Finding a psychologist

The following is written in the context of Connecticut in the USA.

Psychologists and therapy

A psychologist is someone you see regularly, for example once weekly for a month. In the appointment you will usually talk at length about your day to day life and things that cause problems. The psychologists will help you to understand how you can improve your situation.

Seeing a psychologist is something that can be done for a short, time-limited period–e.g., 8 weeks, or 12 weeks. You do not typically see a psychologist for long, drawn-out periods without any benefit (if this is the case and you are still suffering, you can consider changing clinician). One frequently used approach is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

People who can help deal with mood disorder:

  • Psychologists are people who specialize in treating mood by therapy. They often have a specific approach; e.g., a structured 12-week approach to help you improve your life and control your depression or anxiety. Psychologists must have a doctorate. This is typically a five year degree taken after college. A traditional PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) involves clinical training - working with patients - as well as research training. A PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) focuses largely on clinical training.

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who typically specialize in treating mood via medication. They often also use talk therapy, but to a lesser extent (often much less). People often see both a psychologist and a psychiatrist in the same period to improve their mood.

  • Therapist, counsellors. ‘Therapist’ and ‘counselor’ are generic terms used to refer to someone who talks with people to help improve the quality of their life. Therapists include psychologists, but also many others trained in different ways and with (typically) a different focus to psychologists. For example:

    • Social workers (e.g., Licensed Clinical Social Workers [LCSW] or Licensed Master Social Worker [LMSW]) help treat psychological disorder. They are often particularly skilled in understanding and helping patients access broader services that they can benefit from. LMSW diagnose mental health disorder, LCSW do so under the supervision of another professional. In Connecticut a Master’s degree is required to work in Social Work.

    • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) specialize in providing therapy to couples and families. LMFT typically have a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy (Masters or Doctorate).

Why would you see a psychologist when you have epilepsy 

To put it mildly: Epilepsy can be complex, exhausting, and challenging. While many people with epilepsy have well controlled seizures and live happy lives, it’s not uncommon for people to experience anxiety or depression. These generic terms do not do justice to just how hard the experience of these conditions can be. You might be referred to a psychologist because:

  • You are feeling overwhelmed by your epilepsy. When epilepsy is diagnosed, it often takes time to understand what epilepsy is, how you can best manage and treat it, and how you can still be yourself alongside epilepsy.

  • You are depressed or stressed/anxious about your seizures. At times people can be afraid to go out due to their seizures, or be embarrassed by their diagnosis or limitations.

  • You may have conflict with your partner. Managing epilepsy can also be challenging for couples and therapy can help improve how you do this and your relationship with one another.

  • You may have had epilepsy surgery and be adjusting to life with reduced seizures or without seizures. This can, surprisingly, take quite a bit of adjustment for both the person and their family.

Finding a psychologist covered by your health plan.

To find a psychologist covered by your insurance, search for “find provider [insurer]”. You should be able to find a searchable list of therapists (often referred to as “behavioral health provider” or “behavioral health specialist”). You may need to click “find a doctor” then choose “therapist” (or similar).

Examples for Connecticut:

  • Anthem Blue Cross:

  • Aetna:

  • Husky:

  • Medicare:

Contacting a therapist

It is normal to organize a first appointment to see if you are a good fit with a psychologist/therapist. You should expect them to want to learn about you and your background, and what you want to get out of the therapy. It can be helpful to meet a number of therapists (e.g., 3-4) before making a decision about who you would like to see for an ongoing period.

If you see one psychologist and it is not a good fit, it can be disappointing. Psychologists vary markedly in their approach and their interpersonal styles in therapy, and research has shown that the quality of the relationship with the clinician is the key factor that predicts if therapy is useful. So if a first therapist has not worked after a few sessions, it is helpful to try a different therapist.