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What is the Role of a Psychologist?


We get questions all the time at Connections Child and Family Center about the role of psychologists. Recently, our founder Dr. Lauren Pasqua discussed this topic on this podcast from Mosaics of Mercy. Here are some highlights from that discussion, or you can listen to the whole podcast here

What do all those credentials mean? What about a psychologist is different? 

From the perspective of a psychologist, we usually have a graduate school program that is four to five years of intensive education and supervised experience that ends in a one-year full-time supervised internship. The focus of the training and education combines therapeutic interventions that are evidence-based primarily, as well as instruction and experience doing psychological assessment. Psychologists hold a doctorate in psychology after their schooling. 

I think in general, psychologists are also known for using scientific research to inform their practice as well. Some psychologists, instead of practicing clinically, go on to work in academia or in the research arena. In contrast, master’s level clinicians have degrees that usually range from two to three years and focus primarily on therapy and clinical interventions. They are very strong in those areas.

So psychologists do not prescribe medications?

Correct. Unless there is a clause in the state where the psychologist is licensed that allows them prescription privileges, which is a postdoctoral degree and certification. Primarily, we do not do medication management, which is in the arena of psychiatrists who are medically trained. They have a medical degree and they typically view and treat mental health from a medical perspective using medication management. 

What kind of testing do psychologists administer?

So often, (especially with kids, teens, sometimes young adults who are maybe still in school or pursuing higher education) we get questions like, does a child have a learning disability? Are there educational factors in how they learn or think that are impacting how they can be successful in school? 

How can they take tests? Are there reasons why they’re not reading well or they’re struggling in math? 

Those kinds of questions we address through more of a comprehensive educational assessment. There may also be a need for some emotional or behavioral measures, but typically the focus coming in is around that education piece. 

We often include an intellectual assessment measure that will help us know how someone thinks, reasons, and solves problems. What their estimated potential to learn is, and then also academic measures that are different than the kind that kids take in school. In school tests are usually administered in a group format and are trying to identify whether students are meeting certain curriculum benchmarks.

Why would someone need an academic assessment?

The kinds of academic assessments we give are individually administered. They’re standardized on a group of individuals across the lifespan. That child’s performance is then compared to a group of other kids (the normative group) who are their exact age often down to the month. That gives us a lot of insight into how well a child or an adult is doing academically in a certain area compared to other people who would be very similar to them.

We identify, for example, this person really seems to be struggling with reading. Then we might give more kinds of specified measures that look at the very narrow parts of reading. For example, how are they doing with understanding phonics?

How are they doing with their reading fluency, how fast and efficiently they read, how is their reading comprehension? How do they understand what they read? 

So we would even bring it down to that level to really identify where the challenges are. We can use that information for intervention recommendations. 

Sometimes people also come in to see  if their child, or even themselves, are in what we might consider the gifted and talented range of intellectual potential. 

We also test to provide recommendations for people to get accommodations on standardized tests, such as the LSAT, the SAT,  or the GRE. 

Still have questions about if seeing a psychologist is right for you? We’ll continue to share information about psychological testing in our next blog post, be on the lookout for it soon. 

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