February 22, 2005

About Shokooh

Finding a good psychologist

Dear Shokooh,

Can you please recommend a good psychologist? My kids are having a lot of problems and my husband has agreed to visit a psychologist with me and the kids. I don't want to pick someone at random from the yellow pages. How can I check to see if the psychologist has a license? Where do I start?



Dear E.D.,

While your family situation may be very difficult, it is wonderful to hear that your husband is supporting you in the decision to start family therapy. There are many hurdles to starting therapy, especially in a complicated situation that involves the entire family, from spouse to child. I congratulate you on identifying your family needs and taking the first steps towards resolving the issues you are facing.

Finding a therapist may seem challenging, but there are many resources to assist you. You specifically used the word "psychologist" in your email so I assume this means you are looking for a someone with a doctoral degree in psychology (rather than a clinical social worker or psychiatrist, for example). Here are three resources which should yield the results you are seeking.

First, have you considered asking your family physician or pediatrician? A physician can be a wonderful resource for referrals to psychologists. In addition, he or she can assist by ruling out any physiological conditions that may be impacting psychological and emotional well-being. I often encourage patients to see their physician as a first step.

Second, if you live near a local university, you can call the psychology department and ask for a referral list. The university website is an outstanding way to learn more about the faculty members and their specialties. Someone whose life work is research into a specific area will have extensive knowledge about local clinicians with expertise. I don't know exactly what issues your family is struggling with, but an example would be to contact the lead depression researcher at the local university and ask for referrals to psychologists who specialize in working with depressed patients. Universities often have information about faculty members and their area of research on their websites.

Third, the American Psychological Association -- known as the APA -- is an outstanding resource. They provide information and referrals on their website site (www.apa.org) as well as by telephone. You can call 1-800-964-2000 and speak with an operator who will give you referrals to member psychologists in your community. This is a free service. The psychologists referred by this organization are members of the APA, which means that their educational credentials have been screened that they must abide by strict ethical and practice guidelines.

It takes years of education, work, and passing very rigorous tests in order to become a licensed psychologist. Verifying a psychologist's license status only takes seconds and anyone in the general public can do it. Simply contact the psychological licensing board of the state you live in and ask for verification. In California, for example, the California State Board of Psychology has a website (psychboard.ca.gov) which will tell you about the status of a psychologist's license in seconds. All you need to know is the psychologist's name. The Board will tell you the rest.

I wish you the best of luck and I am confident that you will find a psychologist who can assist your family.



This column is for general educational purposes only-- it is not a substitute for medical attention, counseling, or therapy of any kind. The Couch and the staff of this website urge you to seek immediate medical attention if you are in an urgent, harmful, or potentially dangerous situation. Psychiatric emergencies or urgent matters should be handled by calling 9-1-1 or going to the nearest emergency room.   Please note that your emails will not be answered on an individual basis and your confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Top

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