Psychologists are licensed to assess, diagnose and treat the full spectrum of psychological difficulties, from the pressures of everyday life to more serious mental disorders.
A Psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor, who has a trained specialty in psychotropic medication (medication for mental health conditions). This means they can and do prescribe medications. They also spend much of their time with patients on medication management as a course of treatment. They are the only mental health professional licensed to prescribe medications.
A Clinical Psychologist is a trained psychology doctor, who has trained exclusively on mental health conditions, research of mental illness, assessment of mental health issues, and treatment of mental health issues. They focus extensively on psychotherapy, assessment, and treating emotional and mental suffering in patients with therapeutic interventions. A Licensed Clinical Psychologist also has a total of 6,700 to 11,600 supervised clinical training hours along with 4-7 years of graduate education prior to being eligible for the licensing exams. At this level Texas has three licensing exams that must be passed. A licensed Psychologist spends the extra educational years focusing on advanced therapeutic skills and identifying complex mental disorders.
A Counselor or Social Worker is trained in mental health, just less extensively. They have earned a bachelor’s degree, up to two years of graduate studies and approximately 3,000 supervised clinical training hours. All of this is required to be eligible for the licensing exams. At this level, Texas has two licensing exams that must be passed.
Abuse- interactions in which one person behaves in a cruel, violent, demeaning, or invasive manner toward another person or an animal. The term most commonly implies physical mistreatment but also encompasses sexual and psychological (emotional) mistreatment.
Anxiety- an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune. The body often mobilizes itself to meet the perceived threat: Muscles become tense, breathing is faster, and the heart beats more rapidly. Anxiety may be distinguished from fear both conceptually and physiologically, although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Anxiety is considered a future-oriented, long-acting response broadly focused on a diffuse threat, whereas fear is an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat.
Coping Mechanism- any conscious or non-conscious adjustment or adaptation that decreases tension and anxiety in a stressful experience or situation. Modifying maladaptive coping mechanisms is often the focus of psychological interventions.
Defense Mechanism- in classical psychoanalytic theory, an unconscious reaction pattern employed by the ego to protect itself from the anxiety that arises from psychic conflict. Such mechanisms range from mature to immature, depending on how much they distort reality: Denial is very immature because it negates reality, whereas sublimation is one of the most mature forms of defense because it allows indirect satisfaction of a true wish. In more recent psychological theories, defense mechanisms are seen as normal means of coping with everyday problems and external threats, but excessive use of any one, or the use of immature defenses (e.g., displacement or repression), is still considered pathological.
Emotion- a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral, and physiological elements, by which an individual attempts to deal with a personally significant matter or event. The specific quality of the emotion (e.g., fear, shame) is determined by the specific significance of the event. For example, if the significance involves threat, fear is likely to be generated; if the significance involves disapproval from another, shame is likely to be generated. Emotion typically involves feeling but differs from feeling in having an overt or implicit engagement with the world.
Grief- the anguish experienced after significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person. Grief is often distinguished from bereavement and mourning. Not all bereavements result in a strong grief response, and not all grief is given public expression. Grief often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future. Intense grief can become life-threatening through disruption of the immune system, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. Grief may also take the form of regret for something lost, remorse for something done, or sorrow for a mishap to oneself.
Mindfulness- awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings. The concept has been applied to various therapeutic interventions—for example, mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and mindfulness meditation—to help people avoid destructive or automatic habits and responses by learning to observe their thoughts, emotions, and other present-moment experiences without judging or reacting to them.
Pathology- the scientific study of functional and structural changes involved in physical and mental disorders and diseases.
Psychotherapy- any psychological service provided by a trained professional that primarily uses forms of communication and interaction to assess, diagnose, and treat dysfunctional emotional reactions, ways of thinking, and behavior patterns. Psychotherapy may be provided to individuals, couples, families, or members of a group. There are many types of psychotherapy, but generally they fall into four major categories: psychodynamic therapy, cognitive therapy or behavior therapy, humanistic therapy, and integrative psychotherapy. The psychotherapist is an individual who has been professionally trained and licensed (in the United States by a state board) to treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders by psychological means. He or she may be a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, social worker, or psychiatric nurse.
Stress- the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors. Stress involves changes affecting nearly every system of the body, influencing how people feel and behave. For example, it may be manifested by palpitations, sweating, dry mouth, shortness of breath, fidgeting, accelerated speech, augmentation of negative emotions (if already being experienced), and longer duration of stress fatigue. Severe stress is manifested by the general adaptation syndrome. By causing these mind–body changes, stress contributes directly to psychological and physiological disorder and disease and affects mental and physical health, reducing quality of life.
Trauma- any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning. Traumatic events include those caused by human behavior (e.g., rape, war, industrial accidents) as well as by nature (e.g., earthquakes) and often challenge an individual’s view of the world as a just, safe, and predictable place.
Common terms definitions from APA Dictionary of Psychology