What is a Psychologist?

Psychology is a profession that is devoted to helping people and the community find ways to improve mental health and wellbeing. Psychologists treat the psychological problems and behavioural dysfunctions that result from, or are related to, physical and mental health. While psychologists can see people for various reasons, the most common conditions psychologists see are people who have been highly anxious and/or depressed for a long time, trauma, drug or alcohol abuse, or those that want help for chronic conditions that is interfering with their lives. 

How are psychologists trained?

There is a minimum six-year sequence of education and training in psychology to be called a Psychologist in Australia. Firstly, psychologists need to complete an accredited three-year undergraduate bachelor’s degree in psychology offered in universities (i.e. Bachelor of Psychological science or Bachelor of Psychology). The bachelor’s degree must be recognised and accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC). Secondly, psychologists need to complete a fourth-year sequence by achieving an APAC accredited Postgraduate Diploma or Honours degree in Psychology. Thirdly, they need to complete a minimum two-year postgraduate degree (i.e. Master’s degree) or other equivalent accredited pathways to apply for general registration as a psychologist. 

All psychologists are registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (AHPRA) under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Furthermore, psychologists can gain training in specific fields- known as ‘endorsement’. For this to happen, there needs to be a registrar training for up to two years, overseen by the Psychology Board of Australia.

What services do psychologists offer? 

Psychologists broadly look at the biological, psychological, and social factors that may be worsening or contributing to the individual’s presenting problem. Therefore, psychologists can assist with identifying and providing education on how thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are impacting mental health, and thereby, daily life. Patients with rheumatological conditions may experience persistent pain, low mood (i.e. depression), anxiety and fear of moving too much.

Some other areas psychologists offer help with are:

  • Developing skills to cope with medical conditions
  • Re-engaging with valued activities
  • Living a more fulfilled life
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stress management
  • Improving low mood

When should I see a psychologist?

It is recommended to see a psychologist if you feel that your rheumatological condition is affecting your mood or even daily life. However, seeing a psychologist is for everyone who wishes for more support for their mental well being, learning more about their medical condition, and finding better and more adaptive ways to self-manage all the difficulties that may arise from your rheumatological condition. Psychologists can help you better cope with the thoughts and emotions that arise as a reaction to your medical condition.

How may I find a psychologist who has a specialist interest in rheumatology conditions?

All psychologists are trained to see people with various types of conditions. They are skilled in examining how biological, social, and psychological factors influence health and illness. While there are no specific training pathways in Australia for psychologists to develop certain skills in treating rheumatological conditions, there are psychologists who have a particular interest in working with people with chronic illnesses. You can use the Australian Psychology Society (APS) website to find a psychologist that best suits you.

Further information

Want to find our if your health practitioner is registered? Check the AHPRA website 
Want to know more about accreditation and accredited psychologist courses? Check APAC
Want to find out more about psychology? Check the APS website