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How to pick a psychologist

by Amanda Collins

So you’ve decided that you want to get help. Congratulations, that’s a huge step and one that you will never regret!

But now you’re probably thinking ‘Okay, that’s great, but how do I actually find help?’

Good question! And one we’ll help you solve here.

find a psychologist that suits you

Different styles, different people

Psychologists are not all the same. They have different approaches to treatment, different styles and different specialities.

You shouldn’t just pick the first one that pops up in your Google search, you need to pick one that’s right for you.

Choosing the right psychologist will make the world of difference to your experience, you will get so much more out of your sessions and ultimately, you will get a better mental health result.

Starting the search

The first step is to narrow down what it actually is that you are seeking therapy for? Is it depression? Anxiety? Social phobia? Relationship problems? Self-confidence issues? Stress? Anger? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Or something else?

Getting clear on why you want help will help you to find a therapist that specialises in that area. For instance, some psychologists spend their careers working with anxiety, whilst others may focus on relationship issues.

Knowing the methods

Each therapist will use a type of therapy to help you overcome your struggles. It’s important that you feel their style would suit you, so in addition to picking a therapist that specialises in your area of concern, you need to find one that works with a method of therapy that best suits you.

Below you’ll find a brief description of the most common therapy methods.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This therapy looks at how you think and how this affects the way you behave. It teaches you to challenge and change the way you think and act.
  • Interpersonal Therapy. Focuses on improving relationships and communication skills to help people gain control of their moods and relate to other people better.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Helps people to accept what is out of their control and work towards actions that will improve their lives.
  • Mindful Cognitive Therapy. This is a combination of CBT and mindfulness, and is designed to help you live in the moment, not stuck in the past or worrying about the future.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy. Deals with the unconscious mind, the reasons that you act and think the way you do, and how to change.
  • Family and couples therapy. This deals with families and couples and looks at the way people interact and relate, and how to find better ways to coexist.

There are many more approaches that aren’t covered here, so if none of these appeal to you, have a Google for therapy methods and read up on what’s out there.

find a psychologist now

Friends and family

Now that you know what you are seeking help for and what type of therapy you are interested in doing, you can start to search for a psychologist that fits.

Ask your family and friends who have been in therapy who they would recommend, or get them to ask their therapist for recommendations for you.

Australian Psychological Society

The Australian Psychological Society has a fantastic service where you can either call them (1800 333 497) or go to their website to find a psychologist that suits your requirements.

What’s great about this search service is that you can search by issue (depression, anxiety, etc.), as well as location and opening hours.

You will get a number of recommendations, then you can search the APS website for the psychologist profiles which will tell you what methods they use and what their specialties are.

An added bonus of this service is that all the psychologists registered with the APS have to abide by a code of ethics and meet the yearly professional development requirements.

Now you’ve got some names

By now you should have the names and contact details of a few psychologists, so it’s time to call or email them.

When you contact them, ask them the following questions:

  • What are your fees?
  • Do you do rebates for Medicare Care Plans?
  • What are your office hours?
  • What therapy methods do you use?
  • What is your specialty?
  • What is your experience?
  • What can I expect from therapy?

Make an appointment with the psychologist that you feel most comfortable talking to. If you can’t decide, make a few appointments and after you have met with each of them, decide who you feel will help you the most.

Your local GP

When considering therapy, a visit to your GP is vital.

At your GP appointment, tell them why you are seeking therapy, ask about the possibility of getting a Medicare Care Plan (for reduced rates), and if you have a recommendation from a friend or family member, or have picked a therapist through the APS, ask for a referral to that specific psychologist.

If you don’t have anyone in mind, ask your GP for a referral to a psychologist that fits what you want treatment for and the therapy method that you want to try.

Your first steps

Taking active steps to get help for your mental health concerns is an amazing achievement. You should be proud of yourself. Therapy isn’t always going to be easy. You will be challenged and you will have to work, but with an empathetic, understanding psychologist on your side, and a willingness on your part to do the work, you will feel the difference.

This is the beginning of a whole new healthy chapter in your life!

Want to get more mental health skills?

A Diploma of Counselling trains you to recognise mental health problems in others, and equips you with skills to help them work through their issues.

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