3 Tips in Choosing a Mental Health Professional For Therapy

Ahskendrick/ September 26, 2022/ HEARTcare, Preservice, Professional

By Rachel Pagaling, HEARTcare Project Research Assistant

Rachel Pagaling is a PhD student at the University of Calgary specializing in School and Child Psychology. She is also a Behavioural Consultant and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Trainee. Her graduate research focuses on mental health and supporting special education teachers. 

Professional, mental health

Choosing a mental health professional for therapy is a big decision because working with the right individual is an important factor in maintaining your psychological well-being. In Alberta, the mental health professionals who are permitted to offer therapy and counselling are registered psychologists, registered provisional psychologists, registered social workers, or certified counsellors. Among many things, mental health professionals may give you a safe place to explore your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. They can also give you insight into your current and past mental health struggles and provide you with coping skills and strategies to help you in everyday life.

  1. 1. Consider your background

Given how important your relationship is with the professional you choose, some factors you might consider when looking for a mental health professional include:

  • Gender: Do you think you’d feel more comfortable with a man, woman, or nonbinary person?
  • Age: Age is important to keep in mind. You can think of it as would you prefer an older/more experienced mental health professional? Or perhaps someone who is closer to your age and can relate/offer strategies that are relevant to you.
  • Culture: Some clients prefer working with individuals who are of the same cultural background as they are aware of their cultural norms and traditions.
  • Religion: Some clients prefer working with individuals who offer therapy in line with their religion and/or spiritual beliefs.
  • Fees: It’s important to keep your budget in mind when choosing your mental health professional. Click here for information regarding rates for registered psychologists, registered social workers, and certified counsellors in Alberta. Many of these mental health professionals also offer sliding scale rates.

2. Do your research

In Alberta, there are a number of mental health organizations that maintain up-to-date, searchable databases of registered psychologists, registered social workers, and certified counsellors.

Some of the most commonly used online search tools for Albertans include:

When searching for a mental health professional, you could start your search by typing in your city or postal code to generate a list of professionals around your area. You may also be able to search for types of therapy like multicultural, family, or feminist therapy. You can also search for specialities such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, or burnout.

By looking through the websites mentioned above, you’ll be able to review the professional’s biography, qualifications, credentials, location, areas of speciality, and therapeutic approach – all this information will be important in deciding which individual is the best fit for you. Most mental health professionals offer free introductory phone consultations, so it’s highly encouraged to take advantage of this to determine if you and the professional you choose are a good match.

3. Trust your feelings

After you have reviewed the mental health professional’s information and hopefully got the chance to speak with them, the Canadian Psychological Association writes that “the best way to determine if he or she is right for you is to use your feelings as a gauge. Does this person appear kind, understanding, and non-judgmental? Do you feel listened to and uniquely appreciated?”

When choosing to go ahead with therapy or counselling, it is important to keep in mind not to spend too much time looking for the “perfect” psychologist, counsellor, or therapist. You could always end therapy if you realize upon first meeting or during later sessions you two are not a good match.

Helpful Links:
What to Expect from a Psychologist

27 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Counseling

3 Tips for Choosing a Mental Health Professional