PSYCHOLOGISTS AS HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS IN ALABAMA
Psychology is both a science and a profession. Psychology is dedicated to the understanding of how people function and helping people cope with life’s problems. The field of psychology brings together science, theory, and practice to help people change their thoughts, feelings, and behavior and to promote personal growth.
A psychologist is a highly trained profession with expertise in the areas of human behavior, assessment and diagnosis of problems, and behavior change. Psychologists apply this knowledge in a variety of settings to help resolve individual, family, group, organizational, and societal problems. Psychologists are involved in research, teaching and supervision, program development and evaluation, consultation, development of public policy, professional practice, and other activities that promote psychological health in individuals, couples, families, groups, and organizations. Their work can range from prevention and early intervention with more minor problems of adjustment to diagnosis and intervention with very serious problems that significantly interfere with daily life.
A psychologist holds a doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited institution. After four years in college typically majoring in psychology, a psychologist attends graduate or professional school for five years or more. Psychologists then must complete a one-year supervised internship in a hospital or other clinical setting. They study a core curriculum that includes biological, mental, emotional, and social bases for human behavior. They are trained in research, diagnosis and assessment, as well as intervention and treatment techniques. Among these techniques are individual, child, family, and group therapies. Before being licensed, psychologists must pass national and state licensing examinations. In order to maintain their license, psychologists must also obtain regular continuing education to keep up to date with the latest developments in the field of psychology.
There are no set rules about how much anxiety, frustration, or conflict a person should experience before seeking help. In moderation, these unpleasant feelings can contribute to personal growth, but as they increase they contribute to psychological problems ranging from mild adjustment reactions to severe mental disturbance. They also contribute to major health problems.
Psychologists provide treatment for a full range of problems. These may include depression, anxiety, shyness, and difficulty managing daily stress.
Psychologists assist people through difficult transitions such as divorce, loss of a loved one,
step-family adjustment, and work-related problems. They teach family skills for parenting, communication, and problem-solving. They help improve marriages and other relationships. They also help people cope with and resolve the problems associated with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Psychologists assist the mentally retarded, aged, and physically disabled in life management. They are often asked to evaluate the intellectual, emotional, educational, and social functioning of adults and children. Psychologists identify problems such as alcoholism and drug abuse and help people reduce addictive behavior. Psychologists often work with a parent’s physician when heart attacks, ulcers, surgery, pain, accidents, and other physical problems lead to emotional upset or when psychological difficulties contribute to medical problems.
Some psychologists work in performance enhancement areas such as sports psychology or assisting with anxiety associated with public speaking and musical performance. Psychologists also apply their knowledge of human behavior to help individuals who are interested in personal growth.
Psychologists use a variety of intervention methods, depending mainly on the nature of the problem. Examples of intervention techniques include psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, marital and family therapy, group therapy, hypnosis, biofeedback, assertiveness training, cognitive retraining and rehabilitation, and others. Psychologists are trained to select approaches designed to provide optimal results. A psychologist will explain any method you do not understand.
For many problems, the goals of treatment can be reached within ten to fifteen appointments or less. For more complex problems or when problems have existed for a long time, longer term treatment is likely. Length of treatment is a decision mutually arrived by the psychologist and the client. Appointments are typically once per week for slightly less than an hour.
Treatment by a psychologist is usually based on an hourly rate, although psychological evaluation is sometimes billed at a fixed rate per test or battery of tests. When you call for an appointment, you should ask about fees or other charges you might be expected to pay. The psychologist will explain all costs to you prior to any evaluation or treatment unless a service is provided under emergency conditions. A large percentage of group health insurance plans cover part of the cost of treatment provided by a psychologist, so it is advisable to bring your insurance card and insurance forms to the first appointment. Some psychologists are able to provide service on a sliding scale based on income or can assist you with finding affordable services.
Under the licensing law for psychologists in Alabama, information you give to a licensed psychologists is "privileged communication.” Before giving any information about you to others, a licensed psychologist must have your permission. There are some exceptions to this that should be discussed with your psychologist. For example, all health care professionals are required to report suspected child abuse. Due to the sensitivity of information you share with a psychologist, great efforts will be made to secure your privacy and the privacy of your records. If you have concerns about confidentially, please address them when you call for an appointment, during your first session, or at any time a questions arises.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS WITH SEEING A PSYCHOLOGIST?
The following are some of your rights when seeing a psychologist:
Ψ the right to understand and question any treatment being provided, as well as the right to know the treatment goals and methods to be used.
Ψ the right to know the cost of treatment "up front.”
Ψ the right to have your personal information treated confidentially in line with "privileged communication.”
Ψ the right to be treated in a respectful manner.
Ψ the right to change to another psychologist or psychotherapist if you become dissatisfied with your treatment.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CARE I RECEIVED FROM A PSYCHOLOGIST?
Discuss your concerns with your psychologist. If you still have questions, request an outside consultant or a second opinion. If your concerns are still not resolved, contact the Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology, the Alabama Psychological Association or the American Psychological Association.