What factors should you consider?
Consider these factors when choosing among the various types of mental health providers:
- Your concern or condition. Most mental health providers treat a range of conditions, but one with a specialized focus may be more suited to your needs. For example, if you have an eating disorder, you may need to see a psychologist who specializes in that area. If you’re having marital problems, you may want to consult a licensed marriage and family therapist. In general, the more severe your symptoms or complex your diagnosis, the more expertise and training you need to look for in a mental health provider.
- Whether you need medications, counseling or both. Some mental health providers are not licensed to prescribe medications. So your choice may depend, in part, on your concern and the severity of your symptoms. You may need to see more than one mental health provider. For example, you may need to see a psychiatrist to manage your medications and a psychologist or another mental health provider for counseling.
- Your health insurance coverage. Your insurance policy may have a list of specific mental health providers that are covered or only cover certain types of mental health providers. Check ahead of time with your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid to find out what types of mental health services are covered and what your benefit limits are.
How can you find a mental health provider?
To find a mental health provider, you have several options:
- Ask your health insurance company for a list of covered providers.
- Seek a referral or recommendation from your primary care provider.
- Ask trusted friends, family or clergy.
- Check to see whether your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) or student health center offers mental health services, or ask for a referral.
- Contact a local or national mental health organization by phone or on the Internet, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
- Search websites for professional associations that have directories of mental health providers. For example, the American Medical Association includes psychiatrists, and the American Psychiatric Association includes several different types of therapists. Many other professional associations have listings of mental health providers, such as the American Psychological Association and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
- Check phone book listings or search the Internet under categories such as community service numbers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists or social service organizations.
What should you look for in a mental health provider?
When choosing a mental health provider, consider these issues:
- Education, training, licensing and years in practice — licensing requirements vary widely by state
- Areas they specialize in and specific services they offer
- Treatment approaches and philosophy
- Which insurance providers they work with
- Office hours, fees and length of sessions
Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions. Finding the right match is crucial to establishing a good relationship and getting the most out of your treatment.
THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS: I must admit that I totally lucked up with both my Psychiatrist and my Therapist. My Psychiatrist is a personal friend of my Family Physician. Dr. P. was very familiar with my problems (as much as I allowed her to be) and she knew that I was going to have to have someone special if I was going to be able to open up to her. She knew that Dr. F. was just the type of doctor that I would feel comfortable with and would be able to work with her. She also knew that it would be a total waste of time to send me to a male Psychiatrist. I never, ever would have opened up to a male.
I had mentioned yesterday that I had not made it to my second appointment with Dr. F. That is because two days after my initial appointment (before I had even told my children that I had gone to see a Psychiatrist), I had a major health problem. I had developed several (over 2 dozen) Pulmonary Emboli and was rushed to the hospital. My local hospital told my children that I should not have made it to the hospital because of the severity of the emboli and it was decided to move me to a larger hospital. They were told that there was a huge possibility that I would not make it the 40 miles to the larger hospital. I was in ICU for several days before waking up enough to realize what had taken place. It was during this time that my second appointment was to have taken place. One of my daughters took the phone call from Dr. F’s office in which they merely said that I had missed an appointment. My daughter, the ace investigator that she is, went into power mode to find out what type of medical appointment I had missed and found out I had an appointment with a Psychiatrist. At this point, she and her sister and brother contacted Dr. F. and after several conversations, a decision was made that when I was released from the hospital, I would go straight to Atlanta to a Mental Health facility. I will talk later about the intervention that took place.
Upon my release from the hospital in Atlanta, I went back to see Dr. F. and she gave me the names of a couple of therapists to contact. I went in for an initial meeting with my magnificent R and absolutely fell in love with her, so much so that I never even called the second therapist. I have been so blessed to have found R. She totally “gets” me. At times, she kind of lets me slide, but has a way of bringing me around to what needs to be discussed. And I love the fact that she can say the word “damn” without getting all flustered. Sometimes, in therapy, words like that are necessary — from both sides of the couch.
TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER: I am worn out. Spent the morning at ENT’s office, then met my granddaughter for lunch. Came home, took a seat in recliner and zoned out for about four hours.