Finding the Right Psychologist For You

7 Aug, 2019

The support of a good psychologist can be essential during recovery from an eating disorder.

It is important to find a practitioner that has the right skill set, experience and personality to fit your mental health needs.

Research suggests that the relationship between therapist and their client can be a big predictor of treatment success. So, it is worth spending some time to look for the right psychologist for you.

Where should I look first?

There are three major databases that list psychologists that specialise in eating disorders across Australia. One is on the Treatment Services Database on the InsideOut website. Another option is to call the Butterfly Helpline (1800 33 4673) and ask about available practitioners in your area. ANZAED also has a member directory that lists local psychologists.

Your GP may also be able to recommend some suitable people in your area.

InsideOut psychologist Rachel Simeone says the next important step is to find somebody that matches you.

“You could google the person and see what their profile is like online. Most psychologists have a little blurb about themselves on their practice website, and you can see if they would be a good fit for you,” she says.

Are they a good fit?

InsideOut psychologist Dr Helen Rydge says ideally the practitioner should have experience with eating disorders, as it is quite a specialised area.

“It’s not always going to be possible, particularly if you are in rural or regional Australia. But at the minimum, someone needs to have an interest and some training in eating disorders,” she says.

In the initial session you should get a feel for whether you are comfortable talking with the psychologist you’re seeing.

“It’s always going to be anxiety-provoking and tricky to talk to someone about your problems, but a psychologist that helps you feel at ease and helps you describe your story, and understands and listens, and you feel you can connect with, is very important,” says Dr Rydge.

Tell the psychologist what works

It can be helpful to give real time feedback to the psychologist during the session about what works for you.

“Psychologists are trained to be able to discuss your concerns with you. It might be useful to tell the psychologist you’re seeing about how you’re feeling and reflecting back to them how the session went for you,” says Rachel.

Stay open-minded

Try not to be discouraged if you do not immediately click with the first psychologist you see.

“If you see someone and you really don’t connect – try another practitioner. Speak to your GP for recommendations, they might have friends, word-of-mouth. It’s really important to keep trying,” says Dr Rydge.

It is also important that you stay open-minded about who you are seeing, especially when you do not have the ability to choose your practitioner, or you are allocated one in the public health system.

“In that case, it’s about giving it a go,” she says.

“The person who you’re seeing might not be the person who you would expect or imagine you’d see. But if they have an understanding and some training in eating disorders, then there’s a really good chance they’ll be able to help you.”

“So be open-minded and be collaborative with your practitioner.”

“You can still work to learn skills and strategies and have an understanding of what’s going on for you. They can help you gain insight.”

What if you are not progressing?

If you have been seeing a psychologist for a while and feel that your progress is too slow or stalled, you should voice your concerns.

“I would raise that with my therapist,” says Dr Rydge.

“Ideally, a good therapist would be raising that with you. They should be bringing that up, first and foremost, about progress and about expectations, and whether you’re stuck. But if they’re not bringing that up, then you need to do that.”

Involve other people

Rachel Simeone says a good therapist will often invite your support people into the therapy room.

“It’s often important that your treatment includes other people than just you and your therapist,” she says.

“For a lot of people it’s really important to have a collaborative team, that includes your GP, dietitian, psychiatrist, and other people involved in your care, and that they’re communicating regularly with each other.”

“It may also be an important part of your therapy to bring along people, like your partner or parents, so that your psychologist and them can get on the same page as well."

The therapeutic relationship is an important one, so take the time to find the right psychologist for you. Stay open-minded and be sure to give it enough time to make a considered decision about whether or not the fit is right. But don’t be scared to change therapists if it isn’t working for you.