5 Tips for Choosing a Good Psychologist

The keys to choosing a good psychologist includes his or her certification, interpersonal skills, and active listening skills. Learn what to look for here.
5 Tips for Choosing a Good Psychologist
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 08 June, 2023

Making the decision to start therapy doesn’t usually come without previous reflections, fears, or questions; “What if I don’t like it? ” “What if he thinks I’m crazy?”, to mention a few. However, psychology is a science and those who practice it are prepared to put their knowledge at the service of helping and supporting people. Now, how to choose a good psychologist?

It’s important to bear in mind that the relationship established with the professional plays a key role in the success of the therapy. That is to say, trust and confidence are achieved not only when the professional is theoretically competent, but also when he/she demonstrates his/her interpersonal skills.

How to choose a good psychologist

There are many moments in which psychological help is key to recovering your sense of well-being; the death of a loved one, a separation, constant anxiety crises, stress, depression, and substance abuse, among many others.

According to a publication by the American Psychological Association, psychologists are highly trained professionals to address human behavioral issues, mental health problems, and behavioral changes.

Through psychotherapy and other psychological tools validated by science, they can help patients understand their emotions, change their behaviors, and develop healthier attitudes. But how do you choose a good psychologist? Here are some recommendations.

1. Get informed

There are many myths and ignorance about what it means to start therapy. There are those who only have in their heads the image of the couch or hypnosis. However, there are multiple currents and approaches from where this type of profession works.

Although it isn’t a question of studying each and every one of the available options, it’s good to orient yourself about what you are looking for and what is best for your individual needs. Psychology has a broad field of work, so there are specialists in certain topics.

So, if you’re interested in working on issues related to sexuality, family, or work, looking for a professional who works with what we need can be much more effective.

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2. Make sure they’re a certified professional

Psychology is a regulated profession because it works with people’s mental health. In this order of ideas, when choosing a psychologist, it’s important to look for professionals in places that are oriented to it. In addition, all psychologists must have their license to practice.

3. A good psychologist demonstrates that they take their work seriously and professionally

Going to therapy is not just sitting down to talk to someone. While the patient is explaining what’s happening to him/her, the psychologist is making conjectures and reading the situation. Especially in the first sessions, he/she will be gathering information, which is the basis for clarifying a diagnosis and understanding what is wrong with the patient.

He/she also seeks to negotiate the days of consultation, and convenient schedules, and indicates his/her fees, among other aspects that make up the working relationship. In this way, each meeting is given a framework that differentiates it from a mere chat with friends.

4. You should feel at ease

A psychology professional must not only be able to make use of his or her knowledge, but must also possess listening and communication skills to be able to make appropriate feedback and observations that are useful to the patient.

This implies not only the verbal level, but also the gestural, posture, tone of voice, etcetera. In therapy, every detail counts.

5. A good psychologist makes comments and provides information

There are some theoretical approaches that are less involved, but a psychologist has to be able to give information about what happens to the patient; in addition, he/she has to mention his/her hypotheses and his/her work proposal.

The aim of therapy is to be able to identify the aspects that don’t do the person any good and, above all, to enhance his/her healthy resources. Therefore, it’s important for the psychologist to share his or her insights and help to generate this sense of empowerment.

Signs to recognize a bad psychologist

There are also some signs that help to determine if the professional is inadequate. The most relevant are the following:

  • They breach the therapeutic contract. For example, if he/she is often late, cancels sessions without notice, and has other behaviors that go against what was agreed upon.
  • She or he doesn’t have sufficient listening skills. You can notice this if the therapist asks questions that we have just told him or her, doesn’t remember things that were discussed in the previous session, or is permanently distracted.
  • When he/she goes beyond professional ethics. A psychologist has a strictly professional relationship with his or her patients, beyond the fact that sometimes he or she may feel concerned after a certain session. That is to say, he/she should not establish friendly or loving relationships with his/her patients, nor should he/she write messages or make gestures that go beyond the professional relationship. If that happens, he/she should refer you to another colleague.
  • They judge and try to tell you how to think about certain topics that aren’t relevant to your therapy. For example, politics is not a topic that the therapist should be interested in, unless it’s the focus of work in the sessions. So you should not ever feel judged by regarding your choices or beliefs.
  • They reverse roles. Many times we may feel that it’s the psychologist who is engaged in catharsis and that we only listen to his or her own experiences rather than feel heard. If it helps to set an example, it isn’t bad for the psychologist to share some personal examples. However, he/she can’t be the one who’s the protagonist of the session.

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Your relationship with the psychologist requires time

It’s important to keep in mind that what’s built with a psychologist in the framework of therapy is a relationship and, as such, it’s important to feel at ease and respected. In addition, getting to know each other, feeling trust, and opening up to share more personal issues takes time.

We also shouldn’t forget that what some patients consider to be a “good psychologist” may not be the most suitable for others. Thus, choosing one professional or another is a very personal decision, since their therapeutic style is not the same.

If you’re not completely convinced, it’s better to request a change of psychologist rather than give up therapy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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