Tips for Finding a Good Psychologist

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For many people, experiencing stressful life events makes it necessary to seek the counsel of a psychologist. Although finding a competent professional may take some effort, it will be worth it. Here are some tips for finding a good psychologist. (See American Psychological Association and Providence Psychology Services websites for more suggestions.)

Ask your general physician for his recommendations for a skilled psychologist in your area. Normally, professionals in the community develop informal referral networks for their patients. You can also phone your local mental health center and ask if there is a psychologist on staff. If not, ask for a referral. Medical centers and hospitals usually have relationships with various community professionals, so calling their Human Relations or Community Liaison departments may also be helpful in obtaining a referral.

Check local newspapers for educational seminars on mental health topics. Psychologists often provide presentations to the community as part of their marketing plans. Attending such a seminar will give you a chance to observe and meet the psychologist. From that first encounter, you can determine whether you could be comfortable with him. Also, using the internet to locate a qualified psychologist is possible by visiting the American Psychological Association's website. They have a web page where you can enter your zip code or city to find a psychologist in your area.

Feel free to call a psychologist's office and ask questions of the office personnel. They are usually prepared to provide information about the professional. Don't be afraid to ask about the psychologist's credentials and areas of expertise. A competent psychologist assures this information is available. Copies of a professional's resume is often found in the reception area of his offices for clients and potential clients' review. Upon surveying a psychologist's resume, check the degrees obtained and the universities attended. Notice prior positions held and the total number of years of clinical experience. All these facts reveal important information about the psychologist. They can help you make a decision about scheduling an appointment with the professional.

Requesting to speak directly with a psychologist by phone can provide you with a few minutes' interview time. Ask about how long the person has worked in the field and how long she's had a practice. Solicit information about her areas of expertise. If you have insurance, inquire as to whether the office accepts insurance payment.

Unfortunately, it just isn't money- or time-conscious to make appointments with several psychologists to interview them face-to-face. Seeing a psychologist is quite expensive. Thus, using funds and time to interview even 3 or 4 psychologists means you have that much less money and time to spend working directly on the problem. People under duress usually want and deserve relief as soon as possible. As a professional working in the field of psychology, I think that using the face-to-face interview in this instance is not the most judicious way to spend your time or money when you are battling emotional distress.

Finally, check certifications or licensure in your state to assure the professional is appropriately licensed to do the work he is doing. Look to see if there have been any complaints filed or sanctions imposed against him. However,be careful about assuming the professional is not competent just because a complaint is on file. As in any other line of business, psychologists may be the innocent victims of an unsupported complaint.

Locating a skilled psychologist requires time and effort but is well worth your investment. Asking your medical professionals for a referral or attending seminars conducted by psychologists are steps to take to find a competent professional. In addition, you can call the psychologist's office to inquire about his credentials and try to obtain a copy of his resume to review. Doing a phone interview with a few possible candidates can help you make a final decision on which professional you would like to work with. Lastly, check certification and licensure of the professional you are planning to meet with to assure he has the credentials you are seeking.

More about this author: Rita Chaney

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