Why go to the psychologist?

Throughout our lives we can find difficult situations that require specific coping and adequate emotional management to reduce the psychological impact.

Our life is full of stressful situations, some expected (horizontal stressors) and others not (vertical stressors). Horizontal stressors are predictable (access to the world of work, living with a partner, deciding to be parents, eg) therefore it is possible to anticipate how to cope by preparing for them or by searching in advance for information and advice.

In contrast, vertical stressors are not predictable (losses, ruptures, diseases, disasters, for example), so we may not be prepared to cope adequately, which is logical.

At other times, despite the fact that there are no apparently trigger situations, we tend to generate concerns, fears or uncertainties that have an impact on our lives sometimes  in a silent way.

Each person can find a different reason that leads them to request psychological help, but in general, it is recommended when:

-We are facing the impact of a vertical stressor and consider that our coping strategies are not enough.

-In the face of horizontal stressors, we are overwhelmed or consider it necessary to acquire new mechanisms to deal with the situation.

-There are external circumstances that generate fear and uncertainty and we do not know the best way to follow.

-We feel intense and / or prolonged negative emotions over time, which also interfere with our daily life.

–Our lack of self-confidence to carry out our vital objectives.

-We are in conflict with our values ​​and we have a hard time making decisions.

-We need tools to help those closest to us in the difficulties they may have.

-We have constant dissatisfaction despite the changes we try to make in our lives.

When facing the situations that present themselves, many factors influence us, such as personality style, abilities and resources, our family history or the environment in which we develop. What constitutes a solution for one person may be a problem for another. Therefore, it is convenient to carry out an individualized and tailored path of advice for the person.

What are the benefits of going to a psychologist?

The simple fact of going to a psychologist does not contribute anything in itself. What really benefits us is being able to get to know and take an active and committed part in our own change. Going to a consultation has no magical effect on our state, if we do not really put everything that is considered to be beneficial to us into action.

In any case, during the consultation the necessary conditions are created so that the person can express without judgment, without censorship and with the maximum understanding, everything that affects them in their life. Being able to speak in a safe environment facilitates the process of self-knowledge to try, from there, to assess what factors are compromising our psychological well-being.

The psychology professional will try, step by step, and always in agreement with the person, to detect and make understandable what may be influencing the way in which we face circumstances negatively. The psychologist is never going to make decisions for the person, they are not going to try to make them lose their own identity. Therefore, you will not question anything about the person who comes to the consultation. Their job is to advise and create, together with the client, a new scenario from which to face problems.

Generically, psychological support can help us:

  • Feeling better about ourselves from a greater self-knowledge.
  • Acquire tools and resources to deal with situations in a different way.
  • Be more compassionate with ourselves, decreasing our self-demand.
  • Assess other alternative solutions to those previously practiced.
  • Increase our self-esteem.
  • Be aware of our strengths as individuals and stop focusing on the part we like least about ourselves.
  • Relate to our environment more safely and effectively.
  • Accept life circumstances from the perspective of commitment to change.
  • Manage our negative emotions.
  • Give us the opportunity to make the changes we consider appropriate.
  • Find our own space being able to exercise our personal rights.

These are just some examples of what consultation with a psychology professional can give us. Do not hesitate to ask and ask for advice for whatever circumstance you are experiencing.

What are the differences between a psychologist and psychiatry?

The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that they have different backgrounds. Both work to provide psychological well-being in people, but in general, they do it in different ways.

First of all, the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that the psychologist studies a career or degree in psychology and, later, takes a Master in Health Psychology or has the option to carry out the P.I.R. (Internal Resident Psychologist) as a clinical psychologist. The psychiatrist, however, studies medicine to later carry out the M.I.R. (Internal Resident Physician) in the specialty of mental illness.

Next, we can say that the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, is in the way of proceeding with the help and therapy that it provides to people who need it.

The psychologist will intervene from a contextual, social, environmental, learning, educational perspective and based on the situations that cause or make the person vulnerable to suffering from some type of disorder. This intervention is carried out from a therapy process that, according to the theoretical orientation, will try to provide tools, resources or skills to help the person to face and manage those states that cause discomfort. The psychologist also helps the person to obtain self-knowledge and, therefore, to self-manage behaviour and emotions. Let’s not forget that psychology is the science that studies human behaviour.

The psychiatrist, however, carries out an intervention based more on the biological and physiological aspects that explain the possible causes of mental disorders. Obviously, he does not forget the contextual characteristics of the individual, but the accent, so to speak, is placed on the chemical, hormonal and biological variables of mental disorders. In this way, its treatment relies mainly on the use of psychotropic drugs (anxiolytics, antidepressants, neuroleptics, among others) and is the one who has the legal capacity to prescribe them. Not so the psychologist, who cannot prescribe any type of drug. However, many psychiatrists have training in different psychotherapeutic strategies, which allows them to carry out a psychological intervention.

It is common for the psychologist and the psychiatrist to work together according to the needs of each person, since, regardless of the pathology, the two interventions, pharmacological and psychotherapeutic, are often necessary.

