Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Should You See a Psychologist?

The other day, I gave an outreach presentation to some teachers and Speech Language Pathologists about when to refer a child to a psychologist. I was really nervous beforehand, but once I got up there and began talking, they all started nodding and taking notes about what I was saying. I realized that I was giving them information they didn't know! And then I began thinking about how many other people don't know this information either. So, I think I will give you a quick reference guide so that you know how many things psychologists can help with that you may not be aware of...

First of all, psychologists do assessments and therapy. We can help answer questions you have about your functioning (with assessments) and then help you work on your problems (with therapy).

Questions that a Psychologist can help Answer:
  • What are your intellectual strengths and weaknesses? Any age, any level of verbal ability, and any specific question can be addressed. Learning disabilities and ADHD can also be discovered and diagnosed.
  • How does your academic achievement compare to my intellectual functioning? What grade level are you reading (or doing math etc) at?
  • Do you have any problematic neuropsychological functioning? If you've had a severe head injury, stroke, or again if your child is showing some odd behaviors, we can check and see if these are normal. This might include hyperactivity, ADHD, attention, executive processing, processing speed, memory, spatial skills and reasoning...the list goes on
  • What is your emotional functioning? This is a big one! Are you feeling like you might not be totally normal? Have your emotions changed from how they used to be? Are you having trouble eating, sleeping, concentrating, or enjoying things you used to enjoy? Any of these might signal depression, anxiety, or another problem that can be evaluated and addressed with a psychologist.
  • Is your child unusually oppositional or aggressive? If they are more aggressive than their peers, there is a reason for it, and a psychologist can help figure out why.
  • Do you have an Autism Spectrum Disorder? In terms of kids, if your child has trouble with eye contact, empathy, language, change, social skills, friendships, or imaginary play, you probably want to get them assessed for an autistic disorder.
  • Is there something not working in your parent-child or family relationship?
  • Are you unusually clumsy or are your motor skills weaker than your peers? This might signal a neurological problem.

These are all the things we can assess. However, of course you often visit a psychologist not for an assessment, but for therapy. Many of the above problems, such as relationship difficulties or emotional functioning, can of course be worked on in therapy - with good results too! Almost all psychological disorders (depression, anxiety, etc) show as good or better results with therapy than with medication. For lots of them, the best results will come if you get in therapy and use medication. I always recommend therapy because it can help you get in touch with your "true self." So, here are some red flags. If you answer "yes" to any of these, I would consider visiting a psychologist for therapy:

  • Do you feel sad most days?
  • Is there a problem in your life that you think about almost all the time?
  • Do your troubles distract you at work or when you're trying to have fun and relax?
  • Have you gotten stuck in troubling relationships over and over?
  • Are you getting irritable with people close to you?
  • Have you started to have trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like sleeping all the time?
  • Have you lost interest or pleasure in your daily life--in things you used to enjoy?
  • Are you troubled by conflicts with your spouse or partner?
  • Are you trying to cope with hurtful experiences from the past that are hard to talk about?
  • Do you think you have been using alcohol or drugs too much?
  • Have you gotten into problems because of your temper?
  • Have you thought about suicide?
  • Have you gotten so nervous or panicky that you thought you were going to pass out or have a heart attack?
  • Do you have disturbing, intrusive thoughts or images that you can't control?


Diana said...

you need to start writing a book. I will bankroll it and share half the profit with you!!

Brenton and Jenna Lane said...

so glad everything went well!!! I would've been so nervous in front of so many people! Good job Kristi!!! :)