When people come in to therapy for the first time, they often have a lot of questions about what psychologists do (and what they cannot do). Usually, these questions are about medication, getting diagnosed with disorders or other conditions, and other specific details and abilities that will vary from one clinic to the next.
At Flourish Psychological Services, our team has different specialties that allow us to meet the needs of many different patients and therapy styles. However, there are a few important distinctions that set us apart from psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and medical doctors.
Do psychologists believe in medication?
Yes, we do! Psychologists believe in medication, but our approach and tool kit are focused primarily on therapeutic solutions first. Many treatments for psychological conditions have been proven effective through behavioural and cognitive therapy, so that is our starting point and we keep an open mind to wherever the situation may go. We work towards the best solution for each client, which may end up being a medication route to supplement and assist progress made through ongoing therapy.
Can psychologists diagnose?
Some psychologists can diagnose disorders and conditions, but this requires the proper training and certification within an area of expertise. Just like there are different types of doctors, lawyers, or professors, there are different types of psychologists whose knowledge may only have a little bit of overlap. For instance, an educational psychologist would not be able to diagnose mental health disorders, because they are entirely different approaches and fields of study. Similarly, psychologists trained in mental health cannot administer testing or diagnose educational or cognitive disorders.
Can psychologists prescribe me medication?
No, psychologists cannot prescribe medication in Canada. Only doctors or nurse practitioners – that is, people with an education in medicine – can prescribe medication. Psychologists exclusively study the brain, how it functions, and how its operations manifest in the body. Note that this does not mean a psychologist’s education is inadequate. Though they do not start with medical school, a therapist with a doctorate in psychology has at least 10, and usually up to 13, years of post-secondary education in the field of mental health.
Which types of psychologists can prescribe medication?
There are no types of psychologists that can prescribe medication. A therapist with the education and credentials required to make prescriptions is a psychiatrist – someone that has gone to medical school, and then done an additional seven years of mental health and psychological education. This is an important distinction that affects the type of service you can expect from a therapist.
As psychologists, we try non-medication routes to treat disorders first, and we find that many conditions respond well to behavioural therapies. These can cause less stress on the body, and are more sustainable overall since they are not dependent on daily medication. However, they are not always feasible or effective, such as for many forms of depression or schizophrenia. Any good psychologist will be able to identify the best route forward for your specific circumstances.
Do you have more questions about psychology in Calgary, or even Canada? Wondering what to expect from your first therapy session? If you haven’t found the answers yet, we’re happy to help with anything you need to know. All you have to do is reach out when you’re ready to talk!