persons have written to me asking for advice on how to select a psychologist.
The worst mistake you can make would be to get one referral and then start
seeing that personunless the referral comes from someone you trust.
But if it comes from Aunt Saras neighbors manicurist, watch
So, unless you
can identify someone with clearly demonstrated competence and who has the
skills to work with your particular problem,
you will have to shop around.
Begin by checking the
Internet to get a few names of psychologists who are
in your area. Read the psychologists web site to learn about his or her
fees and area of practice. Then call several names and leave a message with
Leave a short message
stating that youre looking for a psychologist. Explain why you have chosen
that particular psychologist (for example, because you like the psychologists
field of practice or office location). Briefly describe your reason for seeking
psychotherapy. Leave some good times to reach you over the next several days.
Then sit back and wait. (If you call on a Friday afternoon, however, dont
expect a call back until the following week.)
Once you get
to speak with someone, remember that as a
you have the right to interview the psychologist thoroughly. You should begin
by describing your reasons for seeking psychotherapy so that it can
be determined if your needs fit with the psychologists practice. Following
are some other issues about which you may want to inquire.
The psychologists fees
Current openings in the
psychologists theories of practice
The psychologists length of
The psychologists academic
The psychologists training
The extent of the psychologists
Look for a breadth
to the psychologists education and training. Also, be sure to evaluate
the degree of honesty
and candidness with which you are treated. You can really put the
psychologists honesty and candidness to the test by asking about various
personal and moral issues. Remember, unlike a physician or dentist, your
psychologists personal values will have an influencewhether openly
or unconsciouslyon your own values. (For example,
if you are trying to heal difficulties in your marriage and your psychologist
has been divorced five times, you face the risk that your psychologist will
be inclined to influence you to get
a divorce.) Therefore, you may ask whether the psychologist is married
or not, and why; whether the psychologist has any children or not,
and why; whether the psychologist has been divorced or not, and why;
what religion, if any, he or she practices, and why; and what sexual
orientation he or she follows, and why. If you get defensive answers
or a cold, clinical response, well, lets just say you are being forewarned
about how you will be treated when you have doubts or questions during the
on-going psychotherapy itself.
Unless you have been
given a referral from a trusted source, or if you can find only one good candidate,
select at least two candidates from your search who seem favorable and set up an
appointment with each to discuss things in person. Ask any questions you did not
ask over the telephone. But make it clear that you are shopping around
and want to interview several candidates. Then let the psychologist take it from
there. A competent psychologist will do his or her best to help you in that session
and wont feel at all uncomfortable in letting you walk away. After all, if he
or she has done a good job, you might be back. You should, of course, expect to
pay for that session because it really is a psychotherapy session.
If you have been able
to locate several candidates, dont jump to any conclusions about the first
person you see. Someone might seem like the best psychotherapist in the
world, but someone else further down your list of candidates might be even
better. You never know, so see everyone on the list. And remember that this
interview process, however long it takes, is really part of the process of
getting help. You will learn many things about yourself just in this
initial selection process.
seen everyone, select the best pick of the lot. If you feel comfortable,
you can continue for as long as you need.
If for any reason
you do not feel comfortable with the psychotherapy, be sure to tell the
psychologist exactly what you are experiencing. Quite often, psychotherapy
provokes uncomfortable feelings, known as a transference
reaction, and the whole point of treatment is to deal with these feelings
in the treatment, not to run away from them.
Now, at this point, one of three things could happen. First, your talking
about your feelings could deepen and enrich the treatment.
Second, after talking things over, you might both agree that you should see
someone else; in that case, terminate
psychotherapy politely and reconsider one of the candidates you have previously
Third, the psychologist might get annoyed with you, and you might be left
feeling very foolish. In that case, you may have stumbled across a
psychotherapist whoto say it politelyis less than competent.
So terminate psychotherapy politely, dont look
back, and reconsider one of the candidates you have previously
though I have referred throughout this page to the psychologist,
the same suggestions can be applied to any other person performing
For information about various types of practitioners,
such as Psychologist, LCSW, MFT, and Counselor,
and what all those letters mean,
see the page of this website called
Clinical, or Counseling, or...?
For more information
about the actual process of psychotherapy,
see the section of this website called
Questions and Answers About
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Related pages within A Guide to Psychology and
Consumer Rights and
The Limits of
Clinical or Counseling or ...?
Questions and Answers
Reasons to Visit a
Types of Psychological
INDEX of all subjects
on this website