Q&A with Dr. Daniel Gardner, Ph.D. M.S.C.P, Clinical Psychologist

drgardnerWhat does a licensed clinical psychologist do?

Clinical psychologists help people with a wide variety of problems that cause suffering in individuals, relationships and a wide variety of life challenges.  They work with people to understand, deal with problems in life.  The goal is to help people deal effectively with life’s challenges and take good care of themselves in these struggles.

Working in a respectful and secure/confidential setting, they help with understanding the nature and source of their suffering as it relates to problems with mood or emotion, behavior and thinking.  The process usually begins with a thorough interview as well as completion of surveys and questionnaires and possibly psychological testing to fully understand the issues, when and how they developed and where they occur.

Once the problems are well understood, the psychologist works with the individual, couple or family to develop a plan to improve functioning and quality of life with an individualized treatment plan.  Under most circumstances, the psychologist works closely with primary care to insure that medical problems do not go unidentified in the treatment process.

When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring? 

A good history of medical problems and past and current medications are especially helpful.  It is also helpful to bring in information regarding past psychological problems and treatment experiences.  There is always a discussion of personal safety as well as inquiry about any dangerousness issues regarding other people.  Safety is a fundamental concern throughout treatment.

What are three questions patients should consider asking during their visit?

  • Any questions about the confidentiality of their information and the record as well as the exceptions to confidentiality.
  • What kind of problems the psychologist is experienced, trained and successful working with.
  • What approaches to treatment the psychologist uses. Any question should be open for discussion; no issue concerning the patient should be off the table in regard to the dynamics of treatment or training and experience.

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about psychologists?

The biggest problem in mental health and addictions treatment and our culture in general is the stigma that keeps people from seeking help when they truly need it and when it can be very effective.  The general public has a very poor understanding of the prevalence of mental health problems and the nature of the conditions.  Many people suffer from psychological problems in their lifetime and there are extremely effective treatments.  The second misperception is that therapy does not help in the long term.  Research demonstrates unequivocally that therapy is effective for many problems in the short and long-term.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?

Become educated on the ways to take care of yourself effectively.  People need to focus on the quality of their life experience so they can live well and take care of their relationships.  Good self-care benefits the individual as well as those around them.  Simple and enjoyable changes in self care can reap lifelong benefits.  People should talk about physical and mental health issues with people they can trust, such as their family doctor, to avoid the suffering that comes from the misperception that they are alone or “bad” when they face psychological challenges.

If folks wanted additional health information about dealing with psychological issues what are some available resources?

First a caveat:  Self-diagnosis can lead to its own set of problems.  That being said, there is excellent information available through REPUTABLE organizations in regard to disorders and to assist in locating providers.  Reputable sites include the National Institute for Mental Health NIMH, the Centers for Disease Control, CDC the American Psychological Association, APA, the Wisconsin Psychological Association WPA.  The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill also provides crucial education and advocacy services for those in need of support and services.  Human Service Centers are another grass-roots resource.