In this second installment of my mini-writing series on Mental Health, Burnout and Burnout recovery, I will share my experiences and thoughts about finding the right Psychologist. Specifically, how to go about finding one, and how to assess whether the psychologist you find is right for you
Qualification and Professional Membership – It is important to find the right kind of professional to take you through your journey. This is important as when you are experiencing a mental health issue, as is the case with a physical health issue, it is important to ensure that you are evaluated and treated by a health professional who has the correct training to be able to assist you. In South Africa, to practise as a psychologist, an individual needs to have obtained a master's degree in Psychology. This is the minimum qualification of a practising psychologist. A practising psychologist also must be registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA). A registered Psychologist will have a practice number with the HPSCA which they will be able to share with you should you ask for it. Being a registered practitioner with the HPSCA ensures that the individual has met the requirements to provide you with the highest level of care.
Depending on the nature of your challenge, you may find value in speaking to people such as pastors or other religious leaders, counsellors at churches and in your community, life coaches etc. It is important to know that the assistance of such people is not the same as seeking healthcare from a registered Psychologist
Experience and Areas of Expertise – Different psychologists tend to focus on different areas of well-being. Be sure to discuss when booking your psychologist appointment what your issues are and how those align with their areas of interest and expertise.
Relatability – It is not always the case, but in general, one tends to one easily open up when dealing with a person who you find relatable or find common ground with. Ideally, when possible, it’s a great idea to find a psychologist who relates to you in areas such as your background, principles, values, religious beliefs and generational experiences. This may not always be possible but it certainly is worth trying to find.
Accessibility – It helps to find a psychologist who fits in with your expectation of accessibility. For example, if you are a person who values in person interaction, it may not be ideal to work with a psychologist who is only available on phone calls. One should also pay attention to whether the psychologist has reasonable availability should you need urgent access to them in a crisis. These are questions you can ask upon initial meeting.
General Administration and Medical Aid – The administrators of a psychologist practise are an important part of the clients experience when dealing with a psychologists. Great administrative offices make the clients experience quite seamless in terms of liaising with the clients to book sessions at most convenient times, getting in touch to remind clients of appointments, seamlessly dealing with appointment changes as required by the psychologist or client, dealing with the administration around payments and medical aid. As such it is quite important to find a practice that provides great administrative support.
Where to Look – Depending on your circumstances, there are different ways to access the services of a psychologist. If you are a student, the first point of call could be your student wellness office. Student wellness offices offer the service of connecting people to psychologists and generally tend to cover the cost of a certain number of sessions. If you are part of a company, it may be worth speaking with your Human Resources team as many companies tend to provide psychological services as part of the employee wellness offering of the company.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group https://www.sadag.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11&Itemid=114 also offer free access. Do note however that in some cases one might be able referred to a counsellor and not a psychologist.
Cost - In general, in South Africa, the cost of seeing psychologist ranges from R800.00 to R1500.00 per session, which generally lasts about an hour.
Finally I would like to mention medical aid and the prescribed minimum benefits offered for mental health and wellness support. Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) are a set of defined benefits to ensure that all medical scheme members have access to certain minimum health services, regardless of the benefit option they have selected. This means that if you are fortunate enough to have medical aid, regardless of which plan you are on, the medical aid is obliged to cover an extensive range of mental health conditions.