Sometimes, it seems that the psychiatrist deals with serious mental disorders and the psychologist with the mildest. This is not so. The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist lies in the approximation of the causes that cause a mental disorder. The psychiatrist takes more the biological variables and the psychologist the environmental ones into account. However, both professionals consider the other’s etiological approaches important.

What is true is that in many mental disorders, the biological component is more important in general. For this reason, the psychologist often sees it necessary to refer the person to psychiatric care to favour changes in the person’s condition and to facilitate the learning of psychological tools and resources. At other times, although the biological weight, as a cause, is not the one with the heaviest, treatment with psychotropic drugs is useful when the person has been suffering from a disorder for a long time or certain symptoms are very intense.

How can I explain to my child what a psychologist is?

Sometimes we have doubts about how to explain to children what a psychologist is.

Very often parents ask us: what do we say to our children? Do we tell them that we are going to see a doctor? What are you, a teacher?

Boys and girls need to be as safe as possible. Therefore, it is important to provide you with the most reliable information possible of what you will find when you come to our office. It is not convenient to deceive children when explaining what a psychologist is. It is convenient to call things by their names. Of course, depending on the age of the minor, the information will be different not only in form, but also in content.

Many boys and girls, like a large part of the general adult population, harbour a misconception or stigmatization of what it means to go to a psychologist’s office. It is heard that this is for crazy people. That is why it is so important to offer truthful information, adjusted to reality, and validated according to the problem for which they are being consulted.

In a very general way, when explaining to our children what a psychologist is, we can tell them that they are a professional who:

  • Knows how to listen
  • Helps children and adults solve their problems
  • Is friendly
  • Allows you to talk about everything that you are concerned about or like
  • Will never punish for any reason
  • Is going to help me make friends

It must be made clear, therefore, that psychologists:

  • Are not doctors, so they will not prescribe medicine
  • Are not teachers, so they will not be examined at all.
  • Are not judges, so they will not be judged

We can also tell them that the office is going to be a very nice, cozy place where there are many games and where you can talk, play, paint, among other things.

To explain to the children, what a psychologist is, it can help us to tell them that it will help them in:

  • Solving what does not allow you to be totally happy
  • Naming emotions

It is also important that the person with whom the entire therapeutic process is going to be given a name, and even, it is advisable to show them a photo of the professional so that the child can put a face to the person and not be totally unknown.

What to do when my child does not want to go to the psychologist even though he needs it?

Sometimes we find it difficult to do when our child does not want to go to the psychologist even though they need to.

If frequently, going to the psychologist is already difficult for an adult, for a child or adolescent it can be much more complicated. It is relatively frequent that some children, but especially adolescents, resist going to the psychologist. Under the pretexts of the type, “I am not crazy”, “nobody has to tell me what I have to do”, “nobody has to get into my life”, “you want to punish me”, we found the difficulty to convince our children to go to the psychological consultation.

It is essential that the adolescent wants to change and is aware that they need help. In any case, it is common to meet adolescents who openly tell us that they do not know what they are doing there, that they do not understand why the parents have taken them and that the parents are the ones who are in need of a psychologist. In other words, we have not managed to convince them for the first consultation. It is normal, and you don’t have to worry either.

On the other hand, it is essential that the child or adolescent be willing to collaborate in the entire process from the beginning.

Therefore, some of the strategies that should be put in place when we do not know what to do when our child does not want to go to the psychologist even though they need it, are the following:

  • Treatment should be placed in the hands of a psychologist specialized in child and adolescent therapy.
  • It is important to be honest with our children.
  • Do not blame the children. It is better to talk about difficulties in relationships or in the family and that we will go to improve the relationship between everyone and that we all feel better.
  • It is important to explain what a psychologist is and what you will find there.
  • Emphasize that we, as parents, will also need the help of the psychologist.
  • Trying to make them see that it is not a punishment, but an opportunity to be better.
  • Explain that the psychologist’s environment is safe, that is, that no one is going to judge them
  • Emphasize that everything that they talk about in the consultation is confidential and that the psychologist is not going to be a sneak.
  • Insist that they will have a space of intimacy for them in which nobody is going to interfere.
  • They can be asked to try to go one day and to assess for themselves if it can be useful.

On some occasions, and when the refusal on the part of our child is absolute, it may be useful for the parents to go alone to the psychologist’s consultation to put it on record  for the professional, who with a more accurate criterion, can give guidelines to favour that the child or adolescent agrees to make a first visit. It is not advisable to threaten or blackmail, since going to the psychologist is neither a reward nor a punishment, it is just the opportunity to offer support.

What is the process of therapy?

Before going to the consultation of a psychologist for the first time, it is normal for us to ask ourselves what the therapy process is going to be. It is logical, since contrary to medical consultations that we more or less know how they work, it is something that we are not used to. Apart from this uncertainty, aspects related to fear, shame, the feeling of weakness, or the stigma that still have the fact of going to a mental health professional come together.

