Choosing a Psychologist

Choosing a psychologist in Edmonton or a mental health clinic (anywhere!) is an important task, for many reasons. Working with a mental health expert is an investment of your time and finances, as well as your trust.

 

Being informed about the ways in which mental health teams and specialists can help is critical, and shopping around is always encouraged, as the “fit” between you and your therapist is critical to maximize your progress in therapy.

 

Every therapist, counsellor, psychiatrist and psychologist works differently so it is important to know what factors to take into consideration when choosing a practitioner. Above all, know that the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist is one of the most important factors that affects the outcome of therapy, so finding a good fit is essential (Norcross, 2010).

Who Am I Looking For?

The first step in finding a mental health practitioner in Edmonton is to determine what type of mental health practitioner you are looking for. A visit to your family doctor may be a good first step in discussing your options for what type of practitioner to see. Your mental health practitioner’s credentials indicate their level of education and designation. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health (Canadian Psychologist Association, 2013). As psychiatrists are medical doctors, they are able to provide prescriptions for medication which may be helpful in treatment. Psychiatrists may also practice psychotherapy. A psychologist holds a master’s and/or a doctoral degree in psychology (Canadian Psychologist Association, 2013). Psychologists are not licensed in specific specialty areas, but they have specific areas of practice they are experienced in (Canadian Psychologist Association, 2013). As psychologists do not have a medical degree, in Alberta, psychologists cannot write prescriptions for medications. In practice a psychologist focuses on helping individuals manage their feelings, behaviour and thinking through psychotherapy. An individual who holds the title of counsellor or mental health therapist often has an undergraduate degree and may be working towards their master’s or doctorate degree. However, as there is no regulation to the title of therapist you may want to check that your therapist has appropriate training in mental health practices. Like psychologists, therapists and counsellors cannot write prescriptions for medications.

Finding The Right Fit: Theoretical Orientation And Specialties

An individual’s theoretical approach will influence the type of therapy they offer. Although many mental health practitioners draw from more than one theoretical orientation, it is important to find a practitioner whose therapeutic approach matches your expectations. For example, if you are expecting to explore your past and childhood in depth you probably would not seek out a solution-focused therapist as they tend to focus on the present and the future. If processing the past was very important to you and your practitioner focused on only the present and the future, you may leave frustrated and unsatisfied with your counselling experience. Similarly, if you wanted modify your thoughts and behaviours you may be inclined to seek out a mental health practitioner who offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), as their experience would focus on modifying thoughts and behaviours.
  • When considering a practitioner, be sure to ask about this (e.g. what is your theoretical orientation?) or to find that information on their biography, if one is available, and then do a quick Google search to find out what the key focuses of this orientation are.
Looking into your mental health practitioners “experience areas” and/or specialties is also important to ensure a proper fit. For example, you probably wouldn’t seek out an animal assisted therapist if you did not like working with animals, just as you would want someone who focuses on grief and loss counselling if you’re seeking support in grieving. Many practitioners specialize in working with certain groups of people or issues, so it is a good idea to check out what demographic your practitioner works with.
  • Consider asking, what is your area of speciality? What are your preferred demographics?

Personal Style

A therapist’s personal style may also be important to consider. Some may have a very casual style and some individuals may have a more directive and authoritarian style. Although many practitioners may modify their personal style to fit the client they can’t accommodate everyone perfectly. Consider asking how would you describe your personal style in working with clients? What will it actually feel like if I were in session with you?

Pragmatic Considerations

A couple of additional things to consider when choosing a mental health practitioner in Alberta is their location and their fees.

 

Consider: Is there parking at their office? Is it free or would you have to pay for it? Do they offer alternative locations for sessions like outside on nice days, or do they offer mobile sessions if you’re unable to attend due to anxiety?

 

Regarding fees, go ahead and ask directly what their hourly fee is. Although the provincial standard for psychologists in Alberta is $180/hr, some practitioners offer a sliding scale based on your income for fees so that sessions are more affordable. If you don’t have insurance, or have only a limited amount of coverage for psychological services, then you may want to take that into consideration that when looking at practitioner fees. Also, many services, including psychiatry, are covered in full by Alberta Health Services, so you won’t have to pay out of pocket at all.

How To Find A Psychologist

If you’ve decided to work with a psychologist in Alberta, there are many ways to find a good mental health practitioner that is right for you. Your doctor, family and friends may have recommendations for an appropriate practitioner. The Psychology Today website has a “Find a Therapist” section which is a good resource for individuals to search for a practitioner in the Edmonton area. You can refine your search by many options including issues, postal codes, ages served, languages, religious orientation, treatment orientation, etc. Descriptions about each therapist on this website can give you good insight into their personal style and approach to therapy. The Canadian Professional Counsellors Association website: www.cpca-rpc.ca also may be a useful tool for finding a mental health practitioner in Alberta. Wishing you good luck, and good mental health!

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