March 1, 2006
Finding a therapist
I am 27 years old and my doctor recently diagnosed me
with depression. After many visits with him and my own research, I have
decided to start taking an anti-depressant. He recommended that I
consider working with a psychologist to help me since the major causes
of my depression are related to my job and relationship. I was laid off
7 months ago and have been having a really hard time finding a new job.
I also recently broke up with my fiancé and can’t seem to
get over it. Where can I find a new therapist? How can I make sure
I’m working with someone legitimate?
Depressed and Unemployed in San Diego
There are many hurdles to starting therapy, especially
in a complicated situation that involves your work and relationships. I
congratulate you on identifying your 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 that should yield the results you are seeking.
First, have you considered asking your physician? Your
doctor sounds like a helpful resource and may have a specific referral
for you. I often encourage patients to see their physician as a first
step. In your case, you are already working with your physician on
medication management. I would definitely suggest asking him for
referrals to psychologists in your area.
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 depression will typically have extensive knowledge about
local clinicians with expertise.
Third, the American Psychological
Association—known as the APA-- is an outstanding resource.
They provide information and referrals on their website site (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.
You asked specifically about a “legitimate”
psychologist. 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 you.
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