But then, what is going to be the therapy process? In general, we can point out some points that serve as an orientation:

  • The first day, the centre you go to or the professional, will try to create the best conditions so that you can feel comfortable. In addition, you can see how everything is much more normal than you imagined. They will take your contact information completely confidentially, and invite you to wait for the psychologist to receive you. Do not hesitate to consult what you want at that time.
  • When the professional comes to meet you, he will introduce himself and ask you to accompany him to the office, where he will try to make you as comfortable as possible.
  • Once there, and after a brief presentation, the psychologist will ask you to tell them the reason why you come to the consultation. At that time, you can freely say what you consider appropriate or, if you prefer, wait for the professional to ask you questions. You should know that all the information you have will be confidential and will be duly guarded. Only your therapist can access that information.
  • The professional will take notes, if you have no problem. The normal thing is to do it writing on paper. Some professionals collect information electronically. In any case, it will always be aware that you feel comfortable with the situation.
  • Throughout the first interview, the psychologist will listen to you carefully and ask you everything that is only strictly necessary to know the problem you are consulting about. You do not have to tell anyone what you do not want to in this first interview, although the more information you offer, the better the professional can know you.
  • At the end of this first session, the therapist will give you his point of view about what you have told him. They will offer you an opinion on what is going to work to help you feel better. You may be given questionnaires to fill out and take to the next session.
  • In subsequent sessions, the therapist will talk to you to expand on the information you gave him in the first consultation. The objective is to get to know you even more and to be able to offer you a more precise explanation or diagnosis, as well as to mark with you, the lines of therapy.
  • Progressively, and in a climate of trust and teamwork, the psychologist will give you guidelines to put into practice. You will be able to analyse together the evolution of the therapy and to approach the objectives set in it.
  • In the following sessions, you will address the topics you consider appropriate, or the therapist will ask you for more information if they consider it useful and necessary. All this will help to be able to carry out the optimal adjustments so that the therapy has the expected results.
  • You have to keep in mind something important: the improvements do not follow an upward linear path. Relapses are likely to occur, which is completely normal and will serve to analyse factors that may have a negative influence. It does not mean, therefore, a setback in therapy, but an opportunity that must be used to continue improving.
  • As you progress in achieving objectives, the therapist will ask you to value the aspects that are helping you, and you will take stock. The frequency of the sessions will decrease. Little by little, you will become the sole manager of your life.
  • When you and the therapist consider that the goals of the therapy have been achieved, an assessment will be made of everything that has been done in the therapy and will offer you guidelines for relapse prevention. If all this is clear, the therapist will proceed to discharge you.
  • Keep in mind that you can always contact your therapist again whenever you need. Do not think that a relapse is a failure, but the best opportunity to consolidate achievements.
  • If for any circumstance, you decide to end the therapy, you will not be judged for it. You can only, if you want, assess with the professional the reasons that lead you to such a decision. If after time, you decide to return, do not think at any time that the psychologist will feel upset. On the contrary, it will continue to strive like the first day to help you.

The best news will be that you do not have to come back for the consultation, which will mean that you have achieved your goals.

How long does the therapy last?

A commonly asked question is how long will therapy last. Obviously, and for different reasons, we want the greatest achievements  in the shortest amount of time,.

But is it possible to calculate the time that the therapy will last? It is not really easy to estimate how long the therapy will last. That will depend on many factors. What is clear, and you have no doubt about it, is that the professional is not going to lengthen the time unnecessarily.

What factors can influence the duration of therapy?

We could list some factors that can affect the duration of therapy:

  • Type of problem being consulted: the treatment for some of the problems being consulted may take longer than others.
  • Frequency of the sessions: at the beginning the ideal is to carry out weekly sessions to later be able to distance them. Sometimes this is not possible for different reasons. The professional will always try to make the achievements as significant as possible regardless of the frequency of the consultations, but it is undoubtedly a factor that will influence the duration of the therapy.
  • Variables of the immediate environment: some aspects of the environment can favour or hinder the evolution of the therapy. If the social, family, work, physical conditions, etc. are optimal, the prognosis and the evolution, therefore, will be more favourable.
  • Length of time the person has had the problem: in some cases, the person consults for long-standing problems and some aspects have been chronic. So, we always advise against delaying the request for psychological help.
  • Level of involvement of the person in the therapy process: psychological treatment requires maximum involvement on the part of the person consulting. Therapy is not a process in which the professional causes the changes, but together, client and professional, they are involved and strive to implement the guidelines that are considered most appropriate.
  • Appearance of unforeseen stress factors: in many cases, during the course of therapy, unexpected circumstances of stress appear and can be a brake on the therapeutic evolution itself. Sometimes this forces to focus on the new focus of the problem, or to redirect or restructure the therapeutic goals.

Although it is not easy for the professional to say how long the therapy will last, he can estimate if the achievements can be achieved in the short, medium or long term. This information is important to the person consulting. In any case, it is best not to stick to time limits. It is good that you communicate to your psychologist what are your expectations regarding what you want to achieve and in how long. They will tell you if those goals are realistic based on their experience.