Choosing a Psychologist

By September 2, 2014February 11th, 2015Health and Wellness

Many events and situations in our lives present significant challenges, and sometimes those challenges require professional support. Psychologists are committed to helping people improve their well-being and deal with problems effectively.

Psychologists are trained in assessment, consultation, and treatment. They have the expertise required to work with people. They know how to help people deal with their feelings and attitudes and develop healthier and more effective patterns of behavior. Psychologists work with individuals, couples, families and groups and with people of all ages.


There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a psychologist. The very first one is qualifications. Choose a psychologist who is a licensed, experienced, and ethical professional.

In Alberta, psychologists are licensed or “Registered” by the College of Alberta Psychologists. A psychologist must have a minimum of a Masters Degree, have fulfilled the requirements of supervised practice, and passed oral and written exams in order to become “Registered” by the College. Psychologists adhere to a strict code of professional ethics and the College of Alberta Psychologists regulates their work.

Of course, each psychologist has a different amount of experience both in terms of years of practice and experience in specific areas of the field of psychology. As you go through your selection process, it is important for you to ask a psychologist how many years they have been in practice, what their areas of specialization are, and how much experience they have working in the particular area you need help with.

Confidence and Compatibility

When you are working with a psychologist, you are working with a professional. You should feel confident that the psychologist you have chosen has the expertise to help you with your concerns. You will have confidence in your psychologist if you feel safe, respected, and valued in the therapeutic relationship. Your psychologist should demonstrate knowledge of the area of your concern and his or her ability to work effectively with you. You will be compatible with your psychologist if you feel comfortable in their presence, if you feel trust in their ability, and if you feel listened to. You should feel that this is a person you can like and respect.


The final criterion to use when choosing a psychologist is results. It does help to see a psychologist and it can make a huge difference in your life. You will begin to see various aspects of your life in new ways and you’ll develop a greater understanding of yourself and your concerns. You’ll learn about yourself and how to manage problems so that you can stay in control of yourself and your life. While you may not feel better right away, you should be able to see positive results fairly quickly.

The goal of counselling is to help people to help themselves. Our job is to work ourselves out of a job by giving you the insight and skills to cope more effectively with all aspects of your life. Therapy should have a beginning and an end; it should not go on forever.

While you should feel comfortable with your therapist, therapy is not always a comfortable process. Your therapist should encourage you to work during the session and you will feel challenged to address the underlying issues of the concerns you bring to the counselling process. The final step is to translate your insights into your behavior. You should be able to see concrete results in your life.

Usually you will enter into counselling for six to twelve sessions. You will learn more about yourself, develop new skills, and deal with the concerns that brought you into counselling. You may want to return to counselling at a later date. Sometimes people resume counselling a year or two down the road. As you move through a process of integrating the initial learning, you may wish to continue your personal growth and address more complex issues.

Areas of Concern

Often, the first visit to a psychologist is in response to a family, personal, or career crisis. However, people work with psychologists for many reasons – they may have aspirations related to their personal and/or career development and ask a psychologist for assistance in achieving these goals.

Psychologists are qualified professionals who can help in the following areas:

· Personal growth
· Career planning and life transitions
· Marital and relationship issues
· Parenting and family concerns
· Separation and divorce
· Depression
· Stress
· Anxiety
· Pain management
· Health and wellness
· Traumatic experiences
· Grief & Loss
· Habit disorders
· Substance abuse
· Problem gambling
· Family of origin issues
· Workplace stress
· Performance enhancement

Shirley Vandersteen, Ph. D., R. Psych.
Consulting Psychologist