Sep 10, 2012
We all want the very best for our sons and daughters. Most of us find 'shopping' for a psychologist pretty nerve racking, because we are not sure how to make an informed choice. Finding the right psychologist is a lot like finding a great attorney, architect, or surgeon. All of these professionals help us during times when we REALLY need a job done right, but unless you actually are an attorney, architect, or surgeon, it is hard to know how to judge their work until its all done. As with these other professionals, its best to do your homework ahead of time when selecting a psychologist.
So here is a quick 'how to' guide to finding an exceptional psychologist for your assessment:
1. Don't assume the best choice is a person who works for your insurance company. Insurance companies reimburse for assessment at extremely low rates--giving the psychologist no choice but to do 'quick and dirty' assessments so they don't lose money (the exception to this rule is teaching hospitals/medical centers). When it comes to assessment, you often get what you pay for. Just as you wouldn't skimp on an attorney, architect, or surgeon, don't settle for bargain basement assessment. Call the psychologist you want, and ask them if they do sliding scale, testing where the school system pays for it (Independent Educational Evaluations) or offer payment plans. They may be able to refer you to a place that does good reduced fee assessments as well.
2. Check credentials. Make sure the person is a licensed, doctoral level psychologist (or holds a doctoral degree in education, educational psychology, or human development). Professionals with masters degrees can not perform as extensive an assessment as a licensed psychologist, and may not have the training to fully understand complex cases.
3. Ask who will perform the assessment. Is it a grad student? Tech? A trainee? Find out ahead of time if the psychologist will actually be the one working with you, or just signing his name to the report at the end.
4. Ask about time frame. Make sure to ask not only when you can be seen, but how long you will have to wait to receive your report (not just when you will have your feedback session!). The practice should have a policy about timelines.
5. Check that the psychologist will spend enough time with you and your child to fully understand your case. You should have at least an hour of diagnostic interview, at least 4 hours for the assessment, and an in-person feedback session to discuss your results.
6. Ask how long the report will be. You can learn a lot about a practice just by asking this question!
7. If you have a specific goal in mind, (e.g. getting SAT accommodations, appealing a DDA ruling, or diagnosing dyslexia), ask the psychologist if he or she has experience in this area.
8. Ask if you can schedule a phone call or brief consultation to speak with the psychologist, especially if you are looking for an assessment for a child or adolescent. Check if the doctor is 'kid friendly' or will be able to put your teen at ease.
9. Check the psychologist's reputation. Ask people who regularly read psychological evaluations (attorneys, physicians, teachers, tutors, your school guidance counselor/principal). Check online review sites like DC Urban Moms, Angie's list, or your community list serv.
10. For children and adolescents, make sure the psychologist can accommodate any special needs or preferences. For example, for a very anxious child, could the psychologist do the testing over several days? Or if your child has limited verbal language, does the psychologist have nonverbal assessment tools?
In the words of Edna Mode from the Incredibles--"Luck favors the prepared", so do your homework!
Dr. Rebecca Resnik