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May 3, 2023
It is time to eliminate the barriers to finding mental health care.
May is Mental Health awareness month and we want to highlight a challenge many of us face — navigating mental health services.
How should you go about finding the right mental health provider? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the average delay between symptom onset for mental health concerns and getting treatment is 11 years. When you need a mental health provider it is important to know where to go and how to access care in a timely manner. It is time to eliminate the barriers to finding mental health care.
Here are tips and tricks that can help you navigate mental health services.
Learn about your employee assistance program.
Most employers will have an employee assistance program where you can access free therapy sessions. This is a great resource to help with short-term stressors or check-in during challenging times. Do not be afraid to ask for additional sessions when new stressors or life events present themselves.
Find providers covered by your insurance.
It is important to make sure that you know what services and therapies your insurance covers. Your insurance organization’s website should have a list of specialty providers they cover. Not all providers accept insurance — which you need to know before starting your treatment. If your provider does not accept insurance, reach out to your insurance company directly. You may be able to submit bills for reimbursement.
Start with your Primary Care Physician.
If you already have an established primary care physician, you are off to a great start. I always recommend reaching out to your PCP for a referral to a mental health provider. They can also help you get an initial meeting scheduled. This will ensure you get an appointment in a timely manner. Additionally, you can be confident they referred you to the right type of provider. Your primary care provider may also be able to start you on medications as needed.
Know what type of provider you need.
Part of the difficulty with navigating mental health services is knowing what type of provider you need. As mentioned above, starting with your PCP can help you to determine what the next steps should look like. If you need a diagnosis or testing done, you want to make sure that you are consulting with a psychiatrist or psychologist. When looking for a therapist you want to familiarize yourself with the diverse types of therapists and therapies that exist. Not all therapists have the same specialty. An ideal provider will collaborate with you on your specific concerns.
A quick note on “the right fit” — you want to ensure that you find a therapist that you feel comfortable with. If, after two or three sessions, you do not feel like the therapist is right for you, it is ok to make a change. Find a provider that you feel can better meet your needs. When it comes to medication management you will want to consult with your PCP first and from there you can identify a psychiatrist or Nurse practitioner that specializes in mental health.
As a bonus resource — here is a quick guide to the different mental health professionals you may encounter.
Types Of Mental Health Professionals
Psychiatrist — medical doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses.
Psychologist — Psychologist with a doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited/designated doctoral program. Trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy.
Clinical Social Worker — Counselor with a master’s degree in social work from an accredited graduate program. Trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group counseling.
Licensed Professional Counselor — Counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, counseling or a related field. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Mental Health Counselor — Counselor with a master’s degree and years of supervised clinical work experience. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor — Counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Nurse Psychotherapist — A registered nurse trained in the practice of psychiatric and mental health nursing. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Marital and Family Therapist — A counselor with a master’s degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Pastoral Counselor — Clergy with training in clinical pastoral education who is trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Occupational Therapist — A therapist with a master’s degree who helps those with illnesses to improve the skills needed for daily life and achieving personal goals.
If you have any additional questions or need help navigating mental health services do not hesitate to reach out to our Licensed Clinical Social Worker at firstname.lastname@example.org.