Dr Sarah Blackshaw is a clinical psychologist in the UK with a decade of experience working in the area of physical health. See the "about me" section for more details about me, or read on to find out more about clinical psychology in general.
What is a clinical psychologist?
Clinical psychologists are highly-trained specialists who work in a variety of different areas. They take a holistic view of complex difficulties, using a bio-psycho-social approach to help people to manage their mental and physical health, as well as other areas of difficulty. It is important to find someone who makes you feel comfortable when considering therapy, but it's also important to find someone who has a good background in evidence-based treatments. "Clinical psychologist" is a protected title, which means that only people who have undertaken a clinical psychology doctorate can call themselves a clinical psychologist. This also means that if you want to talk to someone about the difficulties you are experiencing, you can be confident that someone who is a clinical psychologist is well-trained and qualified to help you.
Why clinical psychology?
Clinical psychologists are trained to help with a variety of difficulties. In America, it is very common for people to have a therapist, paid for privately through their insurance, but in the UK we are a bit more reluctant to commit to private therapy - it can often be seen as a luxury, or something that the NHS should provide. However, NHS waiting lists for therapy are often very long, and some people feel that their difficulties are not "serious" enough to warrant NHS help. This is unfair - if you are struggling, speaking to your GP about accessing support is always a good idea. But if you would prefer to talk to someone without having the worry of waiting lists and treatment limits, or without feeling like you need a diagnosis to access treatment, private therapy can be a good way to go.
What should I look for in a clinical psychologist?
A good clinical psychologist will help you to feel comfortable talking about what is bothering you. Within your first appointment they might ask a lot of questions, to try to build up a picture of what is happening for you. A good clinical psychologist will challenge you to do things that might make you feel uncomfortable at first, as we know that you want to change, and that often involves discomfort as you adapt to new situations. A good clinical psychologist won't pressure you into continuing sessions with them, but may give you a plan as to what you can realistically expect to change within a set number of sessions. They will ask you to sign a commitment form, and may charge you for missed sessions, so it is important to fully commit to changing whatever it is that is causing you problems. Overall, therapy should be difficult, interesting, challenging and exciting - sometimes all at once!
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