Finding a mental health provider may seem like an easy task – after all, the internet seems to have made it more accessible. But when you need to find the right one for you or your loved one, you will realize that the process isn’t that easy after all. With so many options to select from, it can all seem daunting to pinpoint which health specialist to settle with.
In this article, we’ll highlight some top tips for finding the right mental health provider for you. But before you even sit down to differentiate options, it is imperative to understand the type of mental health provider that you need; whether it’s a psychiatrist, psychologist, physician, psychiatric-mental health nurse, licensed professional counselor, or a licensed clinical social worker.
All these professionals specialize in different mental health fields. For instance, a psychiatrist diagnoses, and treats mental health issues that offer psychotherapy and prescribe medication. A psychologist diagnoses and treats a range of mental health disorders and offers psychological counseling. But unlike a psychiatrist, a psychologist doesn’t prescribe medicines unless they are licensed to.
When looking for a mental health provider, a few critical pointers to consider include:
Although any mental health expert can address your condition, only a specialized one may be the best fit for your situation or issue. Specialization means that the expert has gone through additional years of study to understand the specific conditions you are suffering from. This allows them to render high-quality service than those who aren’t specialized. For instance, if you are grieving a loved one and need support, you may want to choose a psychologist who specializes in that area. The same applies to other mental health problems.
Your concern and severity of symptoms
As mentioned above, some mental health experts can help you but are not in a position to prescribe any medications. Others can do both. It’s, therefore, crucial to consider whether you need counseling, medication, or both. In some cases, you may have to see more than one provider – like a psychologist for counseling and a psychiatrist for medication.
Your insurance coverage
Your insurance cover may only cater to some type of mental issue, but not others. Some will provide cover when you get services from specific mental health providers. So, you have to be sure about this to know whether or not your condition is covered as well as your benefit limits.
With that in mind, here is how to find the right mental health services for you.
Where to find a mental health provider
You can start by asking your friends, family, and other people within your circle who have employed the services of a mental health provider. You may also ask your insurance provider for a list of covered mental health experts – or check their websites for a list. Your primary caregiver may also recommend or refer you to an expert they believe is a good fit for your condition. Other places to look include the internet, local and national mental health organizations, and phonebook listings.
Referrals from your friends and loved ones are great because often, these people have no affiliations with the caregiver and have no interest in promoting them. And since these are people with whom you interact with on a frequent basis, they are the best place to begin your search.
Insurance providers are also an excellent source for this information because most of them have a list of mental health providers that they work with. And even when they don’t have a list, they will always have an idea of different therapists in the area.
The internet has changed the way we do things – including finding caregivers. A quick search for the best mental health provider near you will reveal a list of options to pick from.
If you aren’t lucky with the above methods, you may try out other sources like the national and local mental health organizations and phonebook list. Your primary caregiver will also most likely recommend a mental health provider because of the industry network and knowledge.
Narrowing your search
Your search for a mental health provider will provide you with a list of several caregivers around you. Don’t get blown away with what you see or hear. It’s best to take some time off to match the available options head to head, to identify which caregiver matches your needs and preferences. Experts recommend narrowing down your search to at least five to six providers before you can start the comparison process. So, once you have your prospects listed, here are a few ideas on how to differentiate them.
What to look for in a mental health provider
Choosing a mental health provider is more or less the same as picking any other expert – you want to look at their training, education, and industry experience, specialization, treatment philosophy and approaches, insurance compatibility and operational hours. The best way to gain as many insights about a mental health provider is by asking them as many questions as you can think of. This will not only help you get the answers you were looking for but also gauge your comfort levels dealing with the professional.
Some people will want to know where the provider went to school or the license or certifications they have. Others are interested in knowing about the provider’s experience in their particular issue as well as their success rate. It might be in your best interest to find out about all these things. Training and certification will show you that the provider is equipped with the right knowledge to handle your problems. The industry experience, on the other hand, will show you that the provider is capable of successfully handling your issues. When searching, it’s good to keep an open mind – a therapist doesn’t need decades of experience or have to be a graduate from the best university because even those with credentials may not be the best. They may be smart – but that doesn’t translate to common sense.
There is an alphabet soup of MSWs, MSs, MDs, PsyDs, and PhDs, not to mention all the labels – family & marriage therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, licensed professional counselor, and family counselor. While all these therapists offer mental health solutions, all of them bring different experiences, training, character, and insights to the table. The best therapist for you should be one who specializes in the type of problem you have. For instance, if you are going to require medication, a psychiatrist may be a better option than a psychologist because the latter doesn’t prescribe medication under normal circumstances.
Treatment philosophy and approaches
A good therapist should be able to provide a general idea of your treatment plan based on your specific problem. It’s therefore critical to find out your prospective therapist’s approach in addressing your issue. And don’t leave it at that – you need to ensure that their response to your question makes sense. Take the time to learn more about how they carry out their treatment processes. You should also find out if they handle the services or outsource them to third parties. This information will help clear any problems or disagreements that may arise later on.
It is one thing for a therapist to be a perfect fit. However, it’s another for them to be in your location. A therapist may be renowned for excellent solutions, but if they come from a different state like you, they may not be the best choice. Therapy sessions may happen back to back, and traveling might be too much of a challenge, especially if you have so much on your plate. A good therapist is one who is close and whose operational hours coincide with your preferences.
Ability to listen
A good therapist is a good listener. How else will they be able to get to the bottom of your problem if they can’t listen? Luckily, you can get an idea of whether a therapist is a good listener during your phone consultation. Keep in mind that “good” listening is a bit subjective. A great therapist is typically nonjudgmental and compassionate. Some may prefer one who listens more as they vent and process. Others might prefer a more active therapist, teaching coping skills and providing lots of feedback. So, understand your needs as well as how you feel about a therapist and make your choice. But as a rule of thumb, you’ll know if they’re a good listener if you feel heard and understood.
In addition to feeling understood, work with a therapist who is able to communicate what they know about your issue through their training and expertise. So, essentially, you want to find out the therapist’s training and experience in your area of interest. You should also gauge whether their answer makes you feel confident that they can help. Many experts recommend that patients focus more on how it feels to talk to a therapist. Studies also support which client-therapist relationship plays a critical part in the success of the therapy.
How well is the therapist known on the market, and what are they known for? Is it their success or failures? Or their transparency or shadiness? Understanding their track record will give you a clear picture of what other people think about the therapist.
No therapist is created equal to another – and the same thing applies to cost. Prices may vary based on a range of things, including the therapist’s experience, location, specialization, reputation, among other things. It’s a good idea to work with a therapist whom you can afford their services. However, you still have to ensure that they meet the above criteria. Some therapists may issue low ball offers to lure you in and end up charging more. Others charge way too high for nothing. So just weigh your options and see what works for you. Again, a good idea may be to find a provider that’s covered by your insurance to limit your out-of-pocket expenses
Questions to ask yourself
When deciding whether a mental health provider is worth keeping, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do I feel comfortable, understood, and safe?
Do I feel free to air my issues?
Are my concerns being respected and accepted?
Does the expert have my full trust and confidence?
Does this professional believe in me and my capacity for wellness?
Making a selection
You need to ensure that you’re clear about your mental health concerns. You should also be sure about the severity of your symptoms as well as what to look for in a good therapist. Once that’s done, it will then be time to differentiate between the options you have and find out who to work with. Using the above criteria, it will be easier to identify the right option for you.