Choosing a Psychologist


Guidelines for anyone considering Psychotherapy and Psychological Assessment

Download the Choosing a Psychologist brochure

What is Therapy?

Therapy is a partnership where the psychologist helps you better understand and solve your problems. It can provide the opportunity for you to talk openly and confidentially about your concerns and feelings.

What Is A Psychologist?

A Psychologist is a professional trained to assess, diagnose and treat problems. They are trained to understand behaviours, thoughts and feelings and to help individuals develop new patterns of behaving, thinking and feeling. Psychologists may have special areas of interest, such as dealing with issues of abuse, health problems, or grief. Psychologists may specialize in working with children, adults, families or groups.

In Nova Scotia, the profession of Psychology is regulated by the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology (NSBEP). To be registered, a Psychologist must have a graduate (Masters or Doctoral) degree, a period of supervised work experience, and pass professional examinations. A psychologist must also adhere to professional practice guideline and ethical principles. The registration status of a psychologist may be determined by contacting NSBEP at

Where Do I Find Psychologists?

  • Private Practice (usually available to all).
  • Counselling Centres at Universities and Colleges (usually available only to students).
  • Community Mental Health Centres (usually available to all).
  • Hospitals and Health Care Centres (often limited to referred patients).
  • Family & Child Guidance Centres (usually available to children and their families).
  • Other – schools, police forces, military and industry.

In some cases you may require a referral from a physician or mental health care worker.

How Do I Find A Psychologist?

  • Ask your family physician or health care worker.
  • Talk to family and friends.
  • Call your provincial psychological association.
  • Contact your community mental heath centre, hospital, and family and child guidance centres.
  • Consult the local Yellow Pages under Psychologist.
  • Ask the counselling centre of your local college or university.

What Should I Consider When Making a Choice?

It is important that you and your Psychologist work well together. You need to feel comfortable, respected and understood. Also, you should feel that you can trust the psychologist and be honest with him/her. The following questions may be useful when you first contact a Psychologist:

  • Are you a registered Psychologist?
  • What kind of experience do you have in helping people with my problem?
  • Do you have experience working with… (e.g. children, couples, adults?)
  • What will happen during our sessions?
  • How long is a therapy session? How many sessions will there be?
  • What is your policy about privacy and sharing information with my family physician, school or workplace?
  • What is the fee for your services?

Consider Therapy If…

  • You are unable to work through problems yourself or with the help of family and friends.
  • You feel helpless or hopeless and your problems do not get better despite your efforts.
  • You feel sad, blue, anxious, nervous or tense for a long period of time.
  • You or others notice a major change in your mood or behaviour.
  • You notice a decrease in your ability to concentrate, make decisions, eat, sleep, or carry out your usual activities.
  • You have difficulty relating to your spouse, partner, family or others.
  • Your are having difficulty adjusting to changes such as divorce or death.
  • You are having difficulty dealing with stress, physical illness, injury or disability.
  • You are dealing with problems such as drinking, gambling or drugs.
  • You have questions or concerns about parenting issues, your child’s behaviour or learning abilities.
  • You are having career or work-related difficulties.

Who pays for Psychologists’ services?

Hospitals and Community Mental Health Centres – Services are provided through government funding and are usually available at no cost to you.

However, provincial health care programs do not cover the services of psychologists working in private practice. If you see a psychologist in private practice, you will be charged for their services.

When seeing a psychologist privately, you have more choice over whom you can see and the waiting periods are generally shorter. If possible, you may wish to speak to several psychologists before making a decision. If there are fees, you may wish to ask the following questions:

  • What are your fees? (Fees are usually based on a 50-minute session.)
  • Will I have to pay HST? GST?
  • Do you use a sliding-fee scale? Please explain how it works.
  • Will I be charged if I miss a session?
  • How do you bill for services?
  • What types of insurance do you accept?
  • Will my insurance cover your services?
  • Do you bill my insurance company directly?
  • Do you offer a “sliding fee” scale (your income will help to determine your fee).

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) – Many companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to help employees with emotional and other problems. You may be able to see a psychologist or other mental health specialist through your EAP. Contact your supervisor or personnel department to see if this is possible.

Private Insurance – Many people are covered by a supplementary health care plan through their employer, in addition to MSI. Many supplementary health care plans pay a portion of the costs of seeing a private psychologist. Talk to your insurance carrier or employer to see if you are eligible.