Choosing a Psychologist for an Assessment

Go to trusted sources when choosing a psychologist to best fit your needs.  You may already be working with your child’s school, your family doctor or a counsellor. All of these may be able to refer you to psychologists with specific types of expertise.  The final choice is always up to you!


School Referrals

If your child needs an assessment, ask their school for a list of psychologists they recommend whose reports they have found especially helpful in programming to meet a child’s educational needs. Ensure that recommendations are included for how parents can support their child at home.


Friends/Family Referrals

Ask friends or family members who have been in similar situations to share referrals to any psychologists with the right type of expertise (cognitive, academic, processing, social, emotional, behavioral, etc.).


Family Doctor Referrals

If you have a family physician or pediatrician who you trust, ask them to share referrals.


The Psychologists Association of Alberta (PAA)

The PAA website allows psychologists to pay an annual fee so that they can list their services and describe their areas of expertise. Be careful in paying attention to what they do and don’t provide. The referral service does not, by itself, tell you the depth or breadth of the psychologist’s background or experience.  See below for questions to ask and consideration to keep in mind.


Interview Process

Be Clear on What You Want

Be as clear as you can be about what you are hoping for from the assessment and the professional relationship.

– Is it merely a diagnosis you need? Or are you looking for someone to explain everything to you in-depth?

– Are you going to be the main ‘consumer’ of the report or are you asking the psychologist to write a report for the school or your physician or your employer?

– If the main audience isn’t you, are you clear on exactly what the school (or other stakeholders) needs? If not, clarify with them before deciding who to work with.



Make a List of Questions

Create a list of questions for which you would like answers. Then aim to find people with the most expertise in answering those questions. Not all psychologists have the same assessment background and training.

Interview A Few Psychologists

As with other services, it makes sense to shop around for something as important as a psychological assessment.  Be prepared to talk to two or three psychologists to get a sense of their process, costs and fit for your needs before making your selection.

Finding The Right Fit

You need to be comfortable in asking questions of any psychologist with whom you plan to work. Start right at the beginning with their professional interaction.

  • Do they set you at ease?
  • Are they prepared to answer whatever questions you put to them?
  • If you want to ask questions before booking an appointment, will they chat with you?
  • If you want an in-person consult, can it be arranged?
  • Are they able to communicate with you in your preferred method: phone, text, email, virtual meeting, etc.?
  • Can they potentially accommodate your work hours, if necessary?

Are you comfortable with them?


Professional Qualifications – Questions to Ask

Recent professional learning

What is the most recent professional learning you have had in this topic?
More newly qualified candidates can explain their up-to-date degrees and what they’ve been doing since being registered. Those with more experience will be able to share conferences, workshops, or even books and journals they’ve read recently or written.

Assessment focus of their practice

What portion of your practice do you estimate is devoted to this type of assessment?
There is no right answer but you can ask follow-up questions to get a sense of the degree to which they truly are experts in this field.

Focus of initial training

Was your initial training in counselling or assessment, or both?
If the answer isn’t ‘assessment,’ you can ask follow-up questions to find out if they have switched into doing more assessment or if they do assessments occasionally as a side part of their practice.

Few and far between though they may be, you do need to watch out for a practitioner who thinks they can do a bit of assessment now and again because they did take that one course ‘back in the day.’

Good fit

Why would you be a good person to assess myself or my child?How the psychologist comes across to you when asked what they are good at may tell you a great amount. They can explain their excellent communication skills,  report writing, or the ability to work with school personnel employers, or explain things in a meaningful way to you.

If this is for a child, they can tell you about how they go about making sure students are comfortable and ready to give their best effort in an assessment situation.


What are some examples of the types of recommendations or suggestions that you might make depending o the assessment results?
It’s important to ask them to provide you with the evidence that supports the recommendations that they make. For example, if a psychologist is assessing a student with reading difficulties, there is an extensive body of scientific knowledge about how children learn to read and what instruction struggling readers require. Are the psychologist’s recommendations based on that body of knowledge? If they can’t provide you with some up to date references, you may wish to go to the next name on your list.

Administration procedures

What are your administration procedures?
Finally, is the psychologist clear with you about all obligations you will have to each other? Are they reasonable and clear about their billing policies, booking, and cancellations, payment terms, etc.? This will be a professional relationship, and you can expect all financial and record-keeping aspects to be handled accordingly.