- What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and psychiatry is a specialist field in medicine. As medical doctors, psychiatrists prescribe medicine for mental health problems.
A psychologist is a scientist but not a medical doctor. A psychologist is unable to prescribe medicine to treat mental health problems. A psychologist uses his / her training in the areas of psychological health and human conduct and behavior to treat mental health problems.
Some psychologists do use the title ‘Doctor’ because they have a doctoral degree in psychology. This doctoral degree may be a Ph.D or more commonly a Psy.D.
- What is a counselling psychologist?
Counselling psychologists are psychologists who combine psychological research and theory with therapeutic approaches to work with individuals, families and other different groups of people.
- What does a counselling psychologist do?
Counselling psychologists can take on a number of tasks. These can include conducting psychological testing, formulation of mental health problems, therapy, research and development, teaching and supervision amongst others.
- Are psychologists in Singapore regulated?
Currently in Singapore, there is no regulation of psychologists. In choosing a psychologist, you may therefore want to check whether the psychologist is accredited or a member with any professional body such as the British Psychological Society, American Psychological Association or Singapore Psychological Society for example.
- Will what I say be treated as confidential?
The general rule is that what you say will be treated as confidential. A psychologist for example, cannot discuss your treatment with anyone else without your consent.
There are however certain exceptions to confidentiality. Under most codes of ethics, psychologists are under a duty to disclose certain types of information to others e.g. if a client threatens to hurt himself or to hurt others, the psychologist may have to inform someone. As there are several exceptions to confidentiality, your psychologist will be discussing these with you.
- How long will treatment last?
The length of treatment will depend on the degree and intensity of the problem. A simple rule of thumb : behaviour and adjustment problems may take between 8 to 12 sessions; moderate problems between 16 to 30 sessions and serious problems up to a year or more.
It is usually not realistic to expect successful treatment from less than 6 sessions unless the problem is very straight-forward and specific. An example of a specific problem would be a phobia - perhaps a fear of dogs.
- How often does therapy need to take place?
The norm is once a week. However, it is not unknown for sessions to take place more than once a week or even less frequently. It really depends on the nature of the problem or the therapeutic style.
- How long is a session?
It is usually about 50 minutes, hence the term the “fifty minute hour”. But it is not unknown for sessions to be longer, especially for psychological testing; first sessions or therapy for phobias.
- Will I have to lie on a couch?
Sometimes, but not always. In psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy, the therapist may ask a client to lie on a couch so that the therapist’s reaction or expression will not influence the client.
Nowadays, psychologists tend to use chairs which face each other as the facial cues of the client are important. If the approach used is cognitive behavior therapy, the client usually sits in a chair.
- Do I need to talk about my dreams?
Yes, if your therapist uses a psychodynamic or psychoanalytic approach. However, it is the clients’ choice as to whether they wish to talk about their dreams even if asked to by the therapist.
- Will I be hypnotized?
Hypnosis can be used as an adjunct to therapy by psychologists. Some psychologists are trained in hypnosis for specific problems such as quitting smoking, relaxation or weight control.
Your psychologist may use hypnosis after discussion with you. But not all psychologists are trained in hypnosis. If your psychologist is qualified to administer hypnosis and suggests it, but if you are not comfortable with the idea of being hypnotized, you need not agree to it as part of your therapy.