Finding help for a loved one struggling with mental illness can seem overwhelming with so many diverse treatment options available. In fact, many people simply do not know where to begin when researching a mental health provider. In an article by the Mayo Clinic staff, valuable tips are provided on finding the right mental health provider to suit your specific needs. Here is a list to follow and some items to keep in mind as you investigate possible providers.
The first step is to decide exactly what type of mental health provider you need. To accomplish this it is important to be familiar with the most common types of mental health providers and the services they provide. Mental health providers are licensed professionals who diagnose mental health conditions and provide treatment. The services a mental health provider offers depend on their training and specialty. Here are the six most common types of mental health providers and the services they provide:
- A Primary care provider (M.D., D.O., N.P., P.A.) can diagnose mental illness, prescribe medications and give general advice and support. However, most have limited expertise in treating complex mental health problems.
- A Licensed professional counselor (LPC) provides psychological counseling for a range of concerns but does not prescribe medication. Counselors may specialize in certain areas, such as career counseling or marriage issues.
- A Psychiatric nurse (R.N., A.P.R.N) provides psychological counseling and can diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Some can also prescribe medications. Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses who have training in mental health. Their level of training and experience determines what services are offered.
- A Psychiatrist (M.D., D.O.) can diagnose mental illness, prescribe medications and provide psychological counseling. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. Some psychiatrists further specialize in areas such as child and adolescent, geriatric or addiction psychiatry.
- A Psychologist (Ph.D., PsyD., Ed.D.) provides psychological counseling but generally does not prescribe medications. Psychologists are trained specialists in psychology. Like licensed counselors, psychologists provide psychotherapy in one-on-one or group settings. Most psychologists hold a doctoral and undergo postgraduate training.
- A Clinical social worker (M.A., M.S., M.S.W., M.S.S.W., D.S.W., PhD) provides psychological counseling but cannot prescribe medications. In general, social workers help people overcome social and health problems by providing a wide range of services. Social workers who provide mental health services have specialized training and most social workers have a masters or a more advanced degree.
The next step is to determine the specific type of mental health services you need. This assessment can include many factors. First consider the condition or concern. Most mental health providers can provide treatment for a range of conditions, but a mental health provider with a specialized focus may be more appropriately suited to your needs. In general, the more severe the symptoms or complex the diagnosis, the more expertise and training you need to look for in a mental health provider. Additionally, it is important to note that you may need to see more than one provider to meet your needs. The next factor you need to consider is whether you need medications, counseling or both because only certain mental health providers can prescribe medications. The last factor for consideration is your health insurance coverage. Insurance policies may have a list of specific providers covered, or only covers certain types of providers. Check with your insurance company to find out what is covered and what your benefit limits are.
The final step before your search involves knowing what to look for in a provider. Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions because finding the correct match is crucial to establishing a good relationship and getting the most out of your sessions or appointments. Some things to keep in mind when considering a mental health provider are: their areas of specialization, services offered, treatment approaches, philosophy, office hours, length of sessions, fees, amount of education and training, licensure (licensing requirements vary by state), years in practice and which insurance providers they work with.
Now that you know exactly what you are looking for, it is time to start researching the different mental health providers that fit your needs. If you have insurance, it is best to start your search by asking your health insurance company for a list of covered providers. To narrow down a lengthy list of possible providers it is always a good idea to consult close friends and family or seek a referral from your trusted primary care provider. A good resource for provider listings is available through local or national mental health organizations by phone or on the Internet. One excellent place to start is with the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI. Finally, you can find many counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, community service numbers or social services organizations by checking digital phonebook listings or searching online directories. Also, many mental health organizations supply listings of providers on their websites.
The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 407-574-5190 for more information.