If you are in the process of choosing a psychologist, how should you go about making this decision? Finding the best psychologist for yourself can be a daunting task especially in Quebec where there are over 7500 licensed psychologists. In addition, Quebec has a disproportionate number of psychologists compared to other provinces making your search even more challenging (almost 50% of all psychologists in Canada are registered in Quebec).
What should you look for in a psychologist? What approach should you consider? Is the type of degree and program important? These are all important questions to think about when looking for a trusted professional to help you. Fortunately, the following are a set of guidelines you can use to help you make your decision. Here are the Top 10 factors you should look for and consider based on my professional opinion and what my clients have said have been the most important factors for them.
1. Make sure the professional you are considering is a licensed psychologist. You may have come across terms such as ‘therapist’ or ‘psychotherapist’ and automatically think they are a psychologist. However, this is not necessarily the case. In general, anyone in Quebec, even those with no experience in mental health, can call themselves a therapist or psychotherapist, and claim to practice psychotherapy. However, with recent changes in the law, psychotherapy can only be practiced by a person registered with l’Ordre des psychologues du Québec (OPQ) or the Collège des médecins du Québec.
2. Check to make sure the person is a registered psychologist according to the OPQ by consulting the following directory of professionals: The OPQ was established by the Government of Quebec in order to protect the public when seeking psychological services. Through a rigorous review process, the OPQ ensures that an individual has the necessary credentials and experience to be a licensed clinical psychologist. If you are in another province or state, make sure to contact your local professional order that licenses psychologists in your area.
3. Make sure they have a degree in Clinical Psychology. Psychologists are trained to address problems using scientifically validated treatment protocols. Although professionals with other degrees might be helpful, you probably do not want someone to just guide or counsel you by providing generic advice when you need help with an identifiable emotional problem that is affecting your life.
4. Credibility. Ask for additional credentials. Do they work in private practice only or in a hospital settings as well? Psychologists who work in hospitals are usually dynamic, teach students who will become future psychologists and are in involved in addressing important research questions that will advance the field of psychology. Are they sought by the media for their expertise? Are they interviewed for their opinion about important issues? If an expert is sought after, it is usually a sign they are probably a knowledgeable and trusted professional.
5. Make sure to select a psychologist with a PhD or doctorate. In the past, only a Master’s degree was required to practice as a psychologist in Quebec. However, recently there have been changes to the law that require a PhD. Obtaining a doctorate in Clinical Psychology typically involves a minimum of five additional years of training, experience and supervised practice by a licensed psychologist, whereas a Master’s degree can be completed in as little as one year. This is not to say that someone with a Master’s degree may not be a good fit for you. However, since your psychological health is important to you, you probably want to choose someone who has received more extensive supervised training.
6. What approach should I use? In seeking help for the problems that are interfering with your life, you want to maximize your improvements with therapy that works in the quickest time possible. Although there is overlap with many types of therapy, Task Forces from both the Canadian and American Psychological Associations have validated that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT for short, has received the most scientific support. In my opinion, go with the approach that science has shown works. For more information about CBT and how this approach can help you, consult my web site at: www.MontrealCBTPsychologist.com
7. If a psychologist claims to use CBT they should be evaluating progress. An important aspect of CBT is measuring treatment outcomes with standardized and objectives questionnaires to evaluate treatment efficacy. Research has shown us that monitoring such changes increases success in therapy. Many psychologists will say they practice CBT, so how can you go about verifying their claim that they do? A way to test for a psychologist’s fidelity to CBT is to find out if they will measure outcomes with you. Simply ask them what questionnaires they will use to track the gains you achieve. If they cannot identify any questionnaire, you should question whether they really do practice CBT. For an example of what to look for, you can consult the following link on my web site: www.MontrealCBTPsychologist.com/Services.en.html
8. Does the person return your phone calls promptly? Being in a situation in which you are requesting help, a quick return phone call is a good indicator of the commitment of the professional. How would you feel if you are asking for help and you only receive a call back days or weeks later? Does this make you feel like the person can be trusted? When someone leaves me a message, I take their call seriously, even when it is just for information or a request for resources. I return their call within 24hrs. In my opinion, this should be the norm in a helping profession and is the standard that my clients have appreciated.
9. Comfort level. In speaking to a psychologist for the first time, gauge how you feel. Are you comfortable with them? Is the person polite? Do they listen to you and answer questions? Make sure to consider your gut instinct after your first contact with the person.
10. The alliance between you and your psychologist is a critical factor. Research has shown that the therapeutic alliance is the best predictor of success in therapy. A therapeutic alliance is described as a relationship in which the psychologist is genuine, warm and has empathy. After your first meeting, how do you feel? Were you comfortable with them? If the psychologist meets these three criteria according to you, you probably have a good fit.
In summary, choosing the best psychologist for yourself is an essential factor in recovering from the challenges you are facing. I hope you will find these Top 10 guidelines useful in your search!
Montreal Psychologist 1310 Greene Avenue Suite 760 Montreal QC H3Z 2B2 (514) 605-7610 Follow me on Google+