How to Choose the Right Psychologist

How to Choose the Right Psychologist
Laura Reguera

Written and verified by the psychologist Laura Reguera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

The time has come. For whatever reason, you have decided to seek psychological help. But you don’t know how to choose the right psychologist out of all the psychologists out there. How can you pick the right one?

After all, we all know someone who has gone to a psychologist and not seen results. Your friend went to his appointments for a few months and the only thing he did was vent. He didn’t learn how to handle discomfort or deal with situations more appropriately. Keep reading to find out how to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones and choose the right psychologist!

“All people speak of the mind without hesitation, but they are perplexed when you ask them to define it.”

-B. F. Skinner-

What are the signs of an unreliable psychologist?

One of our main problems is the amount of people who hand out psychological advice without a degree in psychology. Therefore, if we want to choose the right psychologist, the first thing we must look at is their qualifications and degree.

We must take special care to look at their qualifications given all the alternative movements emerging to treat emotional problems like anxiety. There are new “miraculous” therapies that “heal” without doing anything. Reiki and Bach flower remedies are examples of therapies that have not been scientifically proven to be effective.

Even when looking for a therapist who is a psychologist, you have to be careful. There are many who are not good. I myself have seen a lot of patients who had gone to therapy before, but according to them it didn’t work at all.

How to choose the right psychologist.

How did they describe their sessions to me? They said they talked and talked without the psychologist contributing anything to the conversation. Patients feel relieved after talking, but over time they see that nothing changes. In the long run, the problem is still there; it just went away momentarily in the office.

Logically, the therapist has to do something. But not only ask questions. Psychologists who only do this are not good either. A good psychologist does more than ask questions. He or she also explains how mental processes work and gives the patient tools to manage them. 

What questions can we ask in order to choose the right psychologist?

In group therapy, I’ve found participants who, after I explained all this to them, have then asked me: how can we know ahead of time if a psychologist is bad? It’s very simple. To choose the right psychologist, we can ask questions.

You don’t have to be embarrassed. After all, you’re going to spend money on these sessions. It is your right to make sure you will be getting something worthwhile in return.

First, they should inform you of their degree and qualifications. Then you should find out what kind of psychology they practice. If the psychologist says he practices cognitive-behavioral psychology, it’s a good sign. The techniques of this method have been proven empirically. That is, they have stood up to scientific scrutiny.

“The great discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their mental attitudes.”

-William James-

This is a very important aspect, since there are many schools of psychology that use methods that do not actually help patients. In fact, some of them create a bigger psychological problemthan the one the patient had in the beginning. 

But be careful. Even if I practice cognitive-behavioral psychology, I may be a bad therapist. Therefore, when choosing the right psychologist, we will also have to ask about their specific methods and treatments they use. We have the right to know what the plan will be as well as the goals we’ll be shooting for.

A patient and psychologist in a session.

What should therapy look like?

When we ask the psychologist how he carries out the process of therapy, there are certain answers that will indicate whether he will really help us overcome our problem. For one, therapy should be structured.

A good psychologist does an evaluation and then comes up with a treatment plan. In general, the evaluation is done in the first two sessions and, based on the results, they come up with the objectives to be reached and the means that will be used.

“I guess it’s tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail, if the only tool you have is a hammer.”

– Abraham Maslow-

An example of good therapeutic process is if the psychologist states they will use behavioral activation for a depressed patient. He should explain to the patient what is happening to him and what techniques are going to be used to overcome his problem. That is, you have to know what the psychologist is working on with you and why. If, before starting therapy, the psychologist tells you all this, it is a good sign.

We must bear in mind that choosing a suitable psychologist means that we’re going to hire a professional who will give us tools to learn how to manage our problems for ourselves. The therapeutic process can take time. However, if the patient follows the plan, little by little improvement should be evident.

This improvement should give us greater freedom and control. It should reduce the impact of the disorder in our daily life, with the ultimate goal of restoring full well-being. If this is not the case, it’s logical to consider switching psychologists. Remember, even within a group of good professionals, there are psychologists who are better with certain types of disorders than others.

Images courtesy of Juliette Leufke, Kelly Sikkema, and Sebastian Mantel. 


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.