You have a problem that isn’t going away. Your attempts to fix the problem haven’t worked. In fact, it’s getting worse. It’s keeping you awake at night and impacting on your work, your relationships, your ability to enjoy life. Friends and family can’t help. You need a Psychologist.
If you live in a capital city in Australia, there are plenty of Psychologists to choose from. I work in the suburb of Salisbury, in Brisbane, and there are at least eight practising Psychologists just in Salisbury. In the nearby suburb of Mt Gravatt (a Brisbane transport and shopping hub), there are over thirty! How do you know who to choose? Below are some factors that can influence your experience.
To use the title ‘Psychologist’ in Australia, a person must have at least six years training in psychology. At least four years at university plus two completing either a Master’s Degree or supervised workplace practice. Obtaining training in these final two years is highly competitive. What this means is anyone using the title of Psychologist is well trained and required to do training each year in order to keep that title, so don’t worry too much about researching their exact specifics.
The sort of training a Psychologist chooses to undertake during their career will make a difference to your experience. Psychologists may have different areas of interest such as anxiety, relationships, children, chronic pain or performance improvement (coaching) or work with people within certain demographics, such as people with disabilities.
Some people prefer to work with a Psychologist who is young and recently trained; others prefer someone who has practiced for many years. A personal preference.
Style of Therapy
This makes less of a difference than you might think. Most Psychologists working with individuals privately use an ‘eclectic’ approach, which means they gather information about your situation and then choose methods from a variety of therapy styles to tailor therapy to your personal situation.
If you are Australian, you can access a Medicare rebate when you visit a Psychologist by first getting a Mental Health Care Plan from your GP. Your GP will ask you questions about your circumstances to determine eligibility. Here’s a very general rule - if thinking about your problem is interfering with your sleep and affecting your ability to live your life as usual, you will qualify for this support. Your GP will also recommend a Psychologist to you.
Important: You are in no way bound to use the Psychologist recommended to you. If you trust your GP’s opinion, their recommendation may be a good starting point, but if you’d prefer someone in a different location, of a different gender, someone you’ve heard about, or another person you choose through research, the plan is still valid. You can change Psychologists and not have the plan rewritten. You don’t have to know who you’d like to use when you see your GP – you can make a decision later and the GP does not need to be informed.
Not always an indicator of quality. Most Psychologists chose the field in order to help people rather than make money, and may keep their fees low to provide access to their services to as many people as possible. If you have private health cover, you may be entitled to a rebate. If you have a Mental Health Care Plan you can access the Medicare rebate, which reduces your costs significantly. Sessions can be free for you (if the Psychologist bulk bills clients with a Mental Health Care Plan). Otherwise, expect to pay between $90-$220 per hour before any rebates.
As mentioned above, in a city like Brisbane you have many options for psychological support. Rurally, you are not so lucky. Fortunately, a growing number of Psychologists are offering telephone or Skype consultations to those in rural Australia. Unfortunately, these sessions do not qualify for the Medicare rebate or private health fund rebates.
Although growing as a medium for attracting clients, Psychologists have been slow to embrace the internet and many cannot be found by web search. However if they are, insight can be gained from reading up on their approach to therapy, where and when they work, any special interests, and any other information available (e.g. blog posts).
Psychologists are banned from using any client testimonials in advertising/ on websites by their professional body, o you can’t use these to judge quality. Health professionals including GPs can recommend Psychologists to you and friends may be able to help too – if you trust their judgement, it’s a good way to narrow your search.
Research has shown that the biggest predictor of client improvement during therapy is the ‘therapeutic alliance’ - how much you trust your Psychologist and their suggestions. This has been shown to be much more influential than the style of therapy or even the Psychologist’s special interests. If you can’t trust your Psychologist and tell them what’s really going on for you, they won’t be able to appraise the situation accurately and offer you the best help applicable to your situation.
How can you judge personality? Read their website (if they have one) or call and speak to them. Use the above categories to determine what sort of questions you might want to ask. You can very quickly gain a general impression of someone’s personality by the way they speak and how they respond to questions. Go with your gut instinct! And if you go to one session and find the person is not the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to keep looking. You may need to tell your story a few times but finding the right person will make your experience much more pleasurable and beneficial.
Best wishes for finding your Psychologist.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.