Finding the right psychologist for you may not be as easy as swiping right, but a lot like dating apps, you have to be prepared to try a few out before you find a good match for your mental health needs. You might be lucky and click with your very first one, or it may take you a few goes. Just remember the latter is very normal, so don’t give up hope. After all, as of March this year, there were 30 249 registered and practicing psychologists in Australia.
Besides a connection with the person, what should you be keeping in mind when looking about for a psychologist that suits your current needs?
Why Are You Looking?
Just like other health professions, many psychologists specialise in certain areas, so it will help you narrow down your options if you identify why you’re looking for one. Are you feeling anxious? Maybe depressed? Maybe you’re angry? Or trying to deal with trauma? Or having a problem with your relationships? Whatever it is, search for a psychologist specialising in that area.
Where Are You Looking?
“A good place to start is with your GP,” says Dr. Linda Swan, Medibank’s Chief Medical Officer, “They can provide an initial assessment and if needed, they can refer you to a mental health professional.”
Once you’ve consulted with a healthcare professional, the internet is a great resource. In particular, the Australian Psychological Society’s Find a Psychologist database can be the perfect place to get cracking. It’ll give you access to thousands of psychologists in private practice, and you can search by location and issue.
How Do They Make You Feel?
When I say you need a ‘connection’, I don’t mean necessarily the same type of connection you’d be looking for in a friendship. But also it’s not all that different. You do want to like them and feel like they relate to you.
“It’s important that you feel comfortable to talk about how you’re feeling so they have as much information as possible to help you,” says Swan.
Your psychologist may outline a treatment plan for you and together, you can set clear goals. If you don’t feel like you’re getting what you need from your psychologist, give them honest feedback but also remember it’s completely ok to try someone new.
Remember You’re An Active Participant
Having said that you should shop around, also embrace the fact that you’re a key factor in your own healing. It can be disheartening to go into a session thinking they’ll heal you pretty quickly when the reality is a little different. A psychologist can help you with coping strategies, but it’s up to you to put them to use.
How Can You Afford It?
The costs for a series of sessions with a psychologist may seem high for some. This can be a major deterring factor from getting the help we need, but it shouln’t be. Medicare provides 10 subsidised specialist appointments per year. You just need to check in with your GP who can help develop a personal mental health care plan and provide a referral.
Should your mental health care plan continue after these 10 sessions, then private health insurance steps in.
Look for health insurance that includes benefits which are more relevant for you. For example, Medibank is aware of the need for young people to access mental health services and has removed the 2-month waiting period for psychology on extras products such as Healthy Start Extras. They’ve also partnered with Beyond Blue to create an online mental health portal with coping tools.
Know That You’re Not Alone
According to the Medibank Better Health Index, 28% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 reported an anxiety disorder in the year leading up to March 2018. And Swan says that it’s important to seek help as soon as you can.
“Research tells us that the earlier mental health issues are treated, the better the chances of recovery.”
In 2016 to 2017, 2.4 million Aussies used a Medicare-subsidised mental health service, according to the latest Mental Health Services Brief from The Australian Institute Of Health And Welfare. So not only is seeking professional help not anything to be ashamed of, but it’s also easier than ever before.
If you are experiencing any mental health issues, please reach out to your GP to discuss a treatment plan based on your specific needs. If you need crisis support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.