What a psychologist does

A psychologist is a professional with the required training, education and skills to work with people toward diagnosing and providing treatment for behavioral, mental and emotional disorders. This scientific field studies mental processes and human behavior and strives to understand people through their thoughts, emotions, perceptions and actions. A psychologist helps people manage and cope with issues that may cause stress and make positive changes in their behavior and or lifestyle.

Practicing psychologists may offer treatment on an individual basis as well for couples, families and groups. Their services help people deal with stressful and sometimes debilitating circumstances such as job loss, marital difficulties, substance abuse and depression. Treatment may include an evaluation and assessment with follow-up therapy. Psychologists will work with the primary care physician or a psychiatrist if medication is beneficial in treating the patient. Psychologists help people develop a plan to ease their stress and make their lives more productive.

Where to find the right psychologist

Psychologists help people to deal with stressful issues that directly impact their lives, working with them to manage and overcome problems on multiple levels. Sometimes sharing your concerns and troubles with a close family member or a friend may not resolve the distress. In these cases, you should consider seeing a psychologist for evaluation and treatment. Your regular doctor is an excellent source for providing you with referrals for psychologists in your area.

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers tips and suggestions to help you select a psychologist. Your local or state psychological association may have information on local psychologists, along with your local community mental health center. For a great source, check Angie's List for reviews and ratings posted by other Angie's List members who have written about their experience with local practitioners. You can also verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, areas of speciality, affiliated hospitals and health insurance plans they accept. 

Questions to ask potential psychologists

When you choose a psychologist, you'll want to meet with a practicing professional that has the required educational training and meets the regulatory requirements for the area where you live. You'll want to know whether the psychologist has a license to offer services and practice in the area you live. Ask about the charges and fees to receive treatment. Do you know if your health insurance will pay for these services? If you can't afford treatment, does the office offer reduced fees or is a monthly payment plan available? Can you access the office easily? You'll want to know whether a referral from your primary care physician is necessary. Some health insurance companies need a referral from the regular physician first. You'll want to determine whether the office hours are convenient and whether evening and or weekend hours are available. If you have health problems or are on any type of medication, will the psychologist work with your regular physician? 

You should meet with your short list of psychologists and ask questions to see if you feel comfortable pursuing further treatment. Make sure you have a good level of comfort and rapport during your session. Do you feel at ease in discussing your personal problems and is the psychologist a good listener? If you don't feel comfortable with your choice and feel that the psychologist is not addressing your problems, consider making arrangements to see a different psychologist. The right psychologist will have patience, be understanding and help you navigate through any issues, working toward a happier, healthier and more productive lifestyle.

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