FAQ about Psychologists

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychologist

Dr. Federici answers your questions about Psychologists

"I am a licensed clinical psychologist in Chatham, New Jersey. Over the 30+ years that I have been practicing psychology, I have been asked interesting questions. Here are some of those questions, and my answers as well. Please keep in mind, these answers are my perspective, and the laws in your state may be different than in New Jersey."

Psychologists are licensed through the individual state in which they practice. Click here to find your state’s licensing board.  It you don’t see a your psychologist’s name under your state’s psychologist listing, they are not licensed to practice within your state.  An exception would be for a psychologist who  has a doctorate degree in Educational Psychology. In that case their license will be from the State Board of Education

Yes, psychologists are qualified to diagnose psychological disorders, which include a wide array of emotional, mental or behavioral problems. A psychologist can also diagnose that there is no presenting problem.

Both degrees are doctorate degrees for psychologists. Both degrees allow the recipient to take the national test for psychologists – called  Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology. Both degrees allow the psychologist to apply for a license in any state in the USA.

The difference lies in the the focus of the education. Ph. D. degrees have more focus on the science and research, whereas Psy.D have some research but mostly just clinical emphasis. Ph.D. degrees usually take longer to earn. In most academic fields a Ph.D. is the highest level degree that is conferred. In the 1970s it was decided to allow a Psy.D. in psychology, for graduates for schools that focused more on clinical orientation. This was done to distinguish that the curriculum was not as heavily focused on the scientific components as most other academic Ph.D. degrees are focused.

In some states, yes, psychologist can prescribe medication, but currently, not in New Jersey. 

As of 2022 only 5 states allow psychologists to prescribe medication, and that’s only after additional advanced training. Those states are Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico. In all other states, psychologist do not prescribe medication.

The IRS says says that psychologist fees can be deductible if they are by a licensed psychologist that provides you with medical treatment. Generally if a psychologist is providing therapy it is deductible, less the amount of any reimbursement received from any insurance company, or self-insured employer.The cost of transportation to and from psychological treatment is also deductible as part of the medical expense.

If a psychologist works for an organization, then his fees would not be a medical deduction to the organization, but rather a business expense.

Psychologist with a criminal record may not practice Psychology in the State of New Jersey. New Jersey requires psychologist to be fingerprinted.

Under certain circumstances, some states allow a psychologist to practice psychology with a criminal record. The nature of the offense, proof of rehabilitation, and other mitigating facts are often used to make that decision. The laws vary between states.The State of Main Statues allows  psychologists, as well as doctors and nurses to apply for  licensure 10 years after they are discharged from the criminal system. The State of New Hampshire decides on a case by case basis.

A psychologist will ask you to define your problems and share ideas about solving them.

In New Jersey, a psychologist may refer you to a psychiatrist for medication.

Everything a psychologist recommends is subject to scrutiny, and a psychologist puts their license on the line by writing professional letters. There are rules that  a psychologist must follow, including the correct procedure for  a letter certifying that your dog is a therapy animal.  For example, the letter should include how  you and your dog interact, and how long the psychologist observed this interaction.  Typically, most psychologists are not trained or qualified to make that assessment.

“ Shrink” is short term for “head-shrinker.” During the 1940s, the Jivaro tribe of Indians were in the media. They were   known for headhunting and shrinking of skulls in the Amazon Jungle.

At around the same time, people with inflated egos, were often referred to as having a “swollen head”. People would tell them to go to the “headstrinker” to get their heads or egos chopped down to size. Mental health providers did help people with “swollen heads” see themselves more realistically.

In the 1960s “headshrinker” was shortened to “shrink”. The expression to  “go see a shrink” is still used, often with a negative connotation.

Most psychologist’s offices do have couches, but they are for people to sit on, not to lay on. People laying on a couch while at a psychologist office is usually just on television.

Medicare Part B only covers psychologist visits to health care providers that accept assignment. Medicare pays for 80% of the Medicare-approved amount, after your deduction, which for 2022 is $233. Psychologists in private practice may chose to accept Medicare for payment of their services.

A psychologist can determine if you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). If you do have ADHD, certain properly trained psychologist can help you recognize which areas of your life it affects. They can help you with strategies to compensate for any deficits. For example,  is the deficit  auditory, visual or both. Is it under high demand situations, low demand, or both. Is it slow processing speed, or focus. Is it impulse control. What is their consistency and variability in staying on a task, for a long period of time, or short period of time. What about if the task is fast paced? What about if it is slow and boring, does that make the person more inattentive? There are many factors that affect a persons attention, and every one’s brain works slightly different.

Instead of wondering if you have the signs of ADHD, and what to do if you indeed have ADHD, a psychologist can give you expert advise. Psychologists   have studied ADHD  in depth. They have a lot of experience in helping people with ADHD. Psychologist stay updated with the latest research and trends, and are very qualified to interpret the research. They can tell you if something you read somewhere is just hype, or if it is sound information based on reliable studies or research.

