Choosing a Psychologist

 


How to Choose a Psychologist

Choosing the right therapist is an important part of the treatment process.

Find out more here...

 

Depression Screening Test
Try this online test from the National Mental Health Association

Take the test here...


Self-help Tips

Promote Relaxation in Your Busy Life...
A few simple steps to help you reduce the pressure of stress through-out your day.

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A Good Night's Sleep...
Suggestions on how you can form good sleeping habits and help prevent insomnia.

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Goal Setting...
The key to obtaining any goal is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself.

Find out more here...

 

 
How do I Choose a Psychologist?
Frequently Asked Questions.

Choosing the right therapist is an important part of the treatment process. Many questions people have about therapy include:

Finding the right Psychologist
Psychologist or Psychiatrist: what's the difference?
Is this confidential, and what does that mean?
What kind of therapy do you do: do you have experience with my problem?
Is this treatment researched for its effectiveness in therapy?
How long will therapy take?
Would I be more comfortable seeing a woman or male Psychologist?
How much is this going to cost?
Is the cost covered under my extended health care (e.g., Blue Cross, employee benefits)?


Finding the right Psychologist
Finding the right Psychologist is sometimes stressful in and of itself. With access to the Internet, people are finding that they have more choices and greater information before they walk into the Psychologist's office. Often, people seeking counselling are tired, confused, or feeling overwhelmed. They are often nervous about talking about their problems to a stranger. What is important to understand is that you have a right to feel comfortable and confident in a counselling environment. Therefore, you have the right to interview the therapist about her or his treatment approach; if they have experience in treating the area of your concern; identify goals for therapy; as well as ask questions openly about the cost of therapy.

Psychologists are people just like you, and sometimes personalities do not match. Therefore, you are entitled to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and get along with. This goes both ways, as Psychologists are to refer clients to other health care professionals if their own feelings are in conflict with the best needs of the client. Each Profession has a code of conduct (Psychiatry, Psychology, Social work, and Medicine, for example) and they differ somewhat in their content. So it's important to feel safe and understood as you start the counseling process.

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What is the difference between a Psychologist and Psychiatrist?
A Psychiatrist has a medical degree (MD). She or he has the privilege of prescribing medication for psychiatric conditions and has special training (a residency) in the field of Psychiatry. Some Psychiatrists offer psychotherapy, or counselling services, to their patients, and some are more restricted in their services. Some Psychiatrists offer almost exclusive medication management for the treatment of psychological or psychiatric disorders (for example, depression, panic attacks, and schizophrenia). Psychiatrists can bill your Medical Services Plan (MSP) directly for their sessions at no additional user cost to the patient. Treatment models, such as medication management, and types of therapy offered, vary according to the training background of the Psychiatrist.

A Psychologist in B.C., has a Ph.D. (or Ed.D, or Psy.D.) in the discipline of Psychology and is registered to practice Psychology by the governing body of the College of Psychologists of British Columbia (CPBC). She or he does not prescribe medication. However, on occasion, a Psychologist will consult with a Psychiatrist or a General Practitioner to assist in medication management with the client (for example, arranging a consult for the use of antidepressant medication to assist treating a severe depression). Some Psychologists have a Masters degree in Psychology, and were Registered in B.C. before the CPBC instituted the Ph.D. level of registration. They are entitled to use the term Psychologist with the permission of the CPBC. Each Psychologist must pass a written test of competency and have an oral exam in each province in which they practice to call themselves a Psychologist. The term Psychologist is a legally protected term and a person using this title must be registered by the CPBC to legally use this name. Derivations of the term Psychologist, (e.g., Psychological Services) are protected in the same manner. Psychologists are entitled to practice in areas in which they are competent, but are not to practice outside their area of expertise. For example, some Psychologists are trained and have demonstrated competence to perform Legal Assessments of Children, and some do not have this training. Psychologists also vary in the specific professional areas in which they practice, for example, Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Child Psychology, Adult Psychology, Couples Counselling, Health Psychology, Disability Management, etc. Therefore, it is good to ask your Psychologist up front if she or he can work with you in your area of concern.

