If you are in the process of choosing a psychologist, how should you go about making this decision? Finding the right psychologist 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 Quebec (OPQ) or the College des medecins du Quebec.
2. Make sure they have a degree in Clinical Psychology. Appuntamento psicologo 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 use CBT? 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.