Find the Best Psychologist in Sydney: A Comprehensive Guide

Key Takeaways For How To Find The Best Psychologist In Sydney:

  • Online Directories: Utilise online directories such as AHPRA’s Register of Practitioners, APS’ Find A Psychologist, ACPA’s Find A Clinical Psychologist, or Psychology Today. 

  • Qualifications and Credentials: Ensure your chosen psychologist has the proper qualifications and credentials, including registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

  • General Practitioners: Speak with your local GP about psychologist’s they trust in the area.

  • Check Testimonials: Check for testimonials on Google or Yelp to get a gauge of other’s experiences with a psychologist.

  • Use Word-of-Mouth: Speak to either friends who have seen a psychologist, or chat to a psychologist you know to find recommendations of the best therapists around. 

  • Psychologist Publications: Use psychologist’s publications or blog posts as an indication of their expertise and involvement in their field.

  • Speciality Areas: Determine if the psychologist specialises in the specific area of mental health that you are seeking treatment for.

  • Essential Questions: Prepare a list of questions to ask your prospective psychologist to gain a deeper understanding of their approach, experience, and suitability for your needs.

Seeking psychological support is a courageous step towards achieving personal growth and well-being. However, finding the right psychologist can be overwhelming, especially in a bustling city like Sydney with a plethora of options. As a psychological team with over 15 years experience providing treatment services in Sydney, Cadence Psychology has crafted this comprehensive guide to help you navigate this process with confidence and clarity.

This guide, carefully compiled by our team of experienced psychologists, provides you with expert insights and practical strategies to identify the ideal therapist for your unique needs and preferences. We aim to empower you with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about your psychological care.

Through this guide, you will:

  1. Effectively initiate your search: Discover simple yet effective methods to narrow down your options and create a shortlist of potential psychologists, guided by our expertise in the field.

  2. Discern essential factors: Learn to identify key elements to consider when evaluating your shortlisted therapists, ensuring you find the best match for your specific needs, drawing upon our authoritativeness in psychological assessment.

  3. Empower informed decision-making: Equip yourself with the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about your psychological care, ensuring you receive the most suitable support, built upon our trustworthiness as a leading provider of psychological services.

By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will be well-equipped to embark on a journey towards psychological well-being, guided by the right therapist who can help you achieve your desired outcomes. Let’s work together to find you the perfect match!

Understanding Psychologist Advertising Rules in Australia

Have you sat down to search for “best psychologist in Sydney” or “best psychologist near me” only to notice no therapists were making this claim?

The reason for this is that psychologists along with 14 other types of health care providers that are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) are bound by a set of advertising guidelines which forbid them from using such terms. 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 most important parts of these guidelines is that psychologists are not allowed to use certain words to talk about themselves and their services such as the word “best”. So you shouldn’t ever find a Psychologist claiming to be the “best” at anything in Sydney or anywhere else in Australia.

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.

So where else can you turn to track down a top notch psychologist in Sydney then?

best psychologist in sydney advertising rules

Initiating Your Search: Effective Ways To Find Exceptional Psychologists

The following ideas are easy to access options when starting your journey to find the best psychologist for you around Sydney.

These resources are often a good way of canvasing the options that are available to you before narrowing your search to the best of the best.

Leveraging Online Psychologist Directory Listings

One of the first things many folks searching for a psychologist will come across is the big online directories. They are a great way to start finding out about who the psychologists are in your local area. The four largest online psychologist directories in Australia are: 

  1. AHPRA ‘s Register of Practitioners
  2. Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) Find A Psychologist
  3. Australian Clinical Psychology Association’s (ACPA) Find A Clinical Psychologist
  4. Psychology Today’s Find Counselling  

The last 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. 

On the whole though, these paid 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. 

If you just want a complete overview of every psychologist available in the suburb you’re interested in, then AHPRA’s Register of Practitioners is the most unbiased place to start as every psychologist is legally required to be registered with them.

Assessing Psychologist Membership in Professional Psychology Bodies

best psychologist in sydney professional bodiesOften times psychologists will advertise that they are accredited with a psychology professional body; but in Australia a psychologist only has to be registered with AHPRA to provide treatment.

All other bodies are advocacy and professional networks for psychologists. To make matters even more confusing, psychologists 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 each of which entitles them to put some letters at the end of their name:

  • Australian Psychological Society
  • Australian Clinical Psychology Association
  • Australian Association of Psychologists
  • Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia

Each of these groups tends to look after different sections of the psychologist community, but all they can really tell you (with even more research!) is what training the psychologist completed. So don’t be fooled into thinking that a couple of extra letters means much. 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.

