What factors should you consider?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.