Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a formal process of working through various problems in our lives that cause distress, with the help of a qualified therapist.

How do you know if you need help?
*You are unable to cope with overwhelming feelings of anger, frustration, irritability, or sadness.
*You are always feeling sick or exhausted and you have not been able to find a medical reason for your condition.
*You are constantly worried about things.
*You cannot “get over” the loss of a loved one or incident.
*There is too much conflict in your life and you are having difficulty managing it.
*You are drinking too much or have a problem with drugs.

How are psychologists trained?
There are many specialties within the field of psychology. Their education and training will vary depending on the area of specialization. As part of their training, psychologists study a basic core of subjects that includes the mental, biological, emotional, and social bases for human behaviour. They are trained in research, diagnosis and assessment, as well as intervention and treatment techniques, through class and practical work placements or internships.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who completes medical school, an additional four-year psychiatric residency and is licensed to prescribe medications.
A psychology doctor normally completes five to seven years of graduate school and may hold a degree as Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), or Ed.D., a doctorate in educational counselling. A Master’s level psychologist holds a M.A. or M.Sc, Master’s in Psychology, and normally completes 2 to 3 years of graduate study.

What is the difference between a Registered Psychologist and a Psychologist (Candidate Register)?
Once a person graduates from their respective university program, the provincial Board of Psychologists (the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology or NSBEP) requires the candidate complete a period of supervision, a written, North American standardized exam called the Exam for Professional Psychology Practice, and finally, an oral exam conducted by at least three members of NSBEP. Master’s level psychologists are required to complete 4 years of supervision, while Doctoral level psychologists are required to complete 2 years. As these psychologists are candidates for full registration, they are put on the “Candidate Register” until the final requirements are met.

How do I select a psychologist?
Selecting a psychologist is similar to selecting any other professional. You should assess the psychologist’s credentials, including both training and experience. Discuss the fees before you begin treatment, and verify your insurance coverage for psychological treatment. Ask questions about the services that will be provided, so you will not get something different from what you expected. If you are still having difficulties making a decision check with the provincial psychological association. In Nova Scotia, you may want to contact the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia (see links).

How long does psychological treatment usually take?
An American research study found that 50 percent of psychotherapy clients had made improvement within eight sessions of therapy, and 75 percent showed improvement after six months of therapy. Most psychologists will tell you that the length of treatment depends upon the nature of the problem, the severity of the problem, the total number of problems, and the treatment goals selected.

How often are counselling or psychotherapy appointments scheduled?
The frequency of appointments depends on the theoretical approach used in treatment, but most often sessions are scheduled once per week.

Will I have to lie on a couch and talk about my dreams like they do in the movies?
The stereotype of a client lying on a couch, describing dreams to a psychologist is based on early treatment techniques, from the beginnings of psychotherapy. This technique is still practiced today but it is much less common, as many other therapies have evolved since the early 1900’s. Some psychologists have recliners in their office, rather than a couch, while others have sofas or comfortable chairs. Talking about your dreams is still common in psychotherapy, although again it depends on the theoretical approach of the psychologist. In general, there is much less emphasis on dreams than in the early days of psychotherapy.

Some psychological problems are embarrassing, is the information I provide confidential?
In most provinces, confidential information is protected communication between a psychologist and their clients. However, if you request insurance reimbursement for psychological services (or any other health service) some confidential information will be communicated to the company to process the claim. In general, identifying the patient, the diagnosis, and the dates of treatment sessions is required for reimbursement. Beyond that, information is generally protected. You should consult your insurance company or EAP to determine what information is typically requested.

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