Get General Practitioner Recommendations

find best psychologist sydney cadence psychologyGeneral 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 also have an in-house psychologist to whom most of the referrals are directed because this is incredibly convenient for the Doctors. And let’s not forget Doctors 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.

Utilising Testimonials as a Guiding Factor

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.

Expanding Your Search Through Online Psychologists

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.

Now I know this potential increases the scope of your task, but it also means that whether you live 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 whole world as each country has its own training, insurance and legislation for psychologists which limits most practitioners to their own country. But within Australia, this means you can see the best of the best no matter where they’re located. 

best psychologist in sydney online therapy

Seeking Referrals from Fellow Psychologists

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 therapy, 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.

Harnessing Word-of-Mouth Referrals

The best kind of psychologist referral is one you can trust. And there’s probably no better example of this than finding out about someone else’s great therapy experience. Often times those closest to you might have mentioned that they’ve sought help. This is a fantastic opportunity to get a first hand review of a psychologist. 

Be aware though that even though the psychologist may have been the perfect fit for your friend, this does not necessarily mean they will be a perfect fit for you. Everyone has different qualities that they seek in a psychologist which is what we’ll explore in Part 2 below.

best psychologist in sydney friend referral

Utilising Intake Calls for Assessment and Evaluation

best psychologist sydney therapy cadence psychologyWith online bookings being increasingly popular 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 5-10 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 lofty professional. 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 suggestions for you at the end of the article!

Determining A Psychologist's Speciality Areas

Now even though we said at the beginning of this article that psychologist’s are not allowed to advertise themselves as having specialisations, the reality is that some psychologist hone in on very particular clinical presentations. Some practices are even dedicated to just treating one type of presentation. Often times their websites will allude to these areas of focus.

Common areas that psychologists can sometimes dedicate themselves to working in exclusively include:

If these types of areas are important to you, then it’s vitally important to find out whether your prospective psychologist is trained up to provide treatment. For instance, the skill set of a generalist psychologist probably won’t encompass something as specific as autism treatment. A good psychologist will acknowledge this and be willing to refer you on to another professional that can provide the help needed.

Maintaining Awareness of Psychologist Marketing Tactics

This final point is a bit cheeky as it’s less about finding great psychologist options and more about seeing through the marketing tactics that can be used to fool you into thinking that a particular psychologist practice somehow offer a unique service. 

It’s important to remember that even thought psychologists do generally genuinely care about helping you overcome hurdles in your life, they are still running a business. As a consequence there are often a few marketing tricks that they use to try and make it seem like they’re offering a better service. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  1. Promises of a “Personalised Matching Service” – Some of the large psychologist practices can have dozens on psychologists on their books. They consequently offer a matching service where they promise to match you to your perfect therapist based on your intake call. While this might sound great, the reality of course is that you’re normally speaking to a receptionist not the actual therapist. In most instances this means the “match” is more of an illusion than a reality. 
  2. Free Initial Consultations – Most practices will provide an intake call as standard. However, some will advertise this as a free consultation creating the impression that you’ll actually get a free brief therapy session.
  3. Vetted Psychologists – Practices will sometimes claim that their psychologists are “vetted” to give them a greater sense of legitimacy. Of course, every psychologist is legally required to have specific qualifications to be able to practice, so what they really mean here is that they interviewed and hired the psychologist.    

Essential Questions to Ask Your Prospective Best Sydney Psychologist

best psychology sydney questions to ask cadence psychologyOnce you’ve whittled down your shortlist of fantastic psychologists based on the different factors we discussed above, we recommend contacting the psychologist (either email or phone is fine) and asking some questions to finally 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.

Remember that despite popular opinion, psychologist are just regular folks trained to help you break old habits and you’re welcome to ask them questions before starting the therapeutic relationship with them. From this point of view there’s no reason to avoid asking them questions like:

  • What type of therapies do you use? e.g. CBT, ACT, Schema Therapy
  • 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’s “FAQ” and “About Us” pages which is often a nice sign of transparency.

Don’t forget to check out our post on the qualities that make the best psychologists for a more detailed idea of how to ensure the best therapy experience.  

Conclusions For Choosing Your Top Psychologist

So there you have it – frustrating as it might be, finding your best psychologist in Sydney takes a bit of research, some quick questions, and if we’re being honest a bit of luck! Using the tips above though, you should be able to narrow your search enough to really improve your chances of finding a psychologist that works for you.

What really matters is taking the time to find someone who you are comfortable with and who can provide you with a clear pathway to change in your first session. 

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 in the long run.

Good luck finding your “best” psychologist wherever they may be in Australia! 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 your needs.


Find the Right Psychologist for you at Cadence Psychology

We can’t legally say we’re the best for you, but our therapists are keen to help you find your path to change no matter your issue of age. Contact us today to start your therapy journey!