Frequently asked questions
See below for some answers to commonly asked questions.
What is a clinical psychologist?
A Clinical Psychologist is a registered mental health care practitioner, governed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
Clinical Psychologists are trained and qualified to assess, diagnose and treat all forms of psychological distress. This includes emotional turmoil, behavioural, neurological and cognitive problems and all forms of psychopathology and psychiatric disorders or conditions, in adults, adolescents and children. In treating psychological distress, a Clinical Psychologist makes use of psychotherapy.
What is psychotherapy?
Broadly speaking, psychotherapy typically involves a verbal interaction between a therapist and client/clients with the goal of facilitating the effective resolution of a situation or problem. How the situation is viewed and addressed depends very much on the detail of each particular case.
At first glance this explanation may seem a little vague, however, as we all know, human beings are extremely complicated and diverse, with no two people being exactly alike. As a result of this, the exact detail and the exact nature of an individual's situation and their individual characteristics are always unique to that individual! So, with every person being a unique one-of-a-kind being, every person's life, problems, personal characteristics and situation requires a unique one-of-a-kind understanding to best facilitate the required change to aid each individual.
Are there similarities between people who go to a psychologist for help?
Even though all people are unique, one of a kind individual beings, there are very often some similarities between peoples situations. These similarities are usually with regards to the emotional turmoil or the symptoms that an individual may be experiencing, rather than the detail of his or her situation.
For example, many different people may suffer from depression or anxiety, however, the detail of the perpetuating factors maintaining an individual's depression or anxiety will differ with every living individual.
Perhaps a clearer example may be seen with people who have experienced a traumatic event... Experiencing a traumatic event can have a profound impact on an individual. In some instances the event can be so impactful that the traumatised individual may suffer from a symptom such as flashbacks. Many different people who have experienced vastly different traumas may all experience flashbacks, however the detail of each and every person's traumatic situation, their particular thoughts, feelings and cognitions surrounding the trauma and the content of their flashbacks will be unique to each individual.
The detail of every person's subjective experience will differ, however slightly, even though many individuals may share in the psychological process of suffering from flashbacks, for example. It is in this detail where the key to effective and long lasting change lies. Through the process of psychotherapy, the detail of each person's individual situation is discovered. This allows a therapeutic intervention most suited for each specific case to be utilised in order to facilitate the most effective and long lasting change to best aid an individual seeking psychological assistance.
What therapeutic interventions can a clinical psychologist use?
In theory, a Clinical Psychologist is a specialist in psychotherapy and can utilise any and all therapeutic interventions. However, each individual Clinical Psychologist will have been trained in, or may prefer, one or more different therapeutic interventions. He or she will utilise and adapt the best suited of these interventions for each particular case.
What therapeutic interventions are available from this clinical psychologist?
I have received thorough training in a wide variety of therapeutic interventions, Including the following:
- Family therapy
- Couples therapy
- Systematic desensitization
- Assertiveness training
- Person centred therapy
- Group therapy
- Behavioural therapy
- Relaxation training (Jacobson's)
- Teddy bear therapy (children)
- Strategic therapy
- Brief solutions focused therapy
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Guided affected imagery
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Traumatic incident reduction therapy
- Trauma debriefing
- Communications training
- Interactional therapy
- Play therapy (children)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprogramming
- Neuro-linguistic programming
- Sex Therapy
As mentioned previously, each individual case is unique and as such every person coming for therapy requires an individualised, and thorough understanding, in order to select, and where necessary, adapt the appropriate therapeutic intervention in order to elicit the most effective and long lasting therapeutic change.
How does a psychologist know which therapeutic intervention to use?
In order to select a therapeutic intervention, a psychologist must first understand the individual/s that he/she is treating. At first glance this may seem fairly straight forward, however there are many, many theories explaining the psychological functioning of human beings and these are called theoretical paradigms. Typically a psychologist will analyse and understand the people he/she is treating from one particular theoretical paradigm, and this understanding will direct the psychologist to select and use a particular therapeutic intervention.
What is a theoretical paradigm?
Basically, a theoretical paradigm is a theory that explains the psychological functioning of human beings. Many of these theories focus on different parts of people, for example, some theoretical paradigms, such as the Cognitive Behavioural theoretical paradigm, understands a person by focusing on the thoughts and cognitions of an individual and how they connect to, and are influenced by, that individual's behaviour. Other theories, such as the psychodynamic theoretical paradigm, understand an individual by focusing on the intra- psychic processes going on inside an individual's mind. Another focus of theories such as the systemic theoretical paradigm, is on the structure and nature of an individual's family system, and other important systems in a person's life, and how this dynamic influences that individuals psychological state and behaviour. Other theoretical paradigms, such as the interactional theoretical paradigm, focus on the interactions between individuals and their role in understanding how people function.
As you can see there are many different ways to understand people, and typically different psychologists will view people from one of these, or other, theoretical paradigms. It is this view or understanding of a person that will determine the way in which a psychologist aids an individual seeking psychological help.
Which theoretical paradigm does this psychologist use?
As you can see from the above description of theoretical paradigms, there are many, many ways to understand people. And, because a lot of these ways of understanding people look at different parts of a person and their lives, I find it most useful to use an integrative approach.
What is an integrative approach?
An integrative approach is quite simply an integration of many different theoretical paradigms. Simply put, using an integrative approach enables a therapist to view a case from many different angles and allows him/her to select the theoretical paradigm, and therapeutic intervention, that is best suited for the individual, and that will most effectively aid the individual with his or her problem.
What kind of Problems does psychotherapy help with?
All psychological and interactional problems can be helped with psychotherapy. At first glance this may seem somewhat vague and general, but that is because of the wide variety of uses of psychotherapy. One way of determining whether psychotherapy can benefit you or others is by asking yourself this question: are you, or someone you know, experiencing subjective discomfort of any kind, in any context? If the answer is yes then you/they will most likely benefit from psychotherapy.
Although the uses for psychotherapy are seemingly endless, some common problems that psychotherapy can aid with, in children and adults are the following:
- All psychiatric disorders/conditions
- Emotional problems
- Family problems
- Issues at work
- Sexual difficulties
- Relationship issues
- Anger management
- Abuse of any kind
- Marital difficulties
- Addiction / other drug related problems
- Quitting smoking
- Obsessive/compulsive conditions
- Bulling at school or at home
- Separation anxiety
- Wetting the bed
These are just some of many situations in which psychotherapy can be beneficial.
Can psychotherapy only benefit me if I have a problem?
Typically, individuals who are experiencing some form of subjective distress come for psychotherapy. This however is not the only situation in which psychotherapy can be beneficial. Psychotherapy can also be used to improve or strengthen skills, characteristics or situations that are not necessarily areas of discomfort. For example, psychotherapy can be used to increase concentration when studying. Or it may be utilised to increase focus during sport for example.
How many sessions will I need?
As has been mentioned, every case, and every individual's particular situation is unique to that person. As a result of this, the number of sessions required to address a particular situation will differ with each and every client seeking psychological aid, and can be discussed further, along with any other concerns or questions, at any point in the process.