Choosing A Psychologist
The process of selecting a psychologist to help you with life's problems can feel overwhelming, especially at a time of crisis. Psychologists are experts at helping people find their way through many of life's difficulties, including relationship and family problems, career and work issues, substance abuse, coping with physical illness, stress, and the depression and anxiety that accompany many of these concerns. When you need to talk to someone who can help, turning to an experienced psychologist is a good idea.
Independent psychologists are licensed doctoral level professionals, often with specific areas of expertise. This referral guide can help you find a psychologist who is right for you. It is important for you to understand that therapy is a collaborative process and a positive, trusting relationship between you and your psychologist is essential to treatment success. Therefore, in selecting a psychologist you may want to consider the following:
- How much experience does this psychologist have? How long has he/she been in practice and what types of problems does he/she treat?
- Does this psychologist have expertise in the problem areas about which you are concerned? Does he/she specialize in an area such as family therapy, marriage counseling, women's issues, or is he/she a generalist, treating a broad range of presenting concerns?
- Most therapists use a combination of techniques to help people with their problems. You may want to ask what type(s) of treatment this psychologist provides. Some questions to consider include: Do they focus on the past and/or the present? Are they interested in working with you on current behaviors and ways to change problematic patterns in your life? Are they more focused on your thinking and how misperceptions may be getting you in trouble in your life? Do they focus on the therapy relationship to help you understand patterns in your relationships and how to change these?
- Although the process of therapy is not always comfortable (you will possibly be exploring painful issues and dealing with new feelings), it is important that you feel a sense of trust for your psychologist and that you feel as if you are being treated with respect. Ask yourself if this is a person you feel comfortable discussing very private things with and whether you feel truly listened to and understood when talking about yourself and the things that concern you. If the answer is yes, it is likely a good match. If the answer is no, give yourself permission to meet with another psychologist until you find the right person for you.
- Finally, you will need to discuss fees and how you will pay for your therapy. Your options may include; paying your psychologist directly ("out-of-pocket"), paying your psychologist directly and then, if your insurance coverage allows, collecting some reimbursement from insurance, using managed care insurance if the psychologist you select is covered within your managed care network or using your "out-of-network" benefit if your psychologist is not "in network".
Insurance coverage for psychotherapy has become very complicated over the last decade and is constantly changing. It is important that you discuss these payment options with the psychologist of your choice. He/she will be able to advise you of the pros and cons of each payment option. The decision to seek psychotherapy is a serious and courageous one. Make sure you have a good match and the process will be rewarding and growth enhancing. Above all, remember that a psychologist CAN help.