Selecting a psychologist is similar to selecting any other professional. You should assess the psychologist's credentials, including both training and experience. Discuss the fees before you begin treatment, and verify your insurance coverage for psychological treatment. Ask questions about the services that will be provided, so you will not get something different from what you expected. Finally, spend enough time talking to the psychologist prior to the initial meeting to determine how comfortable you feel when interacting with the psychologist.
Here are some important questions to ask:
- Is the psychologist licensed to practice in your state?
- Does the psychologist have experience treating your specific problem?
- What other experience does the psychologist have?
- Does the psychologist have a specialty?
- What kind of treatment will be used for your problem?
- What is the cost of treatment?
- What are the billing policies? Is insurance coverage accepted?
- Is there a sliding fee, if you can't afford the full cost of treatment?
- Is the office conveniently located?
- What are the office hours? Is an appointment available within a few days?
- If you have health problems, will the psychologist consult with your physician?
- If you are taking medication, will the psychologist work with your physician?
After gathering the above information, briefly state what your problem or issue is, and ask how the psychologist would proceed in working with you. This conversation will be an important measure of your comfort level with the psychologist. Does the psychologist listen to you? Do you feel comfortable talking to him/her? Do the ideas presented sound like a good place to start working on your problem? If you can't discuss your problems on the telephone, then set a date and time for the first appointment, and see what happens. But remember, you can always switch to another psychologist if you decide that treatment is not working for you.
If you have a managed care health plan, you may be encouraged, by the insurance plan or your employer, to first obtain the names of psychologists or other therapists on their panel, and choose from among them. If you follow this procedure, you will eliminate many qualified psychologists who may be better able to help you resolve your problem. Most importantly, some managed care plans will first refer you to therapists with less training and experience, because they are paid lower fees by the plan. They may not refer you to a psychologist unless you insist, even if there are several on the panel.
Currently, most managed care plans also have an out-of-network option. This option allows you to choose any licensed psychologist, and gives you much greater choice. Additionally, an out-of-network choice eliminates the need for constant oversight by the managed care plan, which requires your psychologist to provide the plan with confidential information about your problem and your treatment. You might prefer that this information remain confidential. It makes better sense to first select the psychologist you feel is best suited to your needs, and then assess the costs of treatment. If the psychologist you select is not covered by your plan, you can negotiate the fee with the psychologist, if the costs are beyond your means.
If you must use a managed care plan, then insist on the names of several psychologists. Be sure that the providers are licensed psychologists. If you are given the names of providers with less training, ask if the panel includes licensed psychologists. If the answer is yes, then ask for the names of psychologists in your area. If the answer is no, ask whether the plan has an out-of network option, so that you can receive treatment from a psychologist.