How To Find The Best Psychologist In Sydney
Finding the best psychologist in Sydney or wherever you live in Australia isn’t easy. In fact, the short answer is it’s nearly impossible! But we want to help you understand why this is the case and teach you some quick tips to help you find your way to best psychologist for you.
Psychologist Advertising Rules In Australia
These guidelines are put in place to protect the public and ensure accurate information is portrayed about a provider and their services.
One of the big parts of these guidelines is that Psychologists are not allowed to use certain words to talk about themselves and their services, like; you guessed it – “best.” So you shouldn’t ever find a Psychologist claiming to be the “best” at anything in Sydney or anywhere else in Australia.
Although this might feel a bit annoying because it makes your quest for the best Psychologist harder, it’s actually a great thing! It prevents Psychologists from descending into a marketing race to the bottom akin to a group of snake oil salespeople.
It goes further though; Psychologists are also not allowed to use certain terms like “specialist” or state that they “specialise” in an area of treatment. But get ready for some confusion, because it’s only certain terms that are currently banned.
For example I could say that “Cadence Psychology has a heavy focus on treating anxiety”, but I can’t say “Cadence Psychology are anxiety treatment specialists.” The key here is that any advertising cannot create unreasonable expectations of treatment. Even words like “effective” and “cure” are discouraged.
So, typing “best psychologist in Sydney” on Google isn’t going to get you anywhere helpful, because our profession can’t use these types of words for your benefit.
So where else can you turn to track down a top notch Psychologist in Sydney?
Somewhat Helpful Ways To Find The Best Psychologist In Sydney
The following resources are easy to access when starting your journey to find the best Psychologist for you, but they do have a few limitations. These are often a good way of canvasing the options that are available to you before narrowing your search to the best of the best.
Psychologist Directory Listings
One of the first things many folks searching for a Psychologist will come across is the big online directories. While these are great at letting you know who exists in your area, they don’t really assist in letting you know about the quality of the therapist.
The three largest databases in Australia would be the:
- Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) Find A Psychologist
- Australian Clinical Psychology Association’s (ACPA) Find A Clinical Psychologist
- Psychology Today’s Find Counselling
All three of these are paid directories, meaning that the Psychologist paid for their listing.
In the case of the APS’ Find A Psychologist directory, therapists can actually pay extra to go to the top of the search results!
The Psychology Today directory is interesting as it randomly rotates which Psychologist’s profile appears at the top of the results, so it’s a little more ethical.
However, on the whole these directories are best thought of as being similar to a Yellow Pages ad; great to help you know what’s out there, but you’re still going to have to do some leg work to find out who provides a quality service.
Membership With Professional Psychology Bodies
Often times Psychologists will advertise that they are accredited with a psychology professional body, but things are a little complicated here in Australia. Technically a Psychologist only has to be registered with AHPRA.
The other groups are advocacy and support groups for Psychologists. To make matters even more confusing, we can’t even agree on just one professional body in Australia. In fact, the following are just some of the groups Psychologists can CHOOSE to join:
- Australian Psychological Society
- Australian Clinical Psychology Association
- Australian Association of Psychologists
- Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia
Each group tends to look after different sections of the Psychological community and entitles the Psychologist to put some letters at the end of their name, but ultimately they don’t help in determining which Psychologists are the best.
More than anything else, membership to these bodies just tells you that your therapist completed training of some description. But even this is different depending on the group. For example, ACPA requires its members to be registered as Clinical Psychologists, where as the APS does not.
So don’t be fooled, by the addition of letters such as “MAPS” at the end of a Psychologists title. Those letters were bought and paid for. Spend your time more wisely, by jumping over the AHPRA Register of Practitioners webpage and searching for your potential Psychologist’s actual credentials.
