Choosing to seek professional mental health help is a positive step forward, but may feel complicated. With options like psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed clinical social workers, it may seem overwhelming to choose the right practitioner. Consider these key questions as you search for the right mental health provider to support your family.
What kind of services are you looking for?
To begin the search for a mental health provider, think about the types of mental health support that would be beneficial to your needs.
Questions to contemplate
- Will a mental health evaluation or psychological testing be helpful in determining the course of treatment?
- Is there a need for medication or are you looking for an alternative plan that does not involve taking prescription drugs?
- Would participating in group therapy, individual psychotherapy, or a combination therapeutic options suit the circumstance?
- Are there concerns of substance abuse, addiction, or disordered eating?
- Has trauma impacted normal functioning?
- Does the mental health disorder disrupt daily activities enough to constitute residential or in-patient services?
- Does the presenting problem include a threat to safety?
- Does health insurance cover mental health services? If not, what kind of out-of-pocket expenses can you afford?
Does the provider’s experience and training match the kind of services you need?
Once you gain an understanding of the kind of services you are looking for, the next step includes researching qualified mental health service providers. Narrow your search to practitioners with expertise, like a combination of education, training, and experience, in the sort of issues you or your family are experiencing.
People tend to get confused with the differences between psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and psychoanalysts. As explained by David Daskovsky, PhD, Senior Psychologist at Yellowbrick Program, http://www.yellowbrickprogram.com/leadership.html#DavidDaskovsky
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed 4 years of medical school and a 3 year post-graduate residency in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat psychiatric illnesses. They may be skilled in psychotherapy, but, often these days, psychiatrists emphasize diagnosis, hospital work, medication management.
- Psychologists have doctorates (PhD or PsyD) in psychology. Generally trained and licensed to provide psychological testing, assessment, and therapeutic services, psychologists complete around 5 years in a doctorate program, a one year internship, and often a post doctoral specialization, which lasts another year or two. Psychologists vary in experience and expertise, ranging from neouroscience, geriatrics, etc. Psychologists who have PhDs are also trained as psychological researchers.
- Social work training is highly variable in content and emphasis. Some social work programs provide training and field work experience in psychotherapy but many emphasize administration or case management. Social work programs are about 2 1/2 years to an MSW and include 2 years of field work.
- Psychoanalysts are psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers who have received extensive post-degree training and supervision in providing psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy. Psychoanalysts also undertake personal therapy as a core part of their training.
Read about through bios of psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers to get an idea of the different areas of specialization. Visit the Yellowbrick leadership page to get a glimpse of the various roles of mental health experts and professionals, aiming to achieve positive outcomes with emerging young adults.
How will I know this provider is the right fit?
After coming up with a short list of potential providers, spend some time on the phone or in person with each. Ask questions, explain your concerns, and inquire about the progress they have helped others in your situation to make. Listen to their techniques and examples. Then, follow your instinct.
Finding the right fit in a mental health provider is crucial to a positive outcome. Yellowbrick takes the time to make sure each client is comfortable with their clinician. A mental health provider should be someone that you feel comfortable with, can open up to, and develop a trusting relationship. If you feel like the provider is listening to you, has the right amount of experience and success in treating cases like yours, and has an approach with which you feel comfortable, you may feel confident in your decision in pursing mental health care.