We know that people should be taking care of their mental health like they take care of their teeth: all day, every day (if you didn’t know, now you know).
So, how do you choose a psychologist to work with?
Here are some things to consider:
1. What are you called?
While there are a variety of mental health professionals that hold different titles, this post is going to focus primarily on psychologists because it’s:
a) A regulated profession
b) My jam (you know, as a Registered Provisional Psychologist).
What is a regulated profession? In Canada, some professions are regulated to protect the health and safety of the public, and psychology is one of them. This means, that you cannot call yourself a psychologist in any way, shape, or form (Psychologist, Registered Provisional Psychologist, Best Psychologist Ever*) unless you have been approved and granted this title by your provincial regulatory body (in Alberta, this is the College of Alberta Psychologists; CAP).
*CAP has yet to appoint this title to any individual to my knowledge.
Why does this matter? Well, because when you’re searching for someone to work with, you want to ensure that they are competent and appropriately trained in what they say they do. Choosing a registered professional (such as a psychologist), ensures that this person has been vetted by a qualified group of people.
It’s important to note that:
just because a psychologist is a regulated professional, does not mean that all psychologists will be the right person for you.
However, if someone holds the title of psychologist it does mean that they have had to meet a minimum set of standards outlined by a governing body, which is a really nice safeguard to have when you are considering working with someone on something as important as your mental health.
For example, in Canada the term therapist is not a regulated title, which means that anyone can call themselves a therapist without meeting any specific requirements or standards.
Does this mean that all therapists are bad at what they do? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. We already talked about how education alone doesn’t make someone good at their job. However, it does mean that there are no checks and balances on the qualifications, training, or experience for that individual calling themselves a therapist*.
*This does not apply to occupational or physiotherapists, which are regulated professions in Alberta.
2. Who do you work with?
Another important consideration when looking for a psychologist is knowing what their specialization is. Do they work with children, adolescents, adults?
What kind of concerns does this psychologist typically work with?
In other words, if you are an adult female looking for someone to help you with depression, it would be good to know if the psychologist you are talking to specializes in play therapy for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
3. What is your approach?
This can be a tricky one. Like most things in life, there are many schools of thought in psychology. Typically, psychologists will draw from at least a few different theories to inform how they work with their clients. For example, if you’re lying on a couch and are the only one speaking during your sessions, chances are your psychologist is heavily (if not entirely) influenced by Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.
In my own work, I draw from a variety of theories, including (but not limited to) narrative, feminist, client-centered, and trauma-informed. With that said, I would describe my approach as eclectic, which means: I do what works best for each client. For example, cognitive-behavioural techniques may work for some clients, while narrative approaches are best for others.
There is no-one-size-fits-all approach to therapy.
Okay, that’s not true, there are lots of one-size-fits-all approaches to therapy, but in my experience these approaches are not always helpful for everyone.
Human beings are dynamic, unique, and complex, so it makes sense that each person’s mental health needs would be equally as dynamic, unique, and complex.
If you do come across a psychologist who strictly adheres to a single approach, my advice would be to make sure you understand the approach being used, and be sure that it is one that resonates with who you are and what you are trying to achieve.
In my practice, I feel it’s the responsibility of the psychologist to have a variety of tools and approaches to utilize, and then to work with the client to decide what is going to work best for them. In my opinion, this is good therapy, but many people may not share this view.
Let’s be serious, going to see a psychologist can be pricey. The Psychological Association of Alberta currently lists the recommended fees here.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: I wish everyone could have access to mental health services all of the time. Unfortunately, I’m not in charge of the world (yet), so this is not the case (also yet).
Okay cool Ashley, I can’t afford to even take care of my super important mental health. GREAT POST.
Everyone calm down, here are some ways that therapy can be more accessible for people who aren’t Bill Gates:
If you have insurance, chances are you have some kind of mental health coverage to see a psychologist. In fact, if that insurance coverage is from Blue Cross, most psychologists in Alberta can actually directly bill to them.
- Sliding Scale!
Some private psychologists operate on what’s called a sliding scale, meaning you pay for services based on how much money you do (or don’t) make. This is a great thing to ask prospective psychologists about. See contact info at the bottom of this post for more info.
- Public Services!
In Alberta, this would be anything offered through Alberta Health Services. It’s important to note that there is typically a much longer wait to access publicly-funded services than seeing someone privately, but the upside is that they are almost always free! See contact info at the bottom of this post for more info.
Depending on who you are and what kind of mental health goals you have for treatment, there are a variety of organizations that offer subsidized and/or sliding scale services. In Calgary, some of these agencies include Wood’s Homes, Calgary Counselling Centre, Hull Services, and the YWCA.
5.THE FINAL AND MOST IMPORTANT POINT:CONNECTION.
If you are reading this, then it means you made it to the last and most important point of this post, high-five!
The single most important consideration when finding a psychologist to work with is connection. I cannot stress this point enough. Research shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is the most important factor in therapeutic outcomes.
In other words, if you don’t like your psychologist, therapy is not going to work.
You can be working with a psychologist with 50+ years of experience, who is an expert in their field, and trained in every technique in existence, but if you do not trust, respect, and connect with her/him/they, chances are therapy is going to be a bust.
In my practice, this is one of the main reasons that I offer an initial complimentary consultation. It gives the client and myself both a chance to get to know one another, discuss the therapeutic goals, and get a sense if we are each other’s people.
And you know what? If I am not someone’s person, that’s totally cool. I have no interest in wasting my time or my client’s, because I want people to get what they actually need.
If there is anything to know after reading this post:
1) It is most important to find a psychologist you connect with.
2) If the first psychologist you meet is not your jam, it’s your right to request/find/talk to another one.
3) If you don’t feel that the approach or technique that your psychologist is using is helping you, tell her/him/them so! In fact, this is paramount to effective and meaningful therapy.
Good luck and godspeed on all of your therapeutic adventures.
Need help getting started?
Contact Access Mental Health at (403) 943-1500 for help navigating public services offered through AHS.
Interested in private services? Search your area or mental health concern in the Psychology Today listings.
Interested in booking a complimentary session with me? Click here.
If you or anyone you know in the Calgary area is experiencing a mental health crisis call the 24-hour Distress Centre line at 403-266-4357 or 911.