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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND DEFINITIONS

ANSWERS

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour.  The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience - from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged.  In every conceivable setting from scientific research centres to mental health care services, "the understanding of behaviour" is the enterprise of psychologists.

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What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses, including substance abuse and addiction.  Medication is usually the primary treatment.  Most psychiatrists have some basic training in the different forms of psychotherapy, but only a minority have extensive training in the field.

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What is Psychological Medicine?

Psychological Medicine is a branch of medical practice concerned with the psychological and social aspects of human life, especially where related to medical problems.  Medical practitioners who work in psychological medicine diagnose and treat both emotional and physical problems simultaneously.  Most patients are treated with psychotherapy and counselling; occasionally medication will be used but only when truly necessary.  Examples of conditions frequently treated by doctors who work in Psychological Medicine are anxiety, depression, panic, stress-related disorders, relationship and family concerns, and coping with medical illnesses.

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What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy focuses on the thoughts and feelings we have about other people and events, especially those regarding our family, life situations, and those to whom we are close.  Treatment involves discussing experiences and how these may have led to the present situation and also how these experiences may be affecting our life now.  The understanding gained frees the person to make better choices about what happens in the future.  It is a process that offers you the opportunity to heal psychological wounds, expand your understanding of yourself, and gain more control over your life and freedom from hurtful influences of your past.

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What is Counselling?

Counselling is a general term for exploring particular problems by talking them through with a trained counsellor or therapist.  The term covers a considerable range of approaches.  In its simplest form, this can be nothing more than supportive and sympathetic conversations in the form of a few sessions over a small number of weeks.  This sort of counselling is suited to people with fundamentally healthy emotional and thinking patterns who need help in addressing a current crisis.

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What is the difference between Psychology, Psychiatry, and Psychological Medicine?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychological medicine doctors all works in the area of mental health, and often work together.  However, there are some significant differences between the professionals in the following areas:

Psychologists help mentally healthy people find ways of functioning better.  Clinical psychologists, because of their additional training and experience, are also able to treat people with more complex problems, including mental illness.  Psychologists can help people in many areas, including:

  • Marital, family and relationship problems
  • Stress or pain
  • Fears, phobias, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Loss and grief
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Eating and weight control problems
  • Children's learning, behaviour and management problems
  • Addictions
  • Making good relationships better
  • Becoming better parents and teachers
  • Personal growth
  • Career planning
  • Improving workplaces
  • Enhancing sports performance
  • Training and developing staff
  • Employment selection
  • Reviewing organisational structure and practices
  • Industrial relations and occupational health and safety
  • Studying consumer needs

Psychiatrists are medical practitioners with a recognised specialist qualification in psychiatry trained in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental and emotional disorders, including physical illness with psychiatric components.  Some examples of problems treated by psychiatrists are: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and drug abuse.  Medication is usually the primary treatment.  Most psychiatrists have some basic training in the different forms of psychotherapy, but only a minority have extensive training in this field.  Most patients are treated with medications, although sometimes psychotherapy may also be used.

Psychological Medicine doctors are medical practitioners concerned with the overall psychological aspects of human life, including those related to, or caused by, medical problems.  Medical practitioners who work in psychological medicine diagnose and treat both emotional and physical problems at the same time.  Most patients are treated with psychotherapy and/or counselling; occasionally medication will be used, but only when truly helpful and necessary.  Conditions treated by doctors who work in Psychological Medicine are similar to those areas often helped by psychologists and psychiatrists, with emphasis on such conditions as anxiety, depression, panic, stress-related disorders, relationship and family concerns, and coping with medical illnesses.

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What are Clinical Psychologists?

Clinical Psychologists are psychologists with significant additional training and experience in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a wide range of psychological and general health problems affecting adults, children, adolescents, couples, and families.  Many years of additional training are required for this specialty.  Some Clinical Psychologists are employed by state health authorities and may work in psychiatric clinics and hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, community health centres, specialist agencies (for example, caring for people with physical or mental disabilities, people with drug and alcohol addictions) and research centres.  The most experienced Clinical Psychologists often work primarily in confidential private practices, and will have a doctoral degree (PhD) or its equivalent.

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What are Counselling Psychologists?

Counselling Psychologists provide assessment and counselling in educational, vocational, and recreational, or other health and welfare services.  Their clients are, in general, people wanting guidance in coping with simple everyday stresses and the resulting emotional and social problems.

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What are Educational and Developmental Psychologists?

Educational and Developmental Psychologists provide assessment, intervention and counselling services relevant to the management of developmental and educational issues across the lifespan.  Example of issues include early intervention, disability, problems of learning and adjustment in schools, career and family development, lifespan and aging.

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What are Health Psychologists?

Health Psychologists are engaged in the psychological aspects of the promotion and maintenance of physical health-related behaviours, the prevention and treatment of illnesses, the identification of causes of illness, and the analysis and improvement of the health care system.  There are two main areas of focus: health promotion, which is concerned with illness prevention, and clinical health psychology, which is concerned with the psychological aspects of diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation.

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