HOW and WHEN Should You be Looking for a Mental Health Professional
When Should You Seek Help
- There are changes in your mood, energy levels, your appetite, or/and weight has increased or decreased
- Going through your responsibilities and daily routine like working, studying, or doing chores, has become challenging
- Do NOT dismiss your struggles as being “not bad enough”. Everyone’s experience is different, and everyone deserves the help they need
- Do NOT wait for a crisis, you do not need to feel like you are at the bottom of it all to seek help
Seeking Social Support
Research has shown social support to be a strong resilience factor in a range of struggles, including those associated with mental health. Sometimes, we can feel uncomfortable or shy asking others for help, but chances are – there will be people who would love to be there for us.
- Reach out to those you trust or you are comfortable with
- Communicate your concerns, instead of ruminating
- Ask for support when you feel overwhelmed, physically or emotionally
- Ask the person you trust to regularly check on you
- When feeling unsafe alone – ask someone to stay with you or call a crisis center
- You do not have to engage in deep emotional conversations, you can simply ask for a distraction instead
Types of Mental Health Professionals
First, you will need to determine which mental health professional would you most likely need. Naturally, if you come to a mental health professional and they are not your fit, they will most likely refer you to a different type of expert.
The three types of mental health professionals I would like to highlight in this post are psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychotherapists. Sometimes, you would need to work with multiple types of professionals for the most efficient treatment.
- Psychiatrists – medical doctors who diagnose mental illness and prescribe complex treatments for it, including medication.
- Clinical Psychologist – a licensed psychologist, trained in providing psychological testing and assessment as well as psychotherapy. They often work in collaboration with a psychiatrist and can refer you if needed. In some cases, additional licensing can allow them to prescribe some types of medication.
- Psychotherapist – once again – not a medical doctor, unable to diagnose or prescribe medication. A psychotherapist/psychologist will focus on providing the therapy of their choice. It would also be up to you to research their background and focus to choose between anything from psychoanalysis to dance movement therapy. You do not have to have severe mental health issues to attend psychotherapy. In fact, in my opinion, any individual could benefit from it.
Searching for a Mental Health Professional Locally
- Do some research on your local professionals and mental health organizations. Note their background: education, training, field of research, and language. See if they would be available face-to-face, online, or both for your future comfort. At low energy levels, it might sometimes be difficult to attend in person
- If you have health insurance, you could contact your company to be informed of the relevant conditions. Note that in some cases the company would have a right to access your records if you choose to seek help through them
- You can contact your general practitioner to get a referral to a psychologist or a psychiatrist
- There is a variety of therapies out there, it is not simply either medication or talking. Depending on your further progress, you could have a combination of different approaches for the best effect. Stay open-minded since it can take some time to find what works for you.
- If you are in immediate danger, for example, you feel like harming yourself – please contact your local crisis center or an ambulance
Your Introductory Meeting with a Mental Health Professional
- Despite doing your research, ask them about their approach to their clients/patients and what steps would follow
- Discuss confidentiality and boundaries. In most cases, everything during your sessions must stay confidential unless you harm or endanger yourself or others. Some experts will have a higher tolerance for self-harming behavior
- To be honest, nothing is embarrassing. Do not hesitate to talk about suicidality, even if it would have to be reported it would only be for your safety
- Voice your concerns regarding the treatment, and share its effects whether it is negative or positive
by Diana Sultanova, Mental Health Intern