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How to find a psychologist that’s right for you 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATE CHARCHALIS

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

What’s next after deciding you want help?

Members of the Fashion Journal team have found the tips below helpful, but this article and the resources we’ve linked within it are not and do not replace professional advice. If you need immediate help, please contact Beyond Blue or Lifeline.

Mental health is always important but even more so this year as many of us find ourselves under strict lockdowns, isolated from friends and family in other states, or dealing with job losses.

Simply deciding that you want a professional’s perspective is a huge first step on the journey of taking control of your mental health but once you make that choice, how do you then find the right psychologist for your needs? 

Much like dating, finding a psychologist you gel with can be a tricky process of trial and error. But the pay off of getting your mental health in order and learning ways to cope with different situations is worth it. 

To help you with the often overwhelming task of finding a new psychologist we have rounded up some tips that have helped many of us at Fashion Journal when finding the right psychologist.   

Step 1: Ask someone you trust if they know any psychologists

Mental health awareness is increasing yet there’s still a taboo surrounding it. But you might be surprised by how many people in your life speak to a psychologist regularly. 

By asking people you trust if they visit a psychologist or if they have a recommendation not only are you opening up the conversation, but you also get the reassurance that someone you trust has been in the same situation. 

Of course, just because one psychologist worked for your best friend doesn’t always mean it’ll be the right fit for you, but it’s a great way to make the often overwhelming pool of psychologists that are on the internet a tad smaller. 

Step 2: Speak to your GP

If you have a regular GP, by sharing your mental health concerns with them it means they can give you a referral to any psychologists they recommend as well as creating a mental health plan for you. 

A mental health plan means that the Government can pay for some or all of the costs of up to ten psychology sessions. If you’re in an area subjected to further COVID restrictions (looking at you, Victoria) you can access a further 10 Medicare rebate sessions on top of the regular amount. Talking to your GP is a great place to start when beginning your journey of finding the perfect psychologist for you. 

Step 3: Ask someone you trust to make the first phone call 

If you’ve decided to take action towards improving your mental health that’s a great step but what if you can’t make the phone call yourself? Sometimes even something like a phone call can be incredibly overwhelming and there’s no shame in asking for help. 

Ask someone you trust if they’ll book an initial appointment with a psychologist or GP (navigating calendars can be stress-inducing) and if you want, they could come to the appointment with you as well. This gives you a great support in a situation that could be potentially mentally challenging. 

By inviting someone you trust into the start of the first session with you as well, they could help you gauge if that psychologist seems like a good fit. 

Step 4: Search on Find a Psychologist 

Sometimes the psychologists our GPs refer may not be a good fit so if you want to do your own research then head to the Australian Psychology Society. They have a handy and easy to use search function to help you choose a psychologist based on what you want. 

With filters including location, mental health issue and their area of practice, you can find a whole range of psychologists suited to your needs. It definitely makes it easier than Googling ‘psychologist near me’ and being bombarded with options. 

Step 5: Ask questions

Finding a psychologist is like searching for any service whether it be a hairdresser or a plumber. You have a right to know what you want and have the space to figure out if a psychologist is the right fit for you. 

This is particularly important because you’re going to be telling them incredibly personal thoughts and feelings (yes, even more personal than your hairdresser). Most psychologists have a basic blurb about where they’ve studied and their area of expertise on their websites but if you have a particular question that hasn’t been answered yet then there’s no harm in doing a little research and reaching out personally via phone or email. 

Step 6: Check-in with how you feel 

So you’ve found a psychologist who is near your location and specialises in what you’re dealing with. Sometimes it can be a gut feeling whether you gel with a psychologist or not but after your first session, it’s good to ask yourself some questions to figure out if you’ve found the right fit. 

Ask if you feel safe enough to talk about private or sensitive topics, whether or not they have experience with your particular issue, and if you get a sense that you’ll be able to work together going forward. 

Figuring out if you feel comfortable with a psychologist may not always be obvious after just one session but by checking in with yourself and asking questions, you can decide whether to stick with your original choice or try someone new.

Step 7: Schedule a chat with a loved one afterwards

Going to your first psychology session is a big achievement and can also feel like a mammoth mental task. By scheduling a phone call with someone whether that be your mum, best friend or partner you can debrief your first session, make sense of your feelings and they can maybe help you decide if the psychologist is a good fit. 

Having a safety net chat with someone you trust and love afterwards also reminds you that you’re not alone in this.

Step 8: Stay open-minded

Finding the right psychologist is an incredibly personal decision. You’re trusting this person to analyse your thoughts and behaviours and give you coping tools to apply to your life. 

Whether you find the perfect fit at your first session or trial out a couple of different psychologists, the main thing to remember is that you’re taking control of your mental health and putting the first steps into action. By staying open-minded, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to find a psychologist that will help you deal with whatever it is you’re going through.

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