“Finding a Mental Health Professional Who’s Right for You,” Liahona, January 2019
If you’ve never had to choose a mental health provider before, you may not know how to find one appropriate for your specific circumstances. Here are some things to consider as you begin your search for the one who’s right for you.
Mental health professionals diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Most have at least a master’s degree or more advanced education, training, and credentials. Be sure that the professional you choose can provide mental health services.
Listed below are some of the most common types of providers. Some may specialize in certain areas such as depression, substance abuse, or family therapy. Keep in mind that how much they charge or how much education they have is not the best indicator of how qualified or helpful they can be.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) who specializes in prescribing medications to treat mental health conditions. They may further specialize in treating patient groups such as child, adolescent, adult, or geriatric patients.
A psychologist is trained in dealing with thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Typically, a psychologist holds a doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, EdD).
A psychiatric-mental health nurse is a registered nurse with training in prescribing medication to treat mental health conditions.
A clinical social worker has training and experience specifically in treating mental health conditions. Typically, a social worker holds a master of social work degree (MSW).
A marriage and family therapist has training and experience in treating problems relating to marriage and family relationships. Typically, a marriage and family therapist holds a master’s degree (MFT).
A professional counselor has training and experience in treating mental health conditions. Typically, a professional counselor holds a master of science degree (MS).
Your condition. Most mental health professionals are qualified to treat most diagnosable conditions, but you may wish to choose one who specializes in your specific problem.
Whether you need medications, counseling, or both. Many mental health issues may have a biological, psychological, social, and spiritual component. As a result, you may need to see more than one mental health provider. For example, you may need to see a psychiatrist to prescribe medication and another mental health provider for counseling.
You have several options:
Ask your primary care doctor for a list of providers he or she recommends.
Seek a referral or recommendation from a trusted friend, family member, Church leader, medical doctor, or LDS Family Services (if there’s an office in your area).
Contact a local or national mental health organization (by phone or online).
Search the internet for professional associations that have directories of mental health providers in your area.
Consider discussing these issues:
Are they an active member of the Church? If not, do they have moral values like your own?
What education, training, and years of experience do they have?
What areas do they specialize in?
What insurance providers do they work with?
What are their office hours, fees, and length of sessions?
When choosing a mental health provider, don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions. You can ask these questions prior to making your first appointment. Many providers will have a website that addresses many of the topics mentioned above. Finding the right match is crucial to establishing a relationship of trust and getting the most out of your treatment. As you prayerfully consider your options, you will be pointed in the right direction.