FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


What is a Psychologist?

What is Psychological Testing?

What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

How do I know you can help with my problem?

Does therapy work?

How do I make an appointment?


WHAT IS A PSYCHOLOGIST?

Psychology is both a science and a profession. It is the study of behavior and experience. Psychologists work to develop reliable scientific knowledge based on research. They then use that knowledge to help people with everyday problems.

Psychologists are trained to understand the biological, mental, emotional, and social bases for human behavior. Clinical psychologists specialize in the psychological diagnosis, psychotherapy, and research into the causes and treatments of emotional problems.

Psychologists typically complete more graduate course work on human behavior than any other mental health professional or physician. After earning a four-year college degree in psychology, they complete an additional four to six years of full-time graduate study resulting in a doctoral degree (Ph.D.), followed by a one-year residency and one year supervised experience. (10-12 years of full-time study before licensure).

To become a licensed psychologist, one must complete written and oral exams covering all areas within psychology as well as a written exam on state laws and ethics given by the State Board of Examiners.

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What is Psychological Testing?

Psychological Testing is the use of special techniques to carefully measure different aspects of human behavior ranging from intelligence or memory abilities to personality and level of depression. Psychologists use tests in clinical practice only after researchers have carefully studied and developed them. Psychologists are well trained in understanding the statistics that show whether a test is reliable and valid. Reliable tests are ones that give the same results under the same conditions. Valid tests are ones that measure what they say they measure and help us to make predictions. Most psychological tests are based on data collected from hundreds or thousands of different people. The psychologist can then compare the performance of a particular person on a test with other groups of people who are the same gender, age, or diagnosis.

The kind of testing the psychologist does depends on the question one is interested in answering. Some common questions testing can often answer are ones such as:

"I have been having low mood lately and have not been sleeping well. Am I suffering from clinical depression, and if so, how depressed am I? Are these the kinds of problems that need medication?"

There are a variety of factors that can affect mood. Some of these are psychological and some of these are physical. A comprehensive diagnostic assessment using standardized measures of depression such as the Beck Depression Inventory along with a thorough clinical history can help answer these questions. Many things can present as depression, but actually be other things. It is important to assess biological influences such as hypothyroidism or medication side effects as well as circumstances that may be affecting mood. A psychologist's assessment skills are useful in sorting through the many complex variables that may present as depression.

"My grandmother doesn't seem to be keeping track of things the way she used to. Is it possible that she is senile? She also seems to be kind of depressed. What is going on?"

A type of assessment called neuropsychological testing would help to answer this question. Neuropsychological testing asks the testee to engage in a variety of standardized tasks that relate to such brain functions as attention/concentration, memory, language, visual-spatial abilities, and so forth. Just like a brain scan takes of picture of what the brain looks like, neuropsychological testing takes a picture of what the brain does. The person's performance on these tasks is then compared with others the same age or with known patient groups. In the elderly, severe depression can sometimes present as early dementia. If properly diagnosed and treated and elderly person with depression will fully recover their mental faculties.

"My nine year old son is getting failing grades in math. What is causing this problem? Is it attention problems or a learning disability or is he just being lazy? What will help him to get on track?

This type of situation would require a psychoeducational evaluation. This would include a thorough clinical history, academic testing such as the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement, intellectual testing such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, and screening for various emotional conditions that affect academic performance. Test results can help to identify learning disabilities, intellectual strengths and weakness, and emotional/motivational factors that affect performance. Attentional disorders can be evaluated through computerized assessment that compares a child's performance on computerized tasks with children known to have attention deficits and children known to have normal functioning.

"The court is deciding custody. What is the best custody plan for our two kids.?"

This situation usually involves what is called an "all parties evaluation." In other words, all the adult caretakers and children are evaluated to assess the needs that are present. The type of instruments selected will depend on each situation and any questions asked by the court.

"I had some testing done but the results don't make any sense to me."

Good psychological testing should be helpful in answering questions. It can be technical and complex at times, but the results should be able to be put into everyday language that addresses specific questions. If the results seem far a field from experience and don't fit with other data, they may have been improperly interpreted. Sometimes retesting might be necessary to determine the validity of the data or the data that was obtained could be interpreted in light of other information that was excluded. Whenever testing does not make sense a second opinion is warranted.

A psychologist is the only mental health professional who has the training and background to administer all psychological tests. A psychologist's training and background typical includes extensive course work in advanced statistical analysis, test theory and development, as well as supervised experience in administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests.



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What is the Difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

A psychologist generally will have a "Ph.D." degree. A Psychiatrist will have a "M.D." Psychologists are experts in the use of therapy and behavior change techniques, psychological testing and assessment. A psychiatrist will have a general medical training followed by specific residency in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are trained in the use of psychotropic medication and assessing biological causes of emotional disturbance. A psychologist will often work with a psychiatrist, providing assessment data useful in selecting appropriate medications or adjusting the dosage of medication. A psychologist will also work with non-psychiatrist physicians or family doctors to provide assessment data useful in managing patient care.

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How do I know if you can help me with my problems?

No one can know for sure. Every situation is unique in its own way. It is first important to consider the training and background of the psychologist. No psychologist can be all things to all people. Consider if the psychologist has experience with similar situations and if so, how extensive is that experience. There is a big difference between a psychologist who has completed thousands of evaluations and one who does testing every once in a while. Psychologists have strict ethical guidelines about practicing outside their areas of expertise. Usually a psychologist would assess your situation either before or during your first visit. At that time the doctor will be able to form an initial assessment as to whether your needs fall within his or her area of expertise. If he or she is unable to help, they may be able to make an appropriate referral based on this initial assessment.

A psychologist can help you identify your problems, and then figure out ways to cope with them; to change contributing behaviors or habits; or find constructive ways to deal with a situation that is beyond your control.



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How do I make an appointment?

It's easy, just call. Our main number is 281-554-6100. Please understand that we maintain a voice mail system to maintain confidentiality and accuracy of messages. Over the years we have found that most of the people we work with prefer this method to other alternatives. While it limits direct availability that one might have with having a receptionist answer, it does maximize confidentiality. You know that when you call only your doctor will listen to the message. When you call for the first time choose option #1 if you are new to our practice, #2 for Dr. Jones, or #3 for Dr. Zinn.

You may also request a consulation by using this link: Click here to schedule a consultation

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Does therapy work?

Therapy works by helping you look objectively at behaviors, feelings, and thoughts in situations you find problematic. It helps you to learn more effective ways in dealing with those situations. Therapy is a collaborative effort. You and your psychologist will identify your goals - what you want to have happen, and agree on how you'll know when you're making progress. Your psychologist will talk to you about of time it may take to help you make changes.

Nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said that psychotherapy had helped them. In another recent major national study, half of the patients studied were making improvements after eight sessions and over 75 percent after about 20 sessions. Several studies have link the benefits of therapy to reduced medical visits, increased productivity at work, and improved quality of life.

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