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
you will have to shop around.
Internet, look in the Yellow Pages, or talk to friends to get a few
names of psychologists who are in your area. Then call several names. But
dont just start seeing the first person who answersif anyone
answers at all.
If you get an
answering service or machine, leave a short message to the effect that
youre looking for a psychologist and would like to speak in person
with someone. Briefly describe your reason for seeking psychotherapy.
Be sure to 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
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.
Select at least
two candidates who seem favorable and set up an appointment 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.
to any conclusions. 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. And then contract to see
that person for about six sessions to see how things go. 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
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,
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.
psychotherapy politely, dont look back, and reconsider one of the
candidates you have previously interviewed.
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