American Psychological Association Help Center

Psychotherapy Works

Research shows psychotherapy is effective in treating depression, anxiety and behavioral health issues. It can help people make positive changes in their lives and relationships and develop skills to manage life’s challenges and be healthy.

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Featured Tools:

Psychotherapy: Friends Helping Friends (video)

Protecting Your Privacy

Psychotherapy: Understanding Group Therapy

How To Help In An Emotional Crisis

Understanding Psychological Testing and Assessment

Managing Stress in the Aftermath of a Shooting

You may be struggling to understand how a shooting could occur and why such a terrible thing would happen. There may never be satisfactory answers to these questions. As a parent, you may be struggling with how to talk with your children about a shooting rampage. It is important to remember that children look to their parents to make them feel safe. This is true no matter what age your children are, be they toddlers, adolescents or even young adults.

APA Help Center

Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting

Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting

Your Mind Your Body Blog
Returning to school following the school shooting

Making sense of tragedy, growing stronger

How a Psychologist Can Help


Usually you can work through problems yourself or with the support of family and friends. But sometimes you may need someone with special skills, training, and experience to help you—a professional you can count on. That’s when you may want to talk to a licensed clinical psychologist.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 22 percent of Americans ages 18 and older need help dealing with feelings and situations that seem beyond their control.

When Is It Time to Contact a Psychologist?

Psychologists see a variety of people for all sorts of reasons including marital and family problems, illness or injury, loss of a loved one, anxiety, loneliness, depression, psychological aspects of medical illnesses, addictions, behavioral problems, disturbances in eating and sleeping, sexual issues, difficulties at work, educational problems, and caring for the elderly. Psychologists also assist during a crisis, natural disasters, and terrorism.

Whatever your problems are, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist is someone you can rely on. Together, in a confidential and supportive atmosphere, you and your psychologist will work to understand and resolve problems—problems that, until now, may have resisted your best efforts.

Why Turn to a Clinical Psychologist?

A Clinical Psychologist is a highly trained professional who can evaluate, diagnose, and treat emotional and behavioral problems. Psychologists receive a median of seven years of education and training beyond their undergraduate degree that includes a doctoral degree from a recognized university. A minimum of two years of supervised clinical experience must be completed in hospitals and other health care settings. Only after passing a state exam can a psychologist practice independently.

What Kind of Treatment Will Be Provided?

Your Clinical Psychologist will interview you about your history and talk with you to define problems and determine the treatment approach that suits you and your needs. Some psychologists may administer a series of psychological tests to assist in the evaluation.

A psychologist might recommend psychotherapy, which is a talking intervention that helps you learn more effective ways of dealing with problems. Your psychologist might also recommend meeting with your entire family or may suggest that you participate in a therapy group. Psychologists sometimes use specialized techniques such as biofeedback, behavioral modification, and stress management training. In some cases, the psychologist may refer you to your physician or prescribing psychologist for a physical assessment or medication evaluation. For some people, treatment involves only a short term of therapy; for others a longer time will be required to work on problems that have built up over years. The frequency of psychotherapy is typically once or twice a week. Treatment may be provided through outpatient care or in an inpatient setting.

How Helpful Is Psychological Treatment?

A survey performed by Consumer Reports in 1995 showed that almost everyone who sought psychological help experienced some relief that made them less troubled and made their lives more pleasant.

Psychological treatment is a very effective way to get help to deal with life’s problems. Psychologists continually conduct research on the effectiveness of treatment and that research is communicated to your therapist. Psychologists refrain from using treatments that are controversial or ineffective.

What to Ask Before or During Your First Appointment

Here are some questions you might ask:

• How many years have you been practicing?
• Do you have experience with my particular problem?
• How would you approach dealing with my particular problem?
• What are your fees?
• Do you accept my insurance coverage?

How Do I Pay for Psychological Treatment?

Private insurance sometimes covers part of the cost of mental health services. The best way to verify whether you are covered is to call the phone number on your insurance card and ask about your mental health benefits or look up your coverage information online. Ask if there is a deductible or copayment, whether you need pre-authorization, whether there is a limit to the number of sessions, and whether you need a referral from your physician. If you are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, contact these agencies for benefit descriptions.

If you do not have coverage, you will be responsible for paying for your treatment. Some therapists will accept a lowered fee in the case of financial hardship or they may offer a payment plan.

Psychologists Are Required to Protect Your Confidentiality

Psychologists are bound by strict rules of confidentiality. Talk to your psychologist about any limits to confidentiality. Some of your private health information may be released to obtain insurance reimbursement. With your consent, your psychologist may contact others involved in your care, such as physicians, hospitals, and previous therapists.

How Can I Find a Psychologist?

There are several ways to find a psychologist.

• Ask a friend or physician to recommend a psychologist.

• Call your health insurance company. Many people today have insurance plans that direct them to psychologists who are reimbursed by their insurer.

• Contact your local hospital, mental health center, place of worship, or search for “Psychologists” on an online search engine.

• Call the Illinois Psychological Association at 312–372–7610 or visit the referral section of this website for a referral to a psychologist. All psychologists referred by the Illinois Psychological Association are licensed and insured.

Some of the previous content is adapted from Talk to Someone Who Can Help brochure, APA@1996.