As a psychologist, I cannot ignore my own bias. I believe that psychologists are best at doing therapy. However, I cannot say that all psychologists are good, and I cannot claim that all social workers or psychiatrists are bad. There are some very capable social workers who I refer cases to and some psychiatrists who I believe are great pharmacologists and diagnosticians. Having said that, here are my suggestions for finding a good clinician.
To start with, you need to answer a few basic questions:
Do you have insurance that covers mental health?
What are your benefits per calendar year, and how are they really determined?
Do I have a problem that I do not want ANYONE to find out about?
If I want complete privacy, can I afford to go privately?
If you need to use your insurance, then contact your insurance company and get as many names of clinicians in your area as you can. They usually only give you a few. Many times the person who you speak to is only looking at a computerized list and they may not know the clinician's specialties or the closeness to your location. After obtaining names, you can call local hospitals and professional associations (like the Nassau County Psychological Association) and ask if they know the clinicians. If the patient is an adult, you can contact the primary care physician to ascertain if they know of the mental health professional. If the patient is a child, call your pediatrician, or the school psychologist, to ask for clearance on the names you received from the insurance carrier.
If you are having a specific problem that requires specialized training( eg. eating disorders, marriage issues, substance abuse, etc.), it may be helpful to contact organizations or self-help groups to get names that they may recommend.
Lastly, and most importantly, call the professionals and ask them all the questions you need to on the phone. In a few short minutes you can get a sense of what they are like, if you are comfortable with them, and if they sound knowledgeable. Trust your own judgment, because no matter what the treatment style or approach of the therapist is, you have to be comfortable and trust them.
To check on whether a psychologist or social worker is licensed, you can verify someone|s license by either calling the licensing board at (518) 474-3817 or by visiting their website at www.op.nysed.gov.
Next article - The Major Orientations of Psychologists.