What do psychologists really do?
“Some people think they have to be ‘crazy’ to see a psychologist, which stops people who need help from seeking it, and reinforces the idea of mental illness as something that only happens to ‘other people’,” says Mary Magalotti, principal psychologist at Life Resolutions.
While mental illness is a significant issue for Australia – over one million people will be affected by it this year – Magalotti says that psychologists are not just the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff when things go badly wrong in life.
“Psychologists also work together with people to find solutions that make our lives better. These might be solutions in your relationships, an essential ingredient to a happy life. You may find yourself with issues in a relationship that you are unable to confront. This is not a mental dysfunction, it’s simply a part of everyday life.”
Life Resolutions distributed posters and postcards this week as part of National Psychology Week under the theme STOP For A Minute – a therapeutic technique designed to help you take stock in difficult situations before you make decisions or say things you might regret.
“The letters in STOP each stand for something: slow down, take a breath, observe and pull back. Concentrating on breathing is a proven way to reduce anxiety, and after you’ve calmed from the ‘fight or flight’ reaction, you can take a minute to get some perspective on the situation you’re in – for example, an argument in your relationship,” says Magalotti.
The Australian Psychological Society is encouraging people to “think well” and “be well” during National Psychology Week, a theme which Life Resolutions also supports.
“In many ways, our thoughts shape the world we live in,” Magalotti says. “The way we see the world affects the way we behave and the way we act towards others. If you’re continually making decisions based on a picture of the world that’s distorted, your relationships and wellbeing can be adversely affected.
“Helping people gain perspective on their own lives is at the heart of psychology. If you’re feeling lost on the map, you can think of a psychologist as the person who helps you pinpoint where you are, and where you need to go next to lead a happier, more fulfilling life.”