Deciding to See a Psychologist

Do I Have a Problem?

Making a decision to see a psychologist or other mental health practitioner can be a difficult one. Acknowledging that you have a problem, and arriving at the point where you are ready to talk about it, can be difficult. 

Many people feel uncomfortable about the prospect of talking about things that are distressing or even embarrassing to a complete stranger. On the other hand, people often find it much easier to tell their problems to someone they do not know and who has no expectations of them. 

Talking to friends and loved ones can be very supportive but sometimes it is difficult for people we know well to be objective and honest because of their feelings for us and of their roles in our lives. Further, our family and friends cannot recognize the type or seriousness of a psychological problem nor the best way to help us cope with it.

Who Do I See?

Once you have made the decision to see a mental health practitioner, you need to decide whom to choose. There can be many different people who claim to treat mental health problems. Not all of them are well trained professionals in the mental health field. Whomever you consult, it is important to ask them if they are regulated – in other words, do they have a license to practice? 

Why See a Regulated Professional?

Provincial and territorial governments give a few health professions the responsibility to license or regulate their profession. Regulation or licensure is important because it ensures that the practitioner has met a high standard of training and provides a high standard of care. 

If you have any concern about the behaviour of a regulated practitioner, you can contact the provincial or territorial regulatory body that licenses his or her practice. The role of the regulatory body is to protect the public by ensuring that its practitioners are properly trained and are competent. You have no assurance that an unregulated person is competent to provide the service offered and no regulatory body to contact if you have any concern about the service provided. 

How Can I Tell if Someone is Regulated?

You can verify a regulated practitioner’s credentials yourself by calling the regulatory body and asking if the practitioner is in good standing. The Canadian Psychological Association’s website lists the names and coordinates of all the provincial and territorial regulatory bodies of psychology: Provincial and Territorial Regulatory Bodies. Because psychologists are regulated provincially and territorially, contact the one in the province or territory in which you are receiving service because that is where the psychologist would need to be registered.