How to select a psychologist can be a challenging task. Over the past few years, more and more people have been relying on their health insurance benefits or “provider panels” when they have a need for a psychologist. However, if your plan is an HMO, you may be limited to a relatively small number of “qualified” psychologists to choose from. Some HMO’s may not even have psychologists to refer to but rely on lessor trained “mental health professionals”. More experienced and well-established psychologists are increasingly choosing not to be on insurance panels because of the poor reimbursement rates and extreme amount of paperwork and bureaucracy. In addition, individuals are increasingly concerned about their privacy when using their mental health benefits. As a result, more and more people seeking psychotherapy are more willing to pay “out of pocket”.
How to select a psychologist will usually depend on a range of additional important factors. For example, if you have a young child, you may want a “child psychologist”. Not all psychologists are trained or interested in working with all ages and/or types of concerns. For example, although I do “some” career counseling, I am more likely to refer out to a colleague if career planning is the main referral reason.
While most psychologists generally deal with “anxiety and depression issues”, their approach may vary from a non-directive, passive, supportive approach (Rogerian) to a much more active, focused and solution oriented approach (Cognitive-behavioral ). When I sought help for dealing with some of my own issues back in college, I found non-directive approach to be largely unhelpful and frustrating for me.
Depending on the problem, individuals may want to select a psychologist that has specific skills or uses a particular method. For example, people suffering from chronic pain might benefit from a psychologist with expertise in hypnosis, and those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder may want a psychologist who used Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
A useful method to select a psychologist is a referral from a trusted friend or health care professional that has used or knows of the psychologist’s work first hand.
Another consideration in how to select a psychologist is convenience. When are you most available to see the psychologist and does he or she have openings when you would like to be seen? Since “therapy” may occur weekly for a period of months, this is a more important consideration than seeing a medical doctor or dentist who you might just see once or twice a year.
Another factor that needs to be addressed is location. The closer and more convenient the location, the greater chances you will be able to make your appointments on a regular basis.
Finally, a key factor is how to select a psychologist is “comfort and fit”. How comfortable do you feel in talking with the psychologist? Do you feel safe in the location? Do you feel understood? Does the psychologist explain the assessment and treatment approach that will be used? Do you leave the session with a sense of rapport and a degree of hopefulness?
I hope these factors will be useful to you in your search for a psychologist, if and when you have the need for one.