy or have serious problems to see a psychologist. And you know what, because of this many people who could benefit from psychology stay away.
That’s not to say that treating mental illness and helping people manage serious problems is not important or valid, it is, but it’s not the main reason I spent 9 years of my life training to be a psychologist. The reason I chose psychology over law, medicine or some other profession is that I was truly interested in understanding people, the why and how of what we do, feel and think.
So let’s clear up a few things up by starting with what psychology is and what a psychologist does.
What psychology is
Psychology is both a science and a professional practice. As a science, psychology is the study of how we think and the decisions we make, our emotional experiences both positive and negative, how we learn, how we act and behave, what motivates us to do what we do, and how we interact and connect with others.
Psychology understands individuals from the cradle to the grave and all the important life transitions we go through in between. Psychology underpins just about everything we do and this knowledge is used to help us function at or best.
What psychologists do
After studying the science of psychology, you need to undertake supervision and/or advanced training to become a registered psychologist to practice the profession of psychology. Registered psychologists work in many different areas and do many different things. For example, I’ve worked in prisons and with the police for many years but now I work privately in my own rooms. Psychologists can also have special interests or specific skills which can determine what they do and how they do it.
From my perspective, seeing a psychologist involves building a collaborative and supportive relationship so you can move from the way things are in your life to the way you want them to be. This generally involves identifying what’s important to you, setting goals for what you want to accomplish and finding creative ways to achieve this. Learning new skills and practising them whilst having the opportunity to discuss your progress in a supportive environment is also part of the deal.
Although psychology is often criticised for focussing on problems and what is wrong with people, not all areas of psychology are interested in problems. For example, positive psychology is the study of wellbeing, about what helps people flourish and live a good life. It focuses on what is right with people, on building strengths and helping people live more positive and meaningful lives.
Benefits of seeing a psychologist
There are many benefits to seeing a psychologist, listed below are a few of the ones that I find most important.
Seeing a psychologist can help you:
• Feel more positive
• Understand yourself and others better
• Boost your motivation so you can to achieve your goals
• Get in touch with your strengths and use them to help you be your best
• Believe in yourself and what you are capable of
• Increase your confidence and go after the things you want in life
• Build your resilience so you can ride through the setbacks and challenges we all face
I hope this has cleared a few things up and helps you see psychology as a resource that you can use to support your wellbeing rather something than that needs to be avoided or only used when there are problems.