About Psychology


Psychologists are doctors that are licensed by the California Board of Psychology. They work in a variety of areas including health care, business, education, law and government. Psychologists conduct research, complete evaluations, teach, testify in court and provide psychological treatment. They provide services to individuals, groups, organizations or businesses for a fee in order to treat or relieve psychological and emotional problems. Psychologists also develop, administer and interpret tests of mental abilities, aptitudes, interests, personality characteristics, and motivations.

Who May Practice Psychology?

Only licensed psychologists may practice psychology without supervision. Psychological assistants may conduct psychotherapy and evaluations under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist. To obtain licensure in the state of California, the individual must have an appropriate doctorate degree, work in the psychology field under supervision for a minimum of two years and pass the National Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the California Psychology Supplemental Examination.

How Do I Choose a Psychologist?  

First, it is important to decide what area you would like help with – your child, spouse, substance use, depression, stress, coping with a medical illness, etc.  Then you can begin looking for a psychologist who is trained, or who has experience working, in that area. You can ask friends, relatives, or your medical provider for recommendations.  You can also check with your health insurance company for a list of authorized providers, use this website to obtain information about possible providers, or call the national, state or local psychological associations for referrals.  You can verify a psychologist’s license status in California by calling the Board of Psychology’s Verifications Unit at (916) 263-2382 or by visiting their website at http://www.psychboard.ca.gov/.  The California Board of Psychology will allow you to find out if the individual is licensed and if there has been any disciplinary action taken against the licensee due to consumer complaints or other factors.

Next, call the psychologist to schedule an initial appointment.  The psychologist may inquire generally about what area you would like help with and your health insurance company. It is important that you feel comfortable with the psychologist and you both agree to continue to work together.

Types of Therapy

There are many types of therapies or treatment approaches, just like there are many types of mental health providers.   This information is provided in order to give you general understanding of some key terms. Again, please keep in mind that is important for you to feel comfortable with the psychologist  with whom you choose to work.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a treatment approach that is generally shorter in duration and problem-focused, meaning that you and the psychologist will work together to set very specific goals.  Treatment is usually terminated once those goals have been met and/or the problems have been significantly reduced.  CBT has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety, mood symptoms, interpersonal difficulties, in addition to managing pain, adjusting to a medical illness, and making desired life-style changes.

Psychodynamic Therapy –there are many forms of therapy that is psychodynamic in nature.   In general, however, psychodynamic therapy focuses more on early childhood developmental interruptions that result in challenging or disrupted self-image or interpersonal difficulties.  These challenges are generally reenacted  in the relationship between the client and therapist.   Therapy often focuses on maladaptive ways the client may be relating to his/her environment that are often based on early formative relationships in childhood. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the same as “psychoanalysis” and does not focus only on childhood issues or issues of the unconscious. It is often described as “insight oriented therapy” that emphasizes self awareness.

Eclectic or Integrative Therapy – These terms typically refer to psychologists who use and incorporate techniques from various treatment approaches.  Psychologists who are eclectic or integrative will use particular techniques and tools in relation to your current struggles.

All psychologists receive training and must demonstrate proficiencyin various treatment modalities as part of their graduate training and licensure.  This multi-modal training allows them to tailor their treatment to the specific needs of their clients.  Generally, therapists tend to gravitate to a type of therapy that they either enjoy  or that they find most effective with the clientele with whom they prefer to specialize.