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Confidentiality
A Psychologist is ethically bound to keep your file information confidential. He or she will not release any information to anyone without your written permission. Confidentiality is not the same as the Privilege that Lawyers have, and has its limits. Exceptions include the following: (e.g., if a Psychologist is subpoenaed to testify in court, if a child or senior is in need of protection, or if someone is in immediate physical danger). Sometimes an insurance carrier is paying for the service and requests progress reports. These limits need to be discussed during the initial session.

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What kind of therapy do you do?
Psychologists can be Generalists in some areas, and have more specific expertise in others. If you have questions about the type of therapy you are receiving, please feel confident to ask. Counseling is a professional activity, and a personal experience. Sometimes counselors and clients don't "click" because of a poor mix of personalities or approaches. A good fit is required between the client and the type of therapy being used, as not everyone is amenable, for example, to insight-oriented therapies, but might do better with a behavioral approach. Most Psychologists will ask you to do "homework" of some type, or ask you to practice new ways to manage your problem. It is always good to ask your Psychologist if she or he has experience working with your specific problem. If not, you are likely better served with someone who has experience and competence working with your concerns (e.g., depression, child and parenting problems, panic attacks, pain management, or job burnout). Even if the first Psychologist you see cannot help you with your specific area of concern, he or she can likely help you with a referral to the appropriate resource to provide you with assistance.

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Is this treatment researched for its effectiveness in therapy?
The type of therapy you are to receive should be well researched and tested for effectiveness with your problem. Many books and Psychological organizations like the American and Canadian Psychology Associations publish lists of validated treatments for psychological problems. Feel confident to ask about whether the Psychological approach being used is well researched to assist you in achieving your goals. If the answer is "I don't know," then walk out the door and find someone else who does. Although alternative treatments have gained interest over the years, there is no research to indicate that "smiling at the moon" or "lighting incense" will help resolve your depression. If you are in any way "uncomfortable" with a treatment, you are entitled to stop treatment and discuss alternatives, or seek a second opinion.

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How long will therapy take?
This is usually discussed at the initial assessment, or very soon after. After the problem area has been identified, then a goal and plan for treatment should follow. For most conditions, the therapist can give you a "ball park" idea of how many sessions will likely be required. Some problems require a longer counseling approach or simultaneous access to specialized services. Each person is different and responds to therapy differently, however, if results are lacking, it is good to re-evaluate goals and progress sooner than later. Areas such as couples counseling, bereavement issues, and individual differences, are usually the areas that typically require ongoing revision of time lines. Some types of therapy are by definition long-term, and should be discussed between you and your Psychologist at the beginning of therapy. Always be sure to have goals established at the beginning of therapy.

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Would I be more comfortable seeing a female or male Psychologist?
This is a choice that is entirely up to you. Before or after you meet with a Psychologist, you might feel more comfortable seeing either a female or a male therapist. If you are seeing already seeing a Psychologist, she or he can help you find a Psychologist, female or male, with whom you feel comfortable.

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How much is this going to cost?
The cost of seeing a Psychologist is not currently covered under the Medical Services Plan (MSP) of B.C. Costs for Individual therapy sessions can vary widely with some Psychologists charging $150.00 an hour to $200.00, or more. The fee usually depends on the type of services being offered. For example, group sessions are usually less expensive per person, whereas, Couples counseling, Individual therapy, or Family therapy might have different fee structures because of the professional experience required, length of sessions, or how many people are involved. Fees for Psychological Assessments, or extensive assessments for insurance companies are based on the service requested, the nature of the referral question, and the experience required to perform the evaluation. Payment is typically made at the end of each session. Often, if you miss an appointment without giving the Psychologist 24-hours notice, you will likely be billed for the missed session. A missed session means someone else could have used that spot. Therefore, it is good to keep track of your appointments. Sometimes, Psychologists will use a sliding fee scale based on a person's income and ability to pay. Fees are discussed in the first session, or at the point of first contact. You should always feel comfortable asking about fees and payment.

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Is the cost covered under my extended health care (e.g., Blue Cross, employee benefits)?
The cost of seeing a Psychologist is not currently covered under the Medical Services Plan of B.C. It is good to find out if you have any extended benefits under either Blue Cross, or your employee benefits, to help pay for your sessions. You should always feel comfortable asking about fees and payment.

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Dr. Theo DeGagne...Copyright 2001-2008...All rights reserved.