Afraid Your Shrink is Too Wacked to Help You?: Myths About The Role of Psychologists
During a battle between BCBS and Florida psychologists, I thought more about the field of psychology. I don’t like where it is and how we’re viewed by the masses. So I started asking folks on www.linkedin.com about it, and while not surprised, I am disappointed that we have perpetuated these beliefs people hold about us. Some psychologists want to be life coaches as a result. Folks on the FPA listserv weren’t as responsive, also disappointing. That just motivates my warrior spirit even more.
Here are some of the most common myths found about psychologists:
Psychologists make people think they are crazy
Most people come to us already thinking that. We work to make you sane, if you are indeed disturbed. Many people just need support and guidance in an area or more of their life. That is a far cry from crazy, and we all have issues with something. Nobody has a perfect life. I don’t believe in perfect, and I’m happier for it. Also, you don’t need a coach for any of that, and they often charge more. But if you insist on working with a coach, because it sounds better, then go ahead and spend more money without even knowing if they are adequately credentialed. Now that sounds crazy. Coaches use psychology, even though it is different, more goal oriented, but many cross out of their lanes, so be careful. Make sure your coach is ICF certified and ideally has a mental health degree.
I don’t need a shrink, I have God
Faith is important to living a balanced life, but is God going to tell you to change your profile picture so you can find a job this century? A psychologist would, and help you in other ways to find a job or your dream career. We can also help you pray more effectively to align your beliefs with action.
They work with people who are sick, depressed, suicidal etc.
Well yeah. We are trained by the medical model to diagnose people and work with insurance companies. That is hardly the holistic model that many of us work from. It is true we are the most qualified to help people who are in a dark place. We also help people stay in a good place, and help high functioning people with areas of their lives where they want more success. Everybody has something, some area of their life that needs improving. Anybody can benefit from working with a solution focused psychologist.
I can see a social worker for half the cost
Well that is because they have half the training of a psychologist. There are many awesome social workers and therapists that help people. It is a personal choice to determine what you want help with and if you want someone with more extensive training. Psychologists conceptualize cases easily. It is second nature to us to quickly determine root causes of people’s problems. After all, isn’t that what people want, a quick fix, to know WHY something is what it is? The quicker one knows the cause, they can more quickly engage in action which brings about change.
We also conduct psychological evaluations. There are certain psychological tests that can only be given and interpreted by a psychologist, in Florida it is those licensed at the doctoral level. There are many with Ph.Ds. who are Drs., but are licensed as a LMHC, counselor. Those are the main differences between the professions. Psychiatrists are the pill pushers, but some also do therapy. Psychiatrists help minimize symptoms, and many benefit from this, but without also actively engaging in therapy, those symptoms will never go away.
You have to see them forever
Therapy isn’t designed to last a lifetime, but I think it would be beneficial. We see primary care physicians and have other wellness checks yearly, so not with a psychologist. Many people benefit from brief therapy, 12 sessions or so to achieve their symptom relief, or process through a divorce etc. Then they see a psychologist monthly or even weekly if they decide to achieve even more. Psychologists are trained to work with people short term, the medical, managed care model again. I use brief treatment and then have people on a maintenance plan. It is like a coaching model where they might achieve their goals, but check in monthly to stay on track. Some come every few months for booster sessions to avoid getting complacent. People often stop using their tools and fall back into old patterns. We are creatures of habit. It is akin to dieting. We lose weight, and then slack off thinking we can maintain that weight without watching our diet, and then comes the weight piling back on. Having some kind of maintenance plan prevents that from happening. How nice for people to have a psychologist to coach them, someone who is objective and offers support and guidance as needed. I am not talking about being dependent on a psychologist. I don’t condone that, but to have that person there for you. Where else can you have your life be all about you for an hour at a time?
They make you think you are crazy and control your mind
We do not make people crazy. We don’t read or control people’s minds, not even those of us who use hypnosis. We work to empower people, to teach them to think rationally. I haven’t had too many paranoid personalities come through my door, it is usually court ordered for them to see me, so I don’t think l have much impact with this one. If I had that kind of control over people, the world would be much more Nature centric, and I would also have more money than every shark in the tank.
They drug people and make them zombie
Some psychologists are now prescribing medication, but we generally don’t do that. They are less likely to overmedicate due to being trained to help people heal naturally. I’m not a fan of prescribing. I prefer to help people naturally via tools of the trade including meditation, hypnosis and a healthy diet and lifestyle. There are many people that have been really sick or in an inpatient setting that have been zombified, but not by psychologists.
They’re crazy. How can they help me?
Some are, like any field. We all have issues. It is easy to help others, because we are objective. We also consult with peers and seek help when we need it. You only need to be concerned with this if the psychologist’s issues are evident, or they are talking a lot about themselves etc. These are signs that you might want to switch providers. Some people with bad experiences with therapists might be the type to unconsciously choose bad fits to be able to say, see they are mad, which allows that person to stay stuck.
We do listen to people’s problems all day, and that is kind of nuts. Someone has to do it. I work with alleged criminals and sex offenders in addition to everyday people, and it isn’t glamorous. Unfortunately what is rewarded in our society are reality shows, sex tapes and people with no substance pimping themselves out for ratings, rather than healers. Rather than giving psychologists grants and awards for helping people, researchers are the focus, and people get money for interviews after killing a child. It’s a sick world for many, and psychologists’ services are needed more than ever, and are underutilized.
They are trying to figure themselves out
One would hope so. To continue growing and evolving, we must all tune in. Psychologists are catalysts of change in people’s healing. In order to help others heal, change, grow, live bigger… we must know thyself. Ask yourself this. Does it really matter why someone is a psychologist, or is it more important to know they practice what they preach and can help you? If we didn’t have issues, then people would take the addict’s attitude, of well they haven’t been through this so they can’t really help me. It is important that we have all felt the same emotions, but everybody’s experiences are different, and people who have been through what you have could bring their own baggage into session, so it goes both ways.
In sum, psychologists are human, with faults, but have a wealth of training and clinical experience to assess and help people live well balanced, bigger lives.
If you reside in the Tampa Bay area and are interested in services, please contact me. Visit http://www.psychologytoday.com as another resource that can be used in any state.