Top Doctor Q & A

Q What is the difference between a therapist and psychologist?

A Clinical Psychologists, Clinical Social Workers, and Mental Health Counselors, for example, can all provide therapy and refer to themselves as therapists. The extent and requirements of their education and clinical training experience differentiates them.

Q How do I prepare to speak to a psychologist about my depression?

A Your psychologist will appreciate your desire to provide information that helps him or her understand you and your difficulties to better help you. You should feel free to express to the psychologist your concern of having time to communicate all the details. To help you prioritize them, you might consider writing them down. If you do not have time to discuss all the information during the first session, you can do so in future sessions. For this reason, therapy consists of multiple sessions.

Q Can psychologists also help one deal with pain better?

A Yes, they can provide support and understanding and help people: 1) process feelings associated with loss; 2) increase acceptance of pain and related limitations; 3) increase effective coping; 4) develop a new self that has parts of their old self integrated into it; 5) seek a personally meaningful philosophy of life and spirituality consistent with it.

Q What are the best ways to overcome negative thoughts?

A You can make a habit of identifying positive aspects of yourself, other people, or circumstances. When you have negative thoughts, you can stop yourself and reframe them in a more positive manner. However, you should allow yourself opportunities to constructively express sadness, hurt, anger or fear which everyone experiences when dealing with adversity or loss. Then, transitioning to a hopeful and positive attitude can help one persevere, cope, problem solve and move on.

Q I am unable to manage my stress. How can I help myself?

A Use a planner or calendar to write down how you can realistically use each hour of each day to meet your deadlines. Include blocks of time to exercise, relax, pursue hobbies or spend time with family or friends to the extent that doing so is possible given your deadlines. Having outlets, balance in your life, or something to look forward to can help one work efficiently and promote good mental health. Finally, you can remind yourself that despite your worry, you always come through. Or, if you don't come through, you can remind yourself that you are making changes to insure that you will. You can ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen? Is it catastrophic or can it be handled? You can also take a moment to gain perspective, reminding yourself of all the things going right and that you feel grateful for in your life.

Q What causes my brain to think negatively most of the time?

A Negative thinking is characteristic of those suffering from depression. You can also learn negative thinking from those in your environment. Or for some people, it represents the accumulation of difficulties they have experienced in their lives. For starters, you can try to stop yourself and replace a negative thought with a more positive, rationale one. However, if you are suffering from symptoms of depression (such as sad most days, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, poor self-esteem, impaired concentration, interrupted sleep), you should seek treatment from a mental health professional.

Q Is bipolar disorder treatable?

A Yes. Psychotropic medication and therapy can successfully treat bipolar disorder. But generally bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that needs consistent treatment or the person with bipolar disorder will re-experience the distressing symptoms.

Q I am suffering from low self esteem with negative feelings about myself. Could I be depressed?

A Low self-esteem is one symptom of depression. Some other symptoms include feeling sad most days, loss of interest in usual activities, fatigue, and poor concentration. To combat low self-esteem, try to stop yourself from making negative self-statements and instead identify positive aspects about yourself. In addition, make choices to spend time with people who treat you with kindness and respect and keep your distance from people who you experience as critical or judgmental. You can also improve self-esteem by setting manageable goals for yourself, such as participating in a constructive activity three times each week. When you find yourself succeeding at meeting your goals, it will benefit your self-esteem.