Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology and Psychologists
What is MPA and what does MPA do for you?
The Massachusetts Psychological Association (MPA) is the professional association for psychologists in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MPA’s mission is to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare. MPA enables psychologists to speak with one voice to industry, academia, and government on crucial issues: licensure, managed care, mental health policy, training and more.
In addition to advocating for the practice of psychology in the state, MPA is also committed to sharing information on psychological issues with the public. We have assembled information concerning some frequently asked questions about MPA and the practice of psychology. We have also provided links to web sites that provide information on a number of psychological problems.
How do I find a psychologist in my area?
To find a psychologist in your area, click here.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist
Psychologists do not prescribe medications. Psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and other medical providers can discuss and prescribe medications for psychological conditions, but psychologists do not provide medication treatments. (Some specially trained and licensed psychologists in Illinois, New Mexico, and Louisiana can prescribe psychotropic medications).
Will therapy be confidential?
You should expect that your conversations will be kept confidential. When you meet with a psychologist, you have the right to privacy. The psychologists cannot disclose anything you say to anyone else without your written permission. The only times a psychologist would break confidentiality are in the event of threats of harm to self or other; reports that a child (under 18 years of age) or an elder (60 years and older) is being abused or neglected in some way; or if there is a subpoena or court order.
What is Informed Consent?
You have the right to know ahead of time about the services that you are receiving from your psychologist and all associated fees. The psychologist should provide you with a written agreement that outlines their services, fees, and any policies (e.g. cancellation policy). Also, you have the right to know about and agree to the specific kind of therapy that you receive.
What is a “therapeutic relationship”?
To ensure that you obtain the most from psychotherapy, it is important that you discuss your needs with your provider. The psychologist will usually conduct an intake during the first session. The intake allows the psychologist to obtain comprehensive information about your past and about your current needs.
It is important that you select a psychologist who is a good match (i.e. language, approach/style, expertise) and with whom you feel comfortable. Therefore, you can meet with (or consult with) more than one psychologist before making a decision. Be sure to check with your insurance company before scheduling appointments with multiple providers, to ensure that the service/consultation will be covered by insurance.
Your psychologist is required to follow ethical guidelines that prohibit “dual relationships.” This means that your psychologist is committed to your therapy process and is not allowed to jeopardize that process by becoming involved in any other way with you, your life, or your family. You may review the ethical code for psychologists by clicking here, and you may ask your psychologist about the limits that the ethics code places on therapy relationships.
What questions should I ask the psychologist?
● What problems do you treat?
● Is the psychologist licensed in Massachusetts?
● What therapeutic approach does the psychologist use?
● What treatment does the therapist recommend and how long will it last?
● How will you collaborate to work toward your goals?
● What are your fees/rates? Does my insurance cover the services I will receive?
● How long is each session?
● Any other issues or questions that you have about therapy
How do I pay for the psychologist’s services?
If you have health insurance, most insurance plans cover medically necessary psychological treatment, also known as behavioral health services. You should check with your health insurer to find an in-network psychologist, or to learn if you have out-of-network benefits for psychotherapy. Depending on your insurance plan, you may have a co-payment or deductible. It is very important to discuss your co-pay/out-of-pocket expenses with the psychologist prior to starting treatment.
Do psychologists provide services that are NOT covered by insurance?
You should know that some services that psychologists provide are not considered health care services, and as a result, your health insurance will not cover these services. Non-healthcare related services include:
- Divorce/child custody evaluations
- Parenting evaluations
- Visitation supervision
- Psychotherapy that is not medically necessary
- Coaching services (e.g., career, parenting, executive, performance, etc.)
- Couples therapy (may or may not be covered by insurance. Discuss with your psychologist prior to starting treatment)
If you decide to pay privately, some psychologists offer a sliding fee scale depending on your income/need and the policies of the specific psychologist.
What if I do not have health insurance?
If you are uninsured, there are some hospitals (e.g., Boston Medical Center; UMass Medical Center- Worcester) that provide free care, or that can help you with the MassHealth application.
Other organizations that serve uninsured individuals:
● Boston Healthcare for the Homeless: www.bhchp.org; provides comprehensive healthcare to homeless individuals.
● Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC): www.clsacc.org; provides services to those who are uninsured; immigrant victims of violence; and torture victims.
● Advocates: www.advocates.org; provides services on a sliding scale for those uninsured.
What do Psychologists need in order to get licensed in Massachusetts?
a. Completion of a doctoral degree from a recognized education institution,
b. Completion of two (2) years of supervised full-time psychological employment in teaching, research, or professional practice, and
c. Passing scores on a national licensing exam, as well as a Massachusetts-specific exam on relevant laws and regulatory codes.
Additionally, psychologists who provide clinical or therapeutic services carry a special designation known as a Health Service Provider. These psychologists must engage in at least two years of full-time supervised health service experience, at least one year of which has occurred in a health service program.
What are the different sub-specialties of psychology?
● Forensic Psychologists: trained to provide evaluations/assessments and serve as experts in legal proceedings (including criminal and civil matters)
● Neuropsychologists: trained to use interviews, testing and other forms of assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses in how people’s brains function (e.g. ADHD, learning disabilities, intellectual giftedness, etc.), and personality
● Health Psychologists: trained to use psychology principles and interventions to improve physical health, or improve coping with medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.
● Sport Psychologists: trained to help athletes overcome problems, enhance performance and achieve goals.
● Industrial/Organizational Psychologists: trained to work primarily in business settings to build leadership, improve teamwork, streamline people’s work processes.
● School Psychologists: trained to work in K-12 schools to provide psychological assessment and design behavioral interventions for children with and without special learning needs.
● Counseling Psychologists: trained to help people with physical, emotional and mental health issues improve their sense of well‐being, alleviate feelings of distress and resolve crises. They also provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of more severe psychological symptoms.
● Community Psychologists trained to go beyond an individual focus and integrate social, cultural, economic, political, environmental, and international influences to promote positive change, health, and empowerment at individual and systemic levels.
What is the difference between a Psychologists and a Psychiatrist?
Psychologists do not prescribe medications. Psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and other medical providers can discuss and prescribe medications for psychological conditions, but psychologists do not provide medication treatments.