David van der Want
MA Clinical Psychology (RAU)
I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones. - John Cage
Psychologist - Frequently Asked Questions
On this page I will briefly address a few of the most frequently asked questions that may arise when considering consulting a psychologist or entering a psychotherapy.
How should I choose a psychologist?
Choosing a psychologist is a very personal thing. It is perhaps a truism that the best way to find a psychologist is through a personal referral from somebody that you trust. Such sources include your general practitioner or other medical service provider and friends or relatives who may have consulted a psychologist. Alternatively, you may consult the Yellow Pages or an online resource such as the website psychotherapy.co.za which features a list of psychological practitioners.
It is worth bearing in mind that the single most important variable in determining therapeutic outcome is the quality of the relationship between therapist and the client. This emphasises the point that finding the right therapist is a matter of personal choice. This also implies that clients may need to shop around a little before finding a therapist with whom they feel they can establish a trusting and warm relationship. It may be a good idea to make telephonic contact with a psychologist you are considering consulting before making an appointment. Most psychologists will be happy to answer questions about their experience, qualifications and their own assessment of their ability to consult effectively with you.
I have never been to a psychologist before. What can I expect?
The first session with a psychologist usually focuses on establishing a relationship. The psychologist will generally ask you what brings you to the appointment and will listen sensitively and with empathy as you describe the circumstances that have made you to seek consultation. The psychologist will clarify points in your story and may also offer reflections on what your current circumstances are like for you. Some psychologists will ask detailed questions about your history, current relationships and family of origin.
Generally clients leave the first session feeling that they have been able to talk about this situation freely and easily. Ideally you should feel that you have been heard and that the psychologist is willing and able to engage with you in a way that, while it may not immediately have resolved the situation, at least provides some sense of relief. It is not uncommon for clients to be anxious on first meeting a psychologist: this is quite normal and to be expected because seeking professional help often feels like a big step to take.
Will my medical aid pay for me to see a psychologist?
Most medical aids do allocate some funds towards psychological services. In general however, these funds are somewhat limited and there is quite some variability amongst medical aids as to exactly how many sessions of psychotherapy they will pay for. It is a good idea to contact your medical aid before making an appointment to find out exactly to what extent they will fund psychotherapy.
In addition, the recent trend amongst medical aids is to request that the psychologist provide a diagnosis, treatment plan and prognosis including how many sessions the psychologist thinks will be necessary. Some medical aids refuse to pay should such a report not be made available to them. If this is the case and you are concerned about your confidentiality and privacy you should discuss the report with your psychologist at the first session.
Should you not have a medical aid many psychologists will insist that you settle your account after the first session and will submit an invoice to you on a monthly basis thereafter.