Dr. Richard J. DioGuardi

              Clinical & School Psychologist

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

It is not unusual for consumers to have questions about the role and qualifications of psychologists, when to seek treatment, and which intervention approach is best, among other concerns.  The following information is intented to provide you with some answers to some of the most common questions.

When should I consider seeing a psychologist?

Many people experience one or more of the following problems: sadness, panic, stress, job conflicts, marital difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, and trouble with acting out adolescents. These are only a few of the anxieties and stresses of everyday life that can overwhelm you to the point that your life, your work, or your happiness is seriously impacted. When any of these situations occur, this is the time that you should consider talking to a psychologist, who is someone that can help.

How can psychology help?

Psychotherapy has demonstrated results in treating a variey of problems. For example, nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said that therapy helped them. In another major national study, half the patients studied were making improvement after eight sessions of therapy, three-quarters after six months of therapy. Through a scientific base of knowledge, psychologists have contributed to understanding human behavior and alleviating pain and suffering.

What do psychologists do?

Psychologists are specially trained mental health specialists. Psychologists licensed to practice in the state of New York have degrees in the following: Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). In New York, psychologists spend an average of 7.1 years on their doctoral degrees in addition to their undergraduate education. A year of supervised post-doctoral psychological training is required before taking a national written proficiency test to acquire a license to practice as a psychologist in the state. Psychologists conduct research, perform testing, and evaluate and treat a full range of emotional and psychological challenges. They admit, diagnose, and coordinate the care of their patients in both outpatient and hospital settings. In addition, psychologists may teach at the college and university level, consult with business and industry, and provide expert testimony to our judicial system. Among the many services that psychologists offer to the public, psychologists conduct individual and group therapy with adults, adolescents, and children. Psychologists specialize in many fields, for example, working with geriatric patients, those with chronic pain, and children/adults with attention deficit disorders.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist and a therapist?

A psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (M.D.) who has graduated from a medical school. A psychiatrist’s training focuses on general medicine while in medical school. They will then go on to 3-4 years of residency where they will specialize in psychiatry. While for many years in the past, the psychiatrist normally prescribed medications and also delivered psychotherapy, their roles have changed today. For the most part, psychiatrists now do psychiatric evaluations for the purpose of determining if an individual would be appropriate for treatment with medications. If so determined, the psychiatrist prescribes the medications and then follows the patient for medication management. Medication management includes initially following the patient closely until they are stabilized with the proper dosage ( usually once every 1-2 weeks until stabilization occurs) and then usually once every 1-3 months for maintenance.

A psychologist is a clinician who holds a Doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.). These clinicians have spent at least 5-6 years of graduate work strictly studying psychology, then moving on to complete 1-2 years of internship followed by 1-2 years of supervised clinical work experience before qualifying for the right to sit for the licensing examination. A psychologist does not prescribe medication. Instead, they provide psychotherapy through their in-depth knowledge of psychological theory, therapy, research and diagnostic testing. Psychologists also specialize in psychological testing and are the only group of clinicians trained to do so. Psychological testing require years of training that involves not only how to give the tests, but also how to score and integrate the test information with clinical interviews, background information, knowledge of personality theory, human development and research. The title “psychologist” can only be used by someone who has completed the above training and has then passed both national and state licensing examinations. Informally, a psychologist may be referred to as a “therapist,” “counselor,” or “clinician.” However, these are more general terms that can be used by other mental health professionals who are not formally trained and licensed psychololgists. Social Workers

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW’s) hold Masters degrees. Their training consists of typically 2 years of graduate school and 1-2 years of internship. LCSW’s assess, diagnose, intervene and treat individuals, families and groups with psychosocial problems. They will frequently partner with a psychiatrist if they feel medication should be part of the treatment protocol.

Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC’s) hold Masters degrees in counseling. They have completed 2 years of graduate training and 1-2 years of work experience under supervision. LMHC’s provide counseling to individuals, families and groups. They, too, will partner with a psychiatrist if they feel medications might be included in the treatment protocol.

How do I choose a therapist?

Choosing the right therapist for you is both an important and personal decision. Clearly, there are certain criteria that must be met.

Firstly, you must seek a therapist who has genuine experience and expertise in the area of difficulty you are having. For instance, if you have a substance abuse problem you would not want a therapist whose experience in this area is nil or minimal.

Wisdom, empathy, compassion and character are all attributes you would want your therapist to have but it isn’t enough. Knowledge and good professional training are essential. Feel free to interview your therapist regarding their education, training and experience.

Much research has gone into what factors are more likely to produce a positive outcome in therapy. Many types of psychotherapeutic approaches (such as psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, interpersonal, etc) have been evaluated over the course of many years. Interestingly, all studies over the course of time have shown that the psychotherapeutic approach is NOT the determining feature in a positive outcome. Instead, the RELATIONSHIP between the therapist and patient was overwhelmingly the single most important factor in achieving a rich, rewarding therapeutic experience.

In order to thrive in a therapeutic setting, you must trust your instincts. After you have ascertained the basic information regarding your therapist’s credentials, ask yourself if you felt TRULY comfortable with this person. You are about to embark on an incredible journey and you deserve to feel as safe and trusting as possible. Pay close attention to the level of ease you feel speaking with this person. Naturally, it may be uncomfortable at first to begin to open up, but your instincts will tell you if this therapist will have the potential ability to create a circle of safety and comfort around you. Remember, you are in charge of this choice and you can choose to stay or try again with another therapist. Most importantly, do not give up. Fortunately, this field is filled with caring, competent professionals and it will not be long before you find the right one for you.

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