General Practitioner Recommendations
General Practitioners (GPs) are often people’s first port of call when feeling unwell. This means you local GP is often the first person to identify any mental health difficulties you might be experiencing. They’re also the person you’re required to see if you want to get a Mental Health Care Plan to obtain rebates on your sessions, so they’re an important part of the therapy process.
While some GPs have good training in Mental Health First Aid, the majority will refer out for most cases requiring therapy. Unfortunately this means you’re restricted by who your GP happens to know.
It’s quite possible that a great Psychologist simply isn’t known to them because they haven’t reached out to the GP as part of their marketing.
Sometimes the GP clinic might have an in-house Psychologist to whom most of the referrals are directed because this is incredibly convenient for the GPs. And let’s not forget GPs are incredibly busy people.
Despite these caveats, a GP is often a great resource for knowing some of the local Psychologists. Just don’t expect them to know everyone.
We’ve all gotten very used to checking out Google reviews when trying to find the best of anything. Those little stars carry a lot of weight. But guess what? Psychologists aren’t allowed to solicit testimonials or place them on their website. Both of these are actions are big no-no’s under the advertising guidelines.
Consequently most Psychologist practices are lucky to have even one Google review, because given the confidential nature of what we do most people aren’t rushing to advertise the fact they attended a Psychologist.
Of course AHPRA isn’t able to prevent people from using social media tools, so clients will occasionally leave a review on different review websites or Google. Be sure to check out the content of any review and make your own call on whether it’s too good to be true like anything else on the internet.
If you want to start a fight really quickly between Psychologists bring up the fact that Clinical Psychologists are able to provide bigger rebates that Registered Psychologists.
Clinical Psychologists are those who have completed a Masters of Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology whereas Registered Psychologists have used alternate pathways such as the 4 + 2 program or completely non-clinical degrees.
There is quite a bit of rebate about whether more training results in better quality therapy. The best way to look at it is probably that with a Clinical Psychologist you know what you’re getting in terms of their training, with a Registered Psychologist you’re going to have to ask a few more questions.
Like any profession there are good and bad Psychologists regardless of qualifications, but their training background might help narrow the field of your search.
Note: One final word of warning here is that the terms “counsellor” and “life coach” are not regulated. So anyone can advertise and practice as these without formal Psychology qualifications.
Better Ways To Find The Best Psychologist In Sydney
By now you’re probably getting the idea that there aren’t many ways to guarantee that you’re sitting in front of the best Psychologist in Sydney. But here are a few techniques you can try to ensure that the Psychologist you end up going to see is of high quality.
Ask A Psychologist You Know For A Referral
Did you know that as of 2020 there were actually around 39,000 Psychologists practicing in Australia? There’s a lot of us about isn’t there? Of course this is across a range of different roles and practices.
But if you happen to know a Psychologist then you’ve got a great resource at your hands. Why? Because you buddy Psychologist is bound to know other Psychologists who are worth your time. They’ll know the people who keep their training up, who went beyond introductory cognitive-behavioural threapy, and who tend to get good outcomes with their clients.
You might be asking why you can’t just see your friend. Unfortunately, Psychologists aren’t allowed to treat friends and family members. This is part of our practice ethics which are put in place to make sure we can be as impartial as possible.
Find A Psychologist That Provides Intake Calls
With online bookings being popular for more and more services it can be quite easy to book in a session with a Psychologist without ever having spoken to them. While this is undoubtedly convenient, it strips you of the chance to check out the Psychologist.
Traditionally most Psychologists have provided intake calls for new clients before the first face-to-face session. This served both the client and Psychologist well. For the Psychologist it provides a chance to see if the presenting issues align with their expertise. For the client it allows a chance to get a quick snapshot of the Psychologist’s personality.
These intake calls often only take about 10 minutes, but that’s enough time to get a feel for a person and help you narrow your search.
But here’s the thing; most clients never think to ask the Psychologist any questions – and that’s a shame.
