Many texts define psychology as the "science of mental processes and behavior." Psychology is difficult to define because the word "mental" suggests there are no boundaries or limits. "Psyche", in "Psychology," also suggests breath, life, soul or mind -- all of which are without limit. Subfields of psychology.
A psychologist is an individual who holds a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology. Licensed psychologist are bound by the ethical principles of the American Psychological Association.
A psychologist provides counseling, behavior modification, hypnosis or psychotherapy to individuals, families, groups, organizations or businesses for a fee in order to treat or relieve psychological and emotional problems. A psychologist also develops, gives and interprets tests of mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, personality characteristics and motivations.
Only licensed psychologists may practice psychology with private patients without supervision. To get a license, the individual must have an appropriate doctorate degree, work in the psychology field under supervision for two years, and pass the National written exam.
Decide what area you want help with, i.e. your children, spouse, substance abuse, depression, stress, etc. Then begin looking for a psychologist trained in that area. Ask friends or relatives for recommendations. Also check with your health insurance company for a list of authorized providers. You can call the national, state and local psychological associations for referrals. When you have a list of possibilities, you can narrow it down by determining if gender or geographical location makes a difference to you. Next, meet with the psychologist to see if the two of you are compatible. It is important that you feel comfortable with the psychologist.
Psychiatrists: Have completed medical school and are licensed by the Medical Board of California. They use limited counseling therapy and are authorized to prescribe medications.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW): Typically work in governmental or hospital settings, but may be in private practice. They can not provide psychological testing or prescribe medications. A Master's degree is required for license.
Marriage, Family and Child Counselors (MFCC): Can provide counseling regarding marriage, family and child issues. They can not prescribe medications and have strict limitations in providing psychological testing. A Master's degree is required for license.
Licensed Educational Psychologists (LEP): Work in schools and provide educational counseling services such as aptitude testing. They can not provide psychological testing that is not related to educational services, and they can not provide medications. A Master's degree is required for license.
Psychiatric Technicians: Provide counseling and related medical services in state hospitals. Can not provide psychological testing, or prescribe medications. Undergraduate degree required for license.
Priests, Ministers, Rabbis, or other Clergy Members: Provide spiritual guidance. May not treat for emotional or mental disorders, do psychological testing, or prescribe medications.