Patients are always surprised to learn that there are very few laws governing the practice of medicine. In fact, a physician licensed to practice medicine by his or her state medical board – regardless of specialty – can legally provide counseling to anyone, even if he or she has absolutely no training in psychology!
For example, the fact that a doctor calls himself a psychiatrist does not guarantee that he is actually competent to practice psychiatry. For example, legally, a proctologist, a physician certified only as a specialist in rectal disorders, can present himself or herself as a non-board-certified psychiatrist and do counseling for teenagers with drug problems or psychotherapy for suicidal patients, without any training in psychology.
A urologist, certified only as a specialist in the treatment of urinary disorders, can again identify himself as a psychiatrist, albeit not board certified, and treat a dangerously bipolar patient; and a dermatologist, actually certified as a specialist only in skin disorders, can call himself a psychiatrist and treat your child for ADHD – all of which is legal and can be done without any training in psychology or mental health treatment.
These three examples may seem ridiculous. But, remember that men and women often get treated for depression and anxiety without ever checking or even caring if the doctor they are seeing is board certified in psychiatry?
Don’t assume that your doctor is qualified to perform high-quality psychological, counseling or psychotherapeutic treatments. After all, even board certification in psychiatry is not a guarantee, as most board-certified psychiatrists have only three years of specialized training in mental health treatment.
Most of their training is in physiology, chemistry, science and general medicine. As a result, they typically prescribe medications and do little or no counseling or psychotherapy.
Examine your potential therapist using the following three questions:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology?
Make sure that if your doctor presents as a psychiatrist, he or she is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology Dubai. If he or she is, it means that he or she has received specialized professional training in mental health treatment.
However, keep in mind that psychiatrists’ training often focuses on physical therapies, such as prescribing medications and even using shock treatments. Psychiatrists sometimes receive little training in psychotherapy, counseling or psychological testing.
You know what this means. If you go to a psychiatrist, chances are you will only come away with a prescription.
Of course, there are psychiatrists who are more fully trained and who practice psychotherapy. However, if your doctor has a medical or forensic degree, chances are you will leave with a prescription as your primary or only treatment.
- Are you certified or licensed by the State Board of Psychology as a clinical psychologist?
Although there are several thousand professionals in the United States who practice some type of counseling or psychotherapy, only a small percentage of them are the elite practitioners who are licensed to practice clinical psychology!
To become a clinical psychologist, one must complete approximately six years of specialized training in mental health, counseling, psychotherapy, and diagnostic testing. This training is obtained during the last two years of university, followed by approximately 3 to 4 years of specialized post-graduate study after university.
The psychologist holds a doctorate in psychology – the study of emotions, thought and behavior. Psychologists must then complete the equivalent of a one-year internship in clinical psychology – no unnecessary courses in proctology or anatomy, but massive training in psychological treatment, psychotherapy, family therapy, counseling and specialized diagnostic testing.
Only four years of medical school with training in anatomy, obstetrics and other medical sciences in addition to perhaps a few weekend courses or casual reading about psychology, may be the only education that your non-certified psychiatrist may have. This is certainly no substitute for the psychologists rigorous and highly specialized training over many years.
Remember, you are protected when you consult a clinical psychologist. Why? Because any professional who calls himself a clinical psychologist and is licensed to practice clinical psychology independently, has at least 6 to 7 years of college and graduate school training specifically targeted to psychology.
Unless you check the board certification of the medical doctor you are consulting, however, you may not discover that you have been consulting someone who may have little or even no training in mental health and psychological treatment. In fact, you may discover that you have been receiving dangerously inferior forms of psychiatric care, without ever realizing it.
3. Is the state board of psychology or medicine investigating you for any complaints or malpractice suits?
It is true that even great psychiatrists and clinical psychologists do occasionally get sued. However, you can contact your states professional board to learn whether your therapist has demonstrated a pattern of poor care or inappropriate behavior.
Questions that you are commonly told to ask but which are not relevant:
1. To those calling themselves psychiatrists: Are you board certified?
Nearly all medical doctors are certified by one board or another. If a person has an MD or DO degree, just being board certified in anything is not good enough either. The right question to ask is, Are you certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology?
2. In what state are you licensed to practice psychotherapy and counseling?
Remember states do not specifically license medical doctors to practice psychotherapy and counseling. Absolutely any physician with a valid medical license can legally provide these specialized mental health services-even if they have no psychiatric training at all!
There are no regulations that limit medical doctors to practice within their specialty; not one of the 50 states forbids the practice of psychiatry by non-psychiatrists. The correct question to ask a medical doctor is, Did you complete a formal residency in psychiatry?
3. If the therapist is not a medical doctor, but a clinical psychologist, you are better protected. All you need to ask is, Are you licensed by the state to practice clinical psychology independently?
If the answer is Yes, unlike physicians who just have the medical license, you automatically know that the therapist with the psychology license is highly qualified and has received the rigorous and specialized training necessary to provide expert psychological services.
Not only can just about any medical doctor get a board certification in something, and not only can any licensed physician render any psychiatric service, trained or not, but remember that any physician with $500 can join any number of impressive sounding organizations.