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OK so you’ve made the first step and you know you need to talk to someone – someone good, someone who can help – but how do you choose a psychologist? What should you look for? What’s important? Where do you start?

Getting the right treatment and practitioner can help you make desired changes in your life. As with most products and services in life – you may find that a particular therapist (or approach) is better suited to you than others. With so many to choose from, how do you decide? Avoid wasting your time and money on a treatment that doesn’t work or on a psychologist who may not be the right fit for you.

So most people start with a GP referral and if you trust your doctor and they understand your needs then they can be a great source of advice about appropriate treatment and services. Another source for recommendations are family or friends, but remember just because a certain psychologist is good for a loved one, doesn’t mean they suit you.

Do remember: you are not obliged to use the person that your GP refers, and you can ask your GP to refer you to your chosen provider.

When you begin your search, psychology registration boards, Google (or other search engines) and online ads can all be good sources of information but there are some qualities you should look out for.

Things to consider:

1. Qualifications & Registration

It is very important that your psychologist is registered with a registration board. Unregistered psychologists are an unknown entity – they may have been disciplined, deregistered because of unprofessional practices or they could even be fakes with no formal training.

2. Experience

The mental health field is large and complex – there are many conditions and many treatments. Therefore it is very important that you choose a psychologist who has experience dealing with your particular issues or challenges. You also need to consider whether your chosen psychologist uses evidence-based treatments. Research your condition to see what the preferred treatment options are.

3. Shared Values (or at least someone who understands and respects your values.)

Therapy is a very personal experience. You may discuss (among other things) your innermost thoughts, political persuasions and religious ideals. While your psychologist doesn’t have to share your values, they should respect them.

4. Treatment options

Your psychologist should develop a logical treatment plan for you and, depending on the results achieved, make necessary changes. Your psychologist should also listen to any feedback you offer and adjust their approach accordingly. Before selecting your psychologist ask which treatment technique they use.

5. Trust your gut

You are not obliged to continue using a psychologist. If you feel uncomfortable or something continues to bother you, then move on (stick with therapy but choose another practitioner) – perhaps your unconscious is picking up on something. Trust your instinct.

6. Continue the discussion after therapy begins

Keep in mind the “conversation” is never over. The purpose of therapy is to help you feel better about yourself and your situation. While therapy may be a painful or challenging process, if you leave each time feeling frustrated and angry there may be a problem. If you don’t like something, speak up – a good psychologist will be open-minded and amenable to changing the approach.

A Little Bit Extra:

You should consider therapy if:

  • You feel a prolonged and overwhelming sense of helplessness or sadness that doesn’t go away, despite your best efforts.
  • You have difficulty carrying out everyday activities.
  • You worry excessively and have difficulty seeing the positives in life.
  • Your actions are hurting yourself or others.
  • You are having trouble with the relationships in your life.
  • You would like to learn more about why you do the things you do OR why you keep making the same mistakes.
  • You are stuck and are having difficulty making a decision.

What is a psychologist?

Psychologists are mental health professionals who are trained to identify and diagnose mental illnesses. They help support people through problems and challenges. They help clients to understand what they are experiencing and how to move forward when they are ready. Psychologists don’t prescribe medication.

Qualities of a good psychologist:

1. Commitment to continued education
2. Great communication skills
3. Compassion & empathy
4. An effective listener
5. Self-aware
6. Ethical
7. Confidential

And remember, your psychologist should also have clear and easy to understand billing policies. Above all, you need to feel comfortable.

Principal psychologist Rebecca Dallard recommends you speak with a number of therapists before making a decision. You are not limited to the psychologist you have been referred to by your GP. Furthermore, you may discover that a highly experienced psychotherapist or counsellor is a better fit for you.

For Wellbeing Therapy Space practitioner contact details – email us via info@wellbeingtherapyspace.com.au.

Written by Claire Mansveld (Writer, Chief Wordsmith) in collaboration with/and commissioned by Wellbeing Therapy Space, Canning Vale.
photo credit: blavandmaster <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/38134034@N04/32470203972″>Joie anticipée</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>