Psychologists study mental processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting, and
recording how people and other animals relate to one another and the environment. To do
this, psychologists often look for patterns that will help them understand and predict
behavior using scientific methods, principles, or procedures to test their ideas. Through
such research studies, psychologists have learned much that can help increase
understanding between individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, nations, and
Like other social scientists, psychologists formulate theories, or hypotheses, which are
possible explanations for what they observe. But unlike other social science disciplines,
psychologists often concentrate on individual behavior and, specifically, in the beliefs
and feelings that influence a person’s actions.
Research methods vary with the topic which they study, but by and large, the chief
techniques used are observation, assessment, and experimentation. Psychologists sometimes
gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments,
hypnosis, biofeedback, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy, or by administering personality,
performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests. Other methods include interviews,
questionnaires, clinical studies, surveys, and observation - looking for cause-and-effect
relationships between events and for broad patterns of behavior.
Research in psychology seeks to understand and explain thought, emotion, feelings, or
behavior. The research findings of psychologists have greatly increased our understanding
of why people and animals behave as they do. For example, psychologists have discovered
how personality develops and how to promote healthy development. They have gained
knowledge of how to diagnose and treat alcoholism and substance abuse, how to help people
change bad habits and conduct, and how to help students learn. They understand the
conditions that can make workers more productive. Insights provided by psychologists can
help people function better as individuals, friends, family members, and workers.
Clinical psychologists - who constitute the largest specialty - are concerned with the
assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. While some clinical
psychologists specialize in treating severe psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia
and depression, many others may help people deal with personal issues, such as divorce or
the death of a loved one. Often times, clinical psychologists provide an opportunity to
talk and think about things that are confusing or worrying, offering different ways of
interpreting and understanding problems and situations. They are trained to use a variety
of approaches aimed at helping individuals, and the strategies used are generally
determined by the specialty they work in.
Clinical psychologists often interview patients and give diagnostic tests in their own
private offices. They may provide individual, family, or group psychotherapy and may
design and implement behavior modification programs. Some clinical psychologists work in
hospitals where they collaborate with physicians and other specialists to develop and
implement treatment and intervention programs that patients can understand and comply
with. Other clinical psychologists work in universities and medical schools, where they
train graduate students in the delivery of mental health and behavioral medicine services.
A few work in physical rehabilitation settings, treating patients with spinal cord
injuries, chronic pain or illness, stroke, arthritis, or neurological conditions. Others
may work in community mental health centers, crisis counseling services, or drug
rehabilitation centers, offering evaluation, therapy, remediation, and consultation.
Areas of specialization within clinical psychology include health psychology,
neuropsychology, geropsychology, and child psychology. Health psychologists study how
biological, psychological, and social factors affect health and illness. They promote
healthy living and disease prevention through counseling, and they focus on how patients
adjust to illnesses and treatments and view their quality of life. Neuropsychologists
study the relation between the brain and behavior. They often work in stroke and head
injury programs. Geropsychologists deal with the special problems faced by the elderly.
Work may include helping older persons cope with stresses that are common in late life,
such as loss of loved ones, relocation, medical conditions, and increased care-giving
demands. Clinical psychologists may further specialize in these fields by focusing their
work in a number of niche areas including mental health, learning disabilities, emotional
disturbances, or substance abuse. The emergence and growth of these, and other,
specialties reflects the increasing participation of psychologists in direct services to
special patient populations.
Often, clinical psychologists consult with other medical personnel regarding the best
treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication. Clinical
psychologists generally are not permitted to prescribe medication to treat patients; only
psychiatrists and other medical doctors may prescribe most medications. (See the statement
on physicians and surgeons elsewhere in the Handbook.) However, two States - Louisiana and
New Mexico - currently allow appropriately trained clinical psychologists to prescribe
medication with some limitations.
Finding A Psychologist
The best way to find a Psychologist is to ask your current health care provider for
a referral. Be sure to inquire about your Psychologist's qualifications and about his
experience in treating FM or CFS/ME. You may want to ask your local FM or CFS/ME
organization or support group for the names of qualified Psychologist in your area.
Our Doctor Database consists of
7363 doctors in 80 countries worldwide that specialize in treating
people with FM and/or CFS/ME, some of which are Psychologists.
What to Ask a Prospective Psychologist:
- What is your experience in working with patients with chronic pain?
- Have you worked with patients that have fibromyalgia?
- What is your approach in to helping with such patients?
In general, it is important that your psychologist have experience with chronic and
painful conditions. However, if you get any hint that the therapist feels fibromyalgia
is a questionable diagnosis, keep searching. Listen for this:
Does this professional convey respect and empathy for people dealing with chronic medical
conditions, including chronic pain and fatigue?
Does this person recognize that chronic illness disrupts multiple areas of your life,
causes a tremendous amount of stress, and can result in concurrent depression and anxiety?
Does this person have expertise in specific areas of concern to you? Identify what you
want from a therapist. The better you are at communicating what you want, the more likely
you will get it.
Does this person sound like a good fit for you? If not, trust your intuition and keep
calling. Evidence suggests the therapeutic relationship is the key to a client receiving