Currently, the new trend is exercise, which was introduced by John Ratey,MD.  His groundbreaking technique utilizies short structurd exercise, correctly timed, that are tremendously successful with with school age children. Depending on the severity of the ADHD, the recommended exercise regimens can eliminate the need for medications.

Recently diagnosed adults often have much regret and anger. For example they say, “If I would have known when I was still in school, I would have… could have…” It is beneficial for people of all ages with ADHD to discuss their frustrations, and self-esteem issues, so they can quickly move to be more in control of their lives, and have a healthier and more positive outlook on life.

It is not unusual for there to be another issue in addition to just the ADHD. A psychologist can recognize that, and help identify that as well. The most typical are depression and anxiety. Government statistics show that “2 out of 3 children with ADHD have another mental, emotional or behavior disorder.”-Center for Disease Control.

Sometimes children benefit from accommodations  in school when their distractions interfere with their learning, or test taking.

When a psychologist believes that some one  would benefit from taking medication to help with their ADHD, the psychologist can recommend seeing a psychiatrist to prescribe medication. If they patient consents, the psychologist can confer with the psychiatrist, to help make that  visit to the psychiatrist easier. Often psychiatrist rely on updates from the psychologist so that the appropriate levels of medication may be prescribed.

A psychologist can help children and adults with ADHD  to  become more insightful and function better in their daily lives.  They can learn to recoginize what they are doing, learn to control impulsivity, tackle procrastination,  learn to change certain behaviors that help improve their lives. Mindful Therapy is helpful for people with ADHD to stay forcused. There are many ways a psychologist can help someone with ADHD live a very productive and successful life.



As of 2019 only 5 states allow psychologists to prescribe medication, and that’s only after additional advanced training. Those states are New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Idaho. In all other states, psychologist do not prescribe medication.

Nobel prize winners who are considered psychologists are: John O’Keefe, May Britt-Moser, Edvard Moser, Tomas Transtromer, Daniel Kahneman, and Roger Sperry. Karl von Frish, Knorad Lorenz, and Nikolaas Trinbergen were technically ethologists, not psychologist, but they studied the behavior of animals. Nobel prizes are not awarded in the category of psychology, so these recipients received their awards in recognition of contributions in other fields. The current categories of Nobel Prizes are Chemistry, Economic Science, Literature, Medicine, Peace and Physiology.
For interesting facts about the Nobel Prize click here

Yes, psychologists are human, and can also suffer from mental illnesses. If a psychologist’s mental illness interferes with their ability to practice psychology, then they should not be seeing patients.

LICENSING BOARD : Are they licensed by the board in the state they are practicing? Click here to find your state’s licensing board.

EDUCATION/SCHOOL: Check out if the school is accredited. A licensed psychologist  will spend about another seven years in school after collage.  People claiming to be psychologists, pay for a degree from an unaccredited “school”. they receive no legitimate education, and can be harmful to unsuspecting clients. A psychologist that claims to have a degree from a school that you never heard of warrants a little further investigation, especially if it’s a foreign school.  Check out the schools web site. Here are some red flags: the tuition is by degree, and not by credit, it’s a correspondence school or no classroom time is required, substantial amount of credits given for life experience. If it says that it is not a diploma mill, they probably are. Wyoming, Alabama and Mississippi have lenient laws on higher education,  and don’t consider diploma mills fraud. Also, watch out for schools whose names are similar to well known  reputable institutions.

TITLE: A real psychologist will be proud to say they are a licensed psychologist. They can have additional titles as well. If a person has the additional titles, without saying that they are a licensed psychologist, then beware. Those type of titles for example can be Nationally Certified Psychologist, National Marriage and Family Therapist, or American Psychotherapy Association.

MEMBERSHIP IN ORGANIZATIONS: There are many wonderful legitimate organizations, like the American Psychological Association. On the other hand, there are organizations  with great sounding names, that aren’t exactly what they sound like. Anyone can join these organizations, without any credentials, or qualifications, except for having the money to pay the fees. Members simply pay the dues and receive a paper with their name and title, and can claim to be a member of some prestigious sounding organization.  As long as they pay their dues they are listed as a member.The organization’s names are crafted to imply legitimacy and accomplishments of its members. 

If your gut tells you that something is wrong, check it out. Psychologists are highly trained in helping people and are ethically bond to protect their patients. It is important to know to whom you are trusting your mental health. In most states it is a crime to impersonate a licensed psychologist. If you are in doubt,   contact your state’s licensing board.

No, they can’t read minds, but it might appear that your psychologist can read your mind.   Psychologists are trained to observe behavior and once they know you, they can anticipate what you might say or do in certain situations. That might make it  appear that they can read your mind, but they  aren’t.  If it appears that your psychologist can read your mind, it means they are well in-tuned to you.

Check back here for more answers to you questions

If you would like to submit a question about psychologists, please email Dr. Federici  at