Finding a psychologist is kind of like dating
Having a well-educated, well-informed medical team is absolutely crucial when you live with a mental illness. They act as your guide through what can be one of the most difficult times of your life, they help devise a recovery plan,, and they oversee your progress.
In my own experience, the member of my medical team who has played the most weighted role in my wellness journey has been my psychologist. I have had my fair share of psychologists throughout the years; Thirteen,, to be exact. Some of them I saw for extended periods of time, some of them only briefly, but I remember every single one of them and how I felt whilst with them. A psychologist or therapist can hold a lot of weight in how you perceive the world around you, and so it is important to find the one that's right for you.
The difficulty with finding the right therapist is that it's not a 'One Size Fits All' solution. Much like finding a compatible partner to spend your life with, finding the right psychologist can take a few tries and it is imperative that you don't allow a less-than-favorable experience stop you from finding the right one.
Here are a few things to ponder while preparing for your search:
There are many different factors to consider when looking for a psychologist, and ultimately, it will come down to two things;
What you are most comfortable with, and
When researching psychologists in your area, first consider the basic characteristics of what you want in a psychologist, such as gender. Are you more comfortable speaking with someone of the same sex, the opposite sex, or are you indifferent?
The age group or generation of a psychologist may also play a role in how you interact with one another. Consider the characteristics of those you’re most open and comfortable with in your day to day life.
The second thing you will then want to consider is education and/or experience. Depending on the reason you are seeking a psychologist, this may play a large role in your search.; Especially if you have a diagnosed mental illness, as many mental illnesses have a specific array of skill sets pertaining to living a more functional life.
Most psychologists have a particular area expertise or training.. Do you need someone specializing in therapy for ADHD? Do you require a practitioner well-versed in therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)? Or, perhaps you would work best with someone who has experience with soliders and Veterans. These are all factors that come into play in your search.
Psychologists all have different styles of therapy, just as they have have their own unique personalities, experiences, articulation and vernacular. A bad experience with one psychologist is definitely not an indication of your experience with another, which is very important to remember should you feel discouraged. It is also important to remember that your unpleasant experience with a professional does not necessarily mean they are not a good psychologist, but more often that they are simply not the psychologist for you. I simply cannot stress enough that you can't allow that unpleasant experience prevent you from getting the help and support you both need and deserve.
Before Your Appointment
A great tip to help ease your mind prior to your first session is to inform yourself. Most psychologists will offer a 10 or 15 minute consultation free of charge, either in person or via telephone. This is a time where you are able to ask any questions you may have and also get to know the psychologist. You will then get a decent indication of how you will feel during your session.
Should your psychologist not offer consultations, do not fret! The majority of today's psychologists have their own websites, which will contain information about their education, experiences, expertise and any other information they feel you may want to know. Don't be afraid to ask questions, as well; This is welcomed by most, as they understand it can be a difficult process. Just like you want to find somebody who is best suited for your therapy, they want to be able to help support you, too.
Your First Appointment
There are a few things to know before your first appointment to make the process move along more smoothly. Typically, you should arrive 10-15 minutes early, if you can, as most offices require that you fill out paperwork on your first visit. If you will be seeing an independent psychologist, however, this paperwork may be filled out during the first few minutes of your scheduled session. This is also customary as they handle the paperwork themselves and often do not have a receptionist to aid in this process.
Every psychologist will begin their first session by calling attention to a confidentiality agreement, which sets out the laws for which both you and they are liable. This includes the release of information. In short, this is to inform you that what you say to your psychologist is absolutely confidential, unless they have reason to believe you may cause harm to yourself, or others, or unless they are issued legal requirements for the release of information. There is much more to know included in this document, and you should be provided a copy to read through and sign.
The first session is always more informational than the ones to follow. This is to ensure the psychologist is able to get to know a bit about you, your background, your goals, and anything else that may be pertinent to your therapy thereafter. Future sessions are often planned in advanced, or the psychologist at least has an idea of the route they wish to go. Don't be alarmed by the many questions; It is perfectly normal for the first session to feel a bit like an interview, but it should not feel like an interrogation!
Finally, it is important to be up-front and honest with your psychologist. Your psychologist is not there to judge you or your experiences, but rather to help you work through the things that are preventing you from living well or functionally. They often provide the support you require, but you also play an important role in the success of your therapy. Withholding information from your psychologist only hinders your health further, and prevents you from progressing. It is normal to feel scared in confiding your thoughts and fears with someone, which is why it is important to find a psychologist that you both trust and respect.
Remember that your health comes first, and that you owe it to yourself to find a psychologist that is going to empower you throughout your journey.
Leave a little kindness wherever you go,
Aly & Blue