So, you’re going through a difficult time, things are getting on top of you, and you’ve decided to get professional help from a psychologist.
Good on you! It takes enormous courage to reach out and you’ve just taken the first step. Where do you go from here though? Do you know how to access a psychologist? Do you have an idea of what type of psychologist is suited to you?
A visit to your GP is a good place to start. They will talk it through with you, while assessing your eligibility for a Mental Health Plan (MHP), and the Medicare rebate, which can reduce the expense.
Your GP will also be able to provide you with a list of Registered psychologists to contact.
Let me start by saying, a registered psychologist is a qualified one, and this should be your minimum requirement. Once you’ve determined their qualifications, the next step is to find the right ‘fit’. This can vary from one person to the next and is about personal choice. Finding your best fit psychologist can feel a little daunting though, so here’s a few things to consider in your search.
Location, accessibility, cost, etc., are all relevant. For face-to-face sessions, consider distance, ease of access, parking etc. Some psychologists offer virtual sessions, and if this is your preference, consider privacy, internet reliability, and the best time of day when you can fully engage. What’s important to remember is that visits to your psychologist shouldn’t feel like a burden or an additional pressure.
Think about what you want help with. Are you looking for someone who specialises in relationships, anxiety, workplace stress, trauma, gender-related issues, or something else? Consider what you want to talk about and what you want to change, then narrow the search to those who specialise in that area.
Would you feel more comfortable talking to a female or male psychologist? Yes, you can factor in gender, age, culture, and religion, etc. when choosing a psychologist. This is not discrimination. Similar backgrounds and experiences can support understanding and relatability, which will assist in the therapeutic relationship. Decide what demographics (if any) are important to you and go with your preference where possible.
Psychologists often have different delivery styles. Some are more structured, planning 3 months in advance, while others take a session-by-session approach depending on the clients’ progress. Neither is better or worse, but simply based on what the clients wants and needs are. Communication styles also vary across psychologists, this means language, mannerisms, tone, etc. Go with the style you’re most comfortable engaging with, as this will support open conversations.
Give it a go
Once you’ve narrowed your search down, where possible try a few out. We test-drive cars before committing to one, do the same when looking for a psychologist. Some psychologists offer an initial phone call prior to booking the first session, it doesn’t hurt to ask if this is an option.
In and after your first session
Successful counselling requires openness, honesty, and a willingness to be vulnerable, so it’s essential that you feel at ease with your psychologist. When and after you meet with them ask yourself:
- Do I feel heard?
- Do I feel understood?
- Do I feel hopeful that positive change can occur?
- Do I like them?
Sometimes it’s necessary to meet a couple of times to see if you’re a good match. But if after 2-3 sessions if you’re not finding it helpful, either talk to your psychologist about it or move on.
Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your ‘best fit’ straight away, this is not uncommon. If your sessions are not benefitting you, give up the psychologist, not the process.
Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error but when you find the one that’s right for you dive in headfirst.