Does Visiting a Psychologist Mean ‘You are Mad?’
Sangita Thakur, clinical psychologist and hypnotherapist sheds light on the fears and facts associated with visiting a psychologist.
It is generally the fear of the label ‘You are Mad’ which often keeps a depressed, frustrated individual from visiting a psychologist for help. Just the way you take help from a beautician to cut your hair, a tailor to stitch your clothes and vegetable vendor to buy vegetables, in the same way you can take help from a psychologist to ‘Help’ you solve your problems.
People often misunderstand the word ‘Psychologist’ for psychiatrist’. As such, a psychiatrist is a professional trained in medicine (MBBS and MD or DPM in Psychiatry) who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. He is legally authorized to prescribe drugs as well as use shock therapy (if required) while an individual who has a masters degree (minimum requirement) or PhD in Psychology is called a psychologist.
Psychologists can undertake specialization in a number of sub–fields. Thus, accordingly you have clinical, industrial, child, educational psychologists etc. who work in specific areas. For example, if a clinical psychologist is involved in treating people who are normal (have problems) as well as abnormal (mentally sick) with the help of counseling and psychotherapy. Psychological tests like personality, depression tests etc. are used as aids to understand the clients/patients problems in depth. An industrial psychologist, gives his service to companies where he is involved in setting up an employee selection program, analyzing problems of interpersonal relationships etc.
Similarly, you also have a psychologist in a school setup (called a school or an educational psychologist) who is concerned with treating emotional problems faced by students as well as providing career guidance with the help of psychological tests. A normal person who is depressed and frustrated for long periods of time needs to approach a psychologist for help only when his/her methods to solve the problem have failed. But a question which often comes to his/her mind is, ‘If I cannot solve my personal problems it means I have poor will power’ or ‘Am I on the way to a mental breakdown?’ The answer to this is clearly ‘No’.
Even if you have no serious problems (like the mentally sick patient has) it is often difficult to work out emotional problems by yourself, as you are too close to them and thus cannot visualize them from all directions. Even if a professional in psychology has a problem, they have to approach other psychologists for help. The clinical psychologist would advise and teach you how to deal with your problems, for example, Singh had difficulty in communicating with people. He used to feel very conscious while eating food or drinking tea, and walking in the presence of people. He would be under severe tension while talking to friends or strangers. He also had difficulty in being able to assert his ideas. He had these problems for more than 15 years, which worsened with the passage of time. Singh first tried to solve his problems by reading a number of self–help books. When he realized that his problems did not decrease much, he came to me for help. During counseling, he was made aware of the wrong ‘Set’ ideas he had about communication, and was guided to the proper ways of communicating in various situations. He was made to practice these ideas in day–to–day living. Psychotherapy was also given to him to decrease the anxiety he experienced in the presence of people. Here are some “Common fears” which make an individual needing help avoid approaching a psychologist:
- ‘If I take help from a psychologist, it means I am crazy’.
- ‘What will my friends and relatives say when they come to know.’
- ‘Will the psychologist keep my secrets’.
- ‘People will start calling me names or plain mad’.
- ‘Will my problems be solved?’
- ‘I am scared to know the dark side of my personality’.
- ‘I do not want to become dependent on the psychologist’.
Below are some facts which help overcome the above fears:
- We all have problems, whether we are normal or abnormal. When a normal person has a psychological problem, his treatment does not involve medication or shock therapy but only counseling and psychotherapy.
- A practicing psychologist would make it a point to keep the information given by his client/patient confidential. He might talk about his case to other clients, in order to encourage them, but would never disclose the client’s identity.
- The longer you postpone your visit to a psychologist, the more depressed and frustrated you would become, and thus the treatment will also take more time.
- Aside from the clinical psychologist’s effort, your effort and your co–operation is very important. You must feel free to ask the psychologist anything about the treatment as well as tell him everything you know about yourself. By doing this, you have the best chance of shortening the span of your treatment and of insuring its fullest success.
- The psychologist tries to avoid his client from becoming dependent on him. As far as possible, he avoids making decisions for his client. He will try his best to make the client aware of the barriers, as well as merits, demerits of various paths that he could take. The final decision is to be made by the client himself.
To conclude, it could be said that it is never too late to take help from a psychologist, nor it is wrong to visit one.