How to Choose the Right Psychologist?

This article is also available in 中文.

After you decided to talk to a psychologist or other mental health professional, you will soon discover that there are many of us out there. Over the years of interacting with clients and being a client myself, I am sharing my thoughts on how to choose the right psychologist here.

Before you book a session with a psychologist:

There are many ways to find a psychologist, and the first thing you see is probably their profiles/clinic information. First, read through their profiles carefully to see their styles of presenting themselves, their personal and professional background, expertise, experiences, and their photos. If you feel like they might be a good fit, give them a call or at least schedule a phone call. Psychologists or other mental health professionals usually offer 10-15 minutes of free phone consultation. Even if they don’t say it, you are entitled to request. I don’t recommend booking the first session without talking to this person first. People’s online presence can be very different from that in person.

Second, when you are calling this psychologist, make sure to ask about their qualification, training background, experiences, expertise and clinical approaches. Some sample questions are: what degree did you get? What kind of training did you receive? How many years have you been practicing in the area of depression (or any other concerns you want to know)? Which clinical issues are you particularly good at treating? What are your therapeutic approaches, and how do they work?

Third, you want to also ask about practical concerns, such as fees, method of payment, insurance coverage, hours of services and any other things you want to know.

Fourth, trust your gut feeling. Do you feel comfortable talking with this person? If not, feel free to approach another one. If yes, go ahead and book the first appointment.

After the first few sessions:

Typically, the first session should be an assessment one in which the psychologist will ask you many questions; the purposes are to have a better understanding of your concerns, develop a professional relationship, and come up with an intervention plan. That being said, after the first or the first few sessions, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How comfortable am I working with the psychologist?
  2. Does this psychologist understand my concerns and is he/she able to help me better understand my concerns?
  3. Does this psychologist have a clear plan to help me?

The right psychologist should make it easy for you to say yes to all those three questions. If not, you can bring it up with the psychologist to see how he/she responds. If he/she responds positively and is willing to work with you to address any of those three questions, that is a good sign. If not, you probably need to think if you should change to another psychologist.

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