Finding a Psychologist

If you feel you need additional help, for example because you experience difficulties other than a straightforward dental phobia, we recommend finding a qualified psychologist.

Beware – in many countries, working as a therapist or counselor is unregulated. This means that anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a therapist or counselor.

Which brand of psychologist?

Psychologists come in two basic flavours: clinical psychologists and counselling psychologists.

Clinical psychologists help with mental health problems, such as anxiety problems including panic and agoraphobia, OCD, specific phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social phobia. Of course, they also help with other mental health conditions like depression.

Counselling psychologists focus on helping you resolve relationship, family or work issues, offer bereavement counselling, or can help with self-esteem issues – they help with “everyday” problems.

Which type of psychologist you choose depends on your specific issue. If you are looking for help with a mental health condition – including anxiety, panic disorder, emetophobia (fear of vomiting), or post-traumatic stress disorder – then a clinical psychologist may be best.

What other mental health professionals are there?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in mental health. They generally use medication as their treatment method, because that is their area of specialty. While medications can be useful for some conditions, they can often introduce additional difficulties when trying to come off them. They also can have an impact on your general health.

Other therapists and counsellors: These can be a bit hit-and-miss. It can be quite difficult for the layperson to figure out if those letters behind their names actually mean anything (sometimes, an impressive-sounding string of letters may mean nothing more than participation in a weekend course). Given their hit-and-miss nature, you should not hesitate to change therapists if you don’t feel you’re making progress. Of course, there are great therapists out there who are not necessarily qualified psychologists. You should choose someone who is registered with a reputable body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). In order to qualify for registration with the BACP, a therapist has to have completed a recognised training course and have on-going supervision. The BACP also operates a code of ethics and a complaints procedure, so there is some protection for clients.

How do I find a registered psychologist in the U.K.?

If you would like to get help on the NHS, you should ask your GP for a referral to a clinical psychologist. In some instances (depending on your problem), they may refer you to a different type of mental health professional who is qualified in cognitive-behaviour therapy (this is the most common talking therapy).

If your GP is unsympathetic and refuses, try a different GP in the same practice (or change practices). You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.

There are self-help computer packages available too, which can be accessed through your GP.

If you want to pay for treatment privately, you don’t need a referral. The British Psychological Society has a Directory of Chartered Psychologists which you can search online.

How do I know if the Psychologist is right for me?

If you are referred to a psychologist by your GP and for some reason you don’t like the psychologist (or you feel you’re no longer making any progress), you can tell the psychologist that you would prefer to see someone else.

If you find this too difficult, speak to the receptionist and ask if you can speak to or have the contact details for the Head Psychologist. You can request a change from the Head Psychologist. You can do this by letter, on the phone, or by visiting.

Alternatively, you can ask your GP for a referral to a different psychologist.

If you are paying for therapy yourself, it is generally a good idea to interview more than one psychologist or therapist on the phone or in person before making a final decision. Think about the kind of questions you may want to ask, for example, what experience the psychologist or therapist has with the type of problems you are experiencing.