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Choosing a Psychologist

Choosing a psychologist can be a daunting task. Many people aren’t sure what type of provider they are looking for or what the process entails. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

To search for a psychologist in Central New York by specialty, location, services offered, or populations served, please go to our online directory.

  • Psychologists typically treat mental illness through psychotherapy and can perform various types of assessment. If you are interested in psychotherapy or assessment, a psychologist may be the right choice for you. For more information refer to our What is a Psychologist page.
  • There are several different types of mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists and clinical social workers. To understand the differences, click here
  • Psychological assessment involves using a combination of tests, interviews, and observations to help answer specific questions about one’s current functioning. The assessment usually spans a limited time period (one to several sessions). The assessor can recommend specific treatments based on the results of the assessment.
  • Therapy is a collaborative, talking-based treatment that aims at improving your psychological problems. Psychologists typically use therapies that are research-based and require multiple appointments.
  • Psychologists can practice many types of therapy; however, most psychologists incorporate styles and techniques from a number of different therapies. If you are interested in a specific type of therapy, it may be a good idea to discuss this with your psychologist. For more information on the types of therapy, visit the American Psychological Association website.
  • You can also ask the psychologist at the initial consultation what type of therapy they will be using with you.
  • If you are interested in being treated by a specific type of therapy, you can find a psychologist who uses that approach through our online directory (search by “Treatment Approach”)

In New York State, psychologists currently cannot prescribe medication, however they will often work with a medical doctor such as a primary care physician or a psychiatrist to develop a treatment plan that includes both therapy and medication. If you are interested in medication you can discuss this with your psychologist and he or she will be able to help you determine how to seek out additional medical consultation.

You can obtain New York State license information for psychologists and other professions on the Office of the Professions website.

  • You can use the Find a Psychologist feature on the Central New York Psychological Association website to determine which psychologists may work with your insurance provider; however, you should always consult with your insurance provider to ensure your chosen psychologist is covered under your specific plan.
  • If you want to see a specific psychologist who is not covered by your insurance, you can call your insurance company to find out whether you are eligible for an out-of-network benefit. In this case you will usually pay the psychologist their fee and then you will submit the receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement. Depending on your specific plan you may receive a percentage back from the insurance company.
  • If the psychologist is the only person in the area who provides a particular type of treatment or assessment, or if you have another reason why you want to see this psychologist, call your insurance company and let them know your reasons. Sometimes they will cover a psychologist who is not in their plan on a case-by-case basis.
  • Having an open and honest relationship with your psychologist is an important factor in treating mental illness. Therapeutic styles can vary across practitioners. If you find it difficult to discuss certain topics with your psychologist, you may want to consider raising this with them for a discussion. Often times an open discussion can help clear up any misunderstandings or communication difficulties and improve the quality of your treatment. Ultimately however, you as the consumer have the right to seek out the provider with whom you feel the most comfortable. It is not advisable to do this after one session. A usual standard is that you meet with your therapist for at least three sessions before making this decision.
  • Also, keep in mind that Psychologists are bound by the ethical standards of the profession. Violations of these standards are rare. However, if they do such things as ask you for a personal favor, suggest you meet outside of the office for a chat, or if they spend time talking about their personal problems rather than focusing on you, these are indicators that the ethical standards may have been breached. Consideration should be given to your changing therapists and depending on how significant the ethical breach is, reporting it to the New York State Education Department Office of Professions.
  • The code of ethics for psychologists states that they should not have “dual relationships.” A dual relationship is one in which the therapist and client have another relationship outside of the therapeutic one (for example if the client is the teacher of the psychologist’s child). It is not a good idea except for in very unusual circumstances (for example in very rural communities where there are very few therapists available.) If you have a friend or an acquaintance who is a psychologist they can often refer you to another psychologist who will be more neutral and objective because they do not know you personally.
  • Likewise, except in cases where the psychologist is conducting family therapy, it is generally ill-advised for a psychologist to treat two or more members from the same family. This can create a conflict of interest and raises concerns about the psychologist’s ability to be objective and non-biased.