Depression, Mental Health

The Nitty-Gritty of Finding your Mental Health Providers


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.

 Information from:  Mayo Clinic
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.
~~~ Betty
Depression, Mental Health

Looking for a Mental Health Provider

What type of mental health provider do you need?

Mental health providers are professionals who diagnose mental health conditions and provide treatment. Most have either a master’s degree or more advanced education and training. Be sure that the mental health provider you choose is licensed to provide mental health services. Services offered depend on the provider’s training and specialty area.

Below you’ll find some of the most common types of mental health providers. Some may specialize in certain areas, such as depression, substance misuse or family therapy. They may work in different settings, such as private practice, hospitals, community agencies or other facilities.


A psychiatrist is a physician — doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) — who specializes in mental health. This type of doctor may further specialize in areas such as child and adolescent, geriatric, or addiction psychiatry. A psychiatrist can:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medication


A psychologist is trained in psychology — a science that deals with thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Typically, a psychologist holds a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.). A psychologist:

  • Can diagnose and treat a number of mental health disorders, providing psychological counseling, in one-on-one or group settings
  • Cannot prescribe medication unless he or she is licensed to do so
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Psychiatric-mental health nurse

A psychiatric-mental health nurse (P.M.H.N.) is a registered nurse with training in mental health issues. A psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurse (P.M.H.-A.P.R.N.) has at least a master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing. Other types of advanced practice nurses able to provide mental health services include a clinical nurse specialist (C.N.S.), a certified nurse practitioner (C.N.P) or a doctorate of nursing practice (D.N.P.). Mental health nurses:

  • Vary in the services they can offer, depending on their education, level of training, experience and state law
  • Can assess, diagnose and treat mental illnesses, depending on their education, training and experience
  • Can — if state law allows — prescribe medication if they’re an advanced practice nurse

Physician assistant

A certified physician assistant (P.A.-C.) practices medicine under the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants can specialize in psychiatry. These physician assistants can:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medication

Licensed clinical social worker

If you prefer a social worker, look for a licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) with training and experience specifically in mental health. A licensed clinical social worker must have a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.), a Master of Science in social work (M.S.S.W.) or a doctorate in social work (D.S.W. or Ph.D.). These social workers:

  • Provide assessment, psychological counseling and a range of other services, depending on their licensing and training
  • Are not licensed to prescribe medication
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Licensed professional counselor

Training required for a licensed professional counselor (L.P.C.) may vary by state, but most have at least a master’s degree with clinical experience. These counselors:

  • Provide diagnosis and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for a range of concerns
  • Are not licensed to prescribe medication
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Information from Mayo Clinic.

Tomorrow, I’ll give some information on important factors to be considered as well as how to find a Mental Health provider.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I fought the idea of seeing anyone about my depression for such a long time.  For a couple of years, I just dealt with my problems through my family doctor.  We both finally realized that I needed some specialized help and she referred me to a Psychiatrist.  Man, was that a scary visit!  I had spent years and years and years of not talking to anyone about my problems other than my family physician and could not imagine actually seeing a Psychiatrist.  I had bought into the social stigma of thinking that only crazy people saw Psychiatrists.  (I know.  I know.  Even thinking that I was to see a Psychiatrist took me to that terrible word — crazy.  But, hey, at that point I did not understand mental illness and I thought just like everyone else — you had to be crazy to see a Psychiatrist.)   At the end of my first appointment, she suggested that I check myself into a Mental Health facility.  No way!  I remember telling her that I had  not even told my children I was coming to see her.  How in the world could I go home and tell them I was checking into a Mental Hospital?  No way!  I told her I would talk to them and would come back in a week to see her.  I didn’t make it back to her in a week and will talk about that in a later post. Thinking back on that first visit brings back so many disturbing memories.  I was scared to death, but had actually opened up for the first time to anyone about some of my specific experiences.  I had finally begun the journey of getting better.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Still dealing with some actual health problems right now and am having a problem getting into anything really personal.  I feel so badly that I don’t think I can feel like crap and deal with personal problems at the same time.  Hopefully, soon.

~~~ Betty