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Our mission is to provide you with accurate information to make the best decisions about your emotional health and know what to expect when you work with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

How do I know if I need to see a psychologist?

There are many reasons people seek the help of a psychologist. Some may just want someone to help them talk through and learn to cope with a difficult family, medical or personal situation, others may be battling with depression, anxiety, or a serious mental illnesses. The good news is, therapy is effective and there are many treatments that provide help and relief. You might benefit from therapy if:

  • You find it difficult to manage everyday activities, concentrate on work, get out of bed or enjoy spending time with others
  • You worry excessively, feel constantly on edge or can’t overcome certain fears
  • Your drinking, drug use or other habits are interfering with work, school or relationships
  • You are having difficulty with maintaining relationships
  • Your anger is interfering with your life
  • You believe that you or your child may have difficulty with learning
  • You cannot manage excessive spending, collecting or exercise
  • You are having thoughts of harming yourself or others (*If you are having these thoughts now, please seek immediate assistance.)


What is a clinical psychologist?

Clinical psychology refers to the treatment and evaluation of mental health issues. Psychologists are social scientists and/or professional health care providers who specialize in psychotherapy. They are highly trained professionals with expertise in the areas of human behavior, human development, psychological problems, the measurement and understanding of personality characteristics, and other important areas of knowledge about how people think, feel and behave. As health care professionals, psychologists apply what they have learned to help people resolve personal adjustment problems, change their feelings and attitudes, overcome emotional illness, seek a better understanding of themselves and help them develop healthier, more effective patterns of behavior.

After graduation from college clinical psychologists spend an average of four to six years in full time graduate education, training and research before receiving a doctoral degree. As part of their training they must complete a specified number of supervised clinical hours, which includes a one year, full-time supervised. Psychologists must also pass a rigorous written exam administered by the state licensing board and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. It is the combination of training and experience that distinguishes clinical psychologist from many other mental health providers.


What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who spends four years in medical school before specializing in the treatment of mental health issues. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications to help with your issue. Although some psychiatrists have extensive training in psychotherapy, most focus their practice on medication management. A psychologist spends 4-6 years training to provide counseling and therapy for mental health issues, plus a one year internship and in most states a year of supervised practice before becoming licensed. Psychologists in Virginia and most other states are not allowed to prescribe medications. Most psychologists work closely with psychiatrists to help manage both the biological and social causes of difficulties.


How long does psychological treatment usually take?

According to a 2010 study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, 42% of individuals seeking therapy use 3-10 sessions, while 1 in 9 use more than 20 sessions. Most psychologists will tell you that the length of treatment depends upon the nature of the problem, the severity of the problem, and the treatment goals selected. A debilitating depression or significant trauma can require longer or more frequent treatment than a mild stress response, simple phobia or counseling to make a life decision.


Will I have to take medication?

Most people who undergo psychological treatment do not require medications. However, your psychologist may recommend that you consult with a psychiatrist depending on your symptoms and response to treatment. Psychologists do not prescribe medications themselves, but can work closely with the physician you choose.


Where can I find out more information about my diagnosis?

The best sources of information on your diagnosis will be well recognized health sites. Some recommended sites are:

National Institute of Mental Health

Mayo Clinic

American Psychological Association


National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI)


How do I choose a psychologist?

You can start by using our Find a Psychologist function to search for a psychologist by location, ages served, areas of expertise and many other variables. You may want to speak with your doctor or another health professional about referrals, or ask family, friends, neighbors or a school counselor for recommendations. Psychologists and clients work together, and a good working relationship is essential. Most psychologists agree that an important factor in deciding whether to work with a qualified psychologist, is your level of personal comfort with that psychologist. Many psychologists will speak with you by phone about their approach prior to scheduling a visit. Choose one with whom you feel comfortable and at ease.


What is psychological testing?

Psychological testing or evaluation refers to the administration of standardized tests that have been carefully evaluated for both accuracy and consistency over time. Psychological tests are administered individually and interpreted along with observations, personal history and interviews. There are a number of academic and medical/health-related questions that may benefit from assessments of emotional functioning, intelligence, intellectual strengths and weaknesses, academic disabilities, psychosis and personality. Your psychologist may recommend testing if symptoms are unclear, there is a need for more in-depth information, a learning difficulty is suspected or based on a specific question you or another health provider has. Only psychologists are trained and licensed to do psychological assessments.


How does a psychologist assess for learning disabilities?

A person is diagnosed with a learning disability if their academic skills are significantly less than one would expect given their intelligence and access to education. Testing involves one on one assessment in a quiet setting optimized to identify how well the individual can perform under ideal settings. The psychologist will administer IQ tests, academic tests, interview parents, teachers or other caregivers and evaluate for any emotional or behavioral problems that may also contribute to difficulties in the academic setting.


How is my privacy protected?

Psychologists have very stringent ethical codes regarding privacy. The information that you provide to us is confidential and will not be shared with anyone unless you give your explicit written permission to share information. There are certain conditions where concerns for safety or legal actions may require that information can be disclosed without your permission. These conditions will be explained further as part of a therapy agreement with any psychologist.


Does membership in your organization guarantee that a psychologist has expertise in a certain area or is better than non-member psychologists?

No, membership in our organization is voluntary and only requires that a psychologist be licensed or is a student in training. We do not verify member qualifications, only provide advocacy and support for local psychologists.


How do I file a complaint about a psychologist if I feel they have done something unethical or illegal?

The Department of Health Professions in Virginia handles complaints about psychologists as well as all other licensed health professions. The website for the DHP is