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How do you find a psychologist if you don't know anyone?

By June 13, 2009 - 5:34pm
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I know the best way to find a doctor is through word-of-mouth. But I don't know anyone here and I really need to talk to someone about my mental health. I think I have the symptoms of depression but it seems really hard just to make an appointment with someone from having only a name and phone number on the web or in the phone book. How do people find someone to help them when they don't know anyone to start with? Do most mental health doctors let you "try them out" at first?

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Hi Anne,
I'm sorry you are having a difficult time right now...did you just move to a new location?

It is great that you are seeking help. It is intimidating to try to find a new doctor, especially without personal references. Here are a few ideas for you, to help you narrow your search.

To answer your last question first:
Absolutely, you can "try out" mental health providers just like you can physicians; it is important to find someone you connect with. It may take a few sessions to know if you "click", and if not, do not hesitate to change to a different psychologist.

It is recommended to contact at least 2-3 mental health providers (phone or email), to ask them questions (see below, "how to choose a psychologist") and make sure they fit your criteria. The criteria below is objective, and of course you will want to add your subjective criteria---did you feel like you connected with them on the phone? Did you feel rushed? Could you see yourself "opening up" to them?

Suggestions for Where to Start?
- Do you have a job through a company that offers health insurance? Your health insurance likely has a list of pre-approved mental health providers that will help narrow your search.
- Does your place of employment, or school/university, have an "EAP"-type service (employee assistance program)? They offer free, confidential services, as well as referral services.
- Do you have a trusted physician or other health care provider? S/he could also provide referrals, or help you narrow down your search with trusted individuals.

Once you have a narrowed-list of names, you can use the Psychology Today's search engine to review their "area of specialty", "treatment preferences" and "client focus", by clicking here.

All of the credential acronyms are confusing; here is a list of The Credentials from Psychology Today that can help you sort out their meanings.

How to choose a psychologist, from the APA:
"Once you have the name or names of several psychologists, there are several questions you'll want to ask, including:
* Are you licensed by the state?
* How long have you been practicing?
* What areas do you specialize in (i.e., family therapy, marriage counseling, etc.)?
* What kind of treatment do you usually use, and why do you feel this would be effective for my situation?
* How long would you expect my treatment to last?
* What are your fees?
* Will you accept my insurance or HMO coverage?
* Will you directly bill my insurance company?
* Do you have a sliding fee scale, or will you set up a payment plan?

Once you've established the basics, it's important that you feel comfortable with the psychologist you choose, and that over time, you're able to develop a rapport with the psychologist since your treatment will involve working together as a team."

Once you find a few mental health providers that meet your criteria after your initial phone conversation, schedule an in-person "consultation meeting". Make sure on the phone you inquire about the length of appointment, and whether this is a free consultation (you can expect at least 15 minutes for a "get-to-know-you" meeting) if that is important to you.

I hope this helps, and please feel free to ask any additional questions; whether it is about finding a therapist or about depression. Also, you can provide me with your city and state, and I can help you in your search.

June 14, 2009 - 6:00am
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