Even though we are at a time where we are seeing a reduction in the stigma around mental health and seeking mental health treatment, I think that we cannot deny that stigma still exists around seeing a psychologist and that this can be a barrier for people initially reaching out for support. In today’s blog I answer some common concerns around seeing a psychologist to hopefully break some of this stigma. If you prefer your blog in podcast form, I have covered this topic in my podcast The Formulation Station, with my co-host Dr Aimee Maxwell. You can find us wherever you find your favourite podcasts – or click this link to take you directly to the episode.
When is it okay to go and see a psychologist?
You can go and see a psychologist for pretty much anything. It is a common misconception that you must be severely unwell or distressed, meet certain diagnostic criteria for a mental illness, or present with certain conditions (such as depression or anxiety) in order to see a psychologist. If there is something that you are struggling with in life, it may be beneficial to see a psychologist. Having said that, not all psychologists work with all presentations, so I encourage you to do your research and find someone with experience in the area relevant to you. Your local GP may also have knowledge of psychologists in your area and be able to direct you to someone who could be a good fit.
What kind of problems can a psychologist work with?
There are many things that you can see a psychologist for including, depression, anxiety, relationship or interpersonal issues, self-esteem, eating disorders/disordered relationship with food or your body, parenting, chronic pain, behaviour, habit change, sleep, adjustment to changes in life circumstances etc.
It is normal for life to throw you curve balls – to experience loss, heart ache, uncomfortable emotions that you might not like. While this is normal, sometimes it can be helpful to process these things with a psychologist.
How long do I have to see a psychologist for?
There is no “right” answer to this question as there is no defined amount of time that people attend a psychologist for. The length of time is largely dependent on what you are seeking as well as the nature of the problem you are presenting with. Some people attend for one or a handful of sessions and learn techniques that lead to some improvement in symptoms, and some people attend therapy ongoing. It is really dependent on you and what you want to get out of your sessions.
Will I be provided a diagnosis that will permanently be on my medical record?
While diagnosis is part of what a psychologist does, it is certainly not the main or only part of our role. Generally a diagnosis is only provided when this is deemed important and relevant to your life. In general terms, a diagnosis is simply a descriptive word utilised to describe a certain collection of symptoms which can help guide treatment decisions and aid communication with other professionals who may be involved in your care e.g., your GP. Typically, a psychologist is more likely to focus on your presenting problem and providing a therapy that will lead to a reduction in distress for you.
To summarise, you can see a psychologist WHENEVER for WHATEVER you are struggling with. If you are having a problem, and it is impacting you, seeing a psychologist could potentially be beneficial.
Hopefully this has helped address some of the concerns you may have about seeing a psychologist. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call our administrative team who are always more than happy to offer guidance when first starting to see a psychologist.