A client recently asked me to do an elevator pitch about myself. And while it caught me off guard, it was really a great chance for me to explain to the client how I approach therapy. If it had been the case that my treatment style was really different to what they were searching for, then this was a phenomenal way for them to realise this fact before having to pay for a session!
Often times clients feel that Psychologists can’t be questioned as they are some type of omniscient being. But a Psychologist is just like any other health professional and you have every right to ask them some questions to determine if they are a good match for you. We’ve got some great question suggestion for you at the end of the article!
At the very least make sure any Psychologist you’re thinking of booking with is willing to provide an intake call with you before the first session.
Search For The Best Psychologists Outside Of Your Local Area
There’s actually never been a better time to see a Psychologist as thanks to the government’s changes to Medicare in response to COVID-19, rebates are finally available for telehealth sessions! That means you can jump on Skype or Zoom and link in with a Psychologist anywhere in Australia.
It doesn’t matter if they’re in North Sydney or Newcastle; you can source the best Psychologists in the country rather than in your suburb.
Unfortunately you generally can’t find the best Psychologist in the world as each country has its own training, insurance and legislation for Psychologists which limits most practitioners to their own country unless they’re willing to take a big risk.
Find A Psychologist With Some Publications
Did you know that Psychologists are supposed to be scientist-practitioners? This means they are both researchers and clinicians. Of course many give up the researcher side of things to focus on therapy once they have finished their Masters or PhDs, but this can still be a useful avenue for finding out more about your prospective Psychologists expertise.
Formal publications such as journal articles are generally peer reviewed and of a high standard, so they can give you a really good insight into the caliber of a Psychologist. Of course this will generally require a bit of Google Scholar searching unless the therapist has it listed on their website.
Other Psychologists are dedicated to writing books which again can provide insight into their specialty interests. For the majority of Psychologist however, even their humble blog can give a quick glimpse into how they view the world.
If their blog has a strong political view connected to mental health issues that could provide real insight. Similarly, if they rant about the healing power of crystals then that could be a good nugget of information to have before signing up.
How Narrow Down The Field Of Great Psychologists
Once you’ve got a short list of seemingly fantastic Psychologists, we recommend either shooting off an email or giving them a ring and asking some questions to tease out who would be the best fit for you.
Keep in mind that most Psychologists have very busy days and may not be able to respond to large emails quickly. They may prefer to arrange a time to call you as part of their intake process.
Questions To Ask A Prospective Psychologist
Remember that despite popular opinion, Psychologist are just regular folks and you’re welcome to ask them questions before starting the therapeutic relationship with them. It can be helpful to think of Psychologists as behavioural scientists that are trained in helping you break old habits. From this point of view there’s no reason to avoid asking them questions like:
- What type of therapies do you use?
- Can you explain a little bit about how that therapy works?
- Do you offer after hours appointments?
- How many years have you been practicing?
- What is your general approach to therapy?
- Do you have any particular areas of expertise?
- What is your training background?
- How regularly do you see people?
- Are you a directive or non-directive therapist?
- Are there any areas that you don’t treat?
- How do you measure progress in therapy?
Note – Many Psychologists will provide the answers to these questions up-front on their website which is often a nice sign of transparency. Check their “FAQ” and “About Us” pages generally.
So there you have it – frustrating as it might be, there really is no such thing as finding the best Psychologist in Sydney or anywhere else for that matter. There are just too many variables involved. At the end of the day it’s a case of different strokes for different folks.
Using some of the tips above though, you should be able to narrow your search enough to get a better chance of finding a Psychologist that works for you.
Of course, the reality is that you often won’t really know if you’ve hit a home run with your choice until you sit down with the Psychologist and start to work on things. It can be frustrating to have to change therapists (not to mention expensive), but if you’re not feeling heard and validated in session it can be worthwhile.
Good luck finding your “best” Psychologist wherever they may be! If you’re looking for a Psychologist in the North Sydney area feel free to give Cadence Psychology a call to see if we’re a great fit for you.