What is a psychologist and what services do they offer?

July 14, 2021

The word “psychologist” may conjure up stereotypical images of a doctor thoughtfully jotting in their notebook and asking, “And how do you feel about that?” But what exactly do psychologists do, and what does treatment actually involve?

Psychologists are professionally trained to apply knowledge of how we think, feel and behave to help people understand, explain and change their behaviour, according to the Canadian Psychological Association.

Put more simply, psychologists are trained to help people overcome mental health challenges, says Dr. Zipora Malamuth, a psychologist with our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

“This is a working relationship in which the psychologist helps the client identify areas of concern and recommends treatment options for overcoming or managing the identified challenges,” says Dr. Malamuth.

While psychologists can help with everyday difficulties, such as job loss or relationship troubles, some challenges – like depression or bipolar disorder – may require a diagnosis. The process of reaching a diagnosis involves conducting assessments using standardized tests, interviews and observations. Based on the information gathered, psychologists arrive at a diagnosis and follow it with treatment recommendations.

Psychological treatment typically involves interactive sessions that include talk therapy, exercises (breathing, relaxation), filling out questionnaires or going over specific treatment protocols (like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). With each person’s challenges being unique to them, treatment options can be varied.

Psychologists don’t just sit in offices or laboratories, either.

“While some psychologists focus more on research, many work as practitioners in hospitals, schools, employment assistance programs, private offices, correctional facilities, addiction programs, public mental health organizations and courthouses,” says Dr. Malamuth.

What can psychologists treat?

Among other challenges, psychologists treat:

  •  anxiety
  • depression and bipolar disorders
  • eating disorders
  • addiction and substance abuse
  • stress
  • loss (of loved ones, jobs, relationships, etc.)
  • anger management
  • pain management
  • trauma
  • child development and behavioural challenges (autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

Psychological treatment is not limited to mental health disorders, Dr. Malamuth says. Psychologists can help people problem solve, build resiliency, and maintain overall psychological health. We all struggle from time to time and seeking support from a psychologist can help us manage and learn coping strategies.

What’s the difference between psychologists and other mental health specialists?

In Manitoba, psychologists must hold a doctoral degree in psychology (in some provinces, a Master’s degree is sufficient). They are licensed by and registered with the Psychological Association of Manitoba. A psychologist can call themselves a doctor or place the C. Psych designation after their name.

Some people get psychologists and psychiatrists confused. While both specialists are able to diagnose and treat mental health problems, psychiatrists are medical doctors who have an MD and can prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists also do psychotherapy, much like psychologists do. Since they’re medical doctors, they are regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, and their services are covered by Manitoba Health.

Other specialties share similarities to psychologists but have distinct differences. Social workers, counsellors and marriage and family therapists provide counselling and are not trained to make formal diagnoses. Each discipline has its own regulatory body.  

What should you look for in a psychologist?

It’s important to find a psychologist that fits your unique needs – both in terms of personality and area of expertise, says Dr. Malamuth.

“While psychologists are trained in a variety of areas, they tend to declare areas of competency to the regulatory body and practice within their bound of competence,” she adds.

Specialty areas may include neuropsychology and medical rehabilitation, working with children and adolescents, working with the LGBTQ+ community, treating certain disorders (like obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and addictions or couples therapy, among other specialties.

To find a psychologist that’s right for you, Dr. Malamuth recommends using the Manitoba Psychological Society’s Find a Psychologist tool. You can narrow down your search by specialty, and every psychologist in the database is guaranteed to be accredited and in good standing with the association (meaning they’re not under investigation or facing disciplinary action and are compliant with continuing education requirements).

Visit a psychologist

“Psychologists are an invaluable resource for promoting and supporting public mental health,” says Dr. Malamuth. “Helping clients build up coping skills increases their resiliency and the ability to manage predictable and unpredictable challenges encountered throughout life.”

To check if you have coverage for clinical psychology services as part of your extended health benefits with Manitoba Blue Cross, log in to mybluecross®.

Also, Manitoba Blue Cross's counselling services are available to all Manitobans, regardless of whether or not you have coverage with Manitoba Blue Cross. You can find the available support and book an appointment here. In the context of Manitoba Blue Cross’s counselling services, psychologists do not conduct formal assessment or make diagnoses. Their services are restricted to providing therapy, consultation and mentorship.

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