March 1, 2006

About Shokooh

Finding a therapist


Dear Shokooh,

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?

Thank you,

Depressed and Unemployed in San Diego
(letter condensed)


Dear Reader,

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 ( 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 ( 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.

Be well,



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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