Choosing the Right Type of Health Care Provider
Finding the right mental health care provider can be a challenging process. To get a better sense of what you seek in a provider, it may help to answer some questions about your needs. Remember, it is always okay to switch providers and find one that is going to work best for you. Especially when it comes to psychotherapy, you should seek a provider you trust and connect with so you can bring your most honest self to your therapeutic work. Here are some questions to consider as you begin to look for a health care provider:
- What are the main things you want help with?
- Do you want to talk to someone about your current concerns or issues?
- Do you have questions or concerns about taking medication?
- What has your physical and mental health history been like?
- How will you pay for treatment (e.g., what will your health insurance cover)?
Who Provides Mental Health Treatment?
There are different types of professionals who provide mental health treatment. Determining which type of provider to work with can be challenging, but understanding different types of providers can help.
Psychiatrists (MD, DO) are medical doctors who specialize in the medical treatment of mental health conditions. Like other physicians, they have completed medical school but then go through advanced training to appropriately manage psychiatric disorders. Psychiatrists can assess both mental and physical health problems, and often your work with them will involve being prescribed medication. Some psychiatrists also provide psychotherapy.
Psychologists (Ph.D., Psy.D.) are doctors who specialize in mental health and have received advanced training in various therapeutic methods. These doctors are not able to prescribe medications in most states. Psychologists may provide one-on-one therapy and may work in different modalities such as with couples, families, and groups.
Advanced Practice RNs, Nurse Practitioners, and Physicians Assistants (RN, CNP, DNP, PA-C) are professional degrees in health care based in nursing and medicine. These providers educate, diagnose, and prescribe treatments under the direct supervision of a physician or without physician oversight.
Social Workers (DSW, MSW, LCSW, LICSW, LMSW, LSW) are professionals, some of whom specialize in mental health and are trained in various therapeutic methods. Social workers, unlike other professionals, integrate a social justice lens within their work. Social workers may practice one-on-one therapy and may work with couples, families, and groups.
Counselors (MA, MS, LMFT, LPC, LCPC, M.Ed.) are professionals who specialize in mental health and are trained in various therapeutic methods. Counselors may practice one-on-one therapy and may work in different modalities such as with couples, families, and groups.
There are many different types of mental health specialists who provide therapy. Looking for a therapist can be challenging, so consider using the following resources to support your search.
Talk to your Primary Care Doctor
If you notice something feels different with your mood or are having a challenging time doing things that once felt manageable, you may want to start the conversation with your primary care doctor. This doctor will likely be able to provide you with a referral to treatment.
Contact Your Insurance
Your insurance company should be able to help you find a provider that is in your insurance network. Calling the number on the back of your insurance card may be a good place to start.
Employee Assistant Programs (EAPs)
If your health care is provided by your employer, you may have an employee assistance program. Consult with your HR department, which can help get you connected to your EAP program. EAP works by offering a screening over the phone and then providing a referral to mental health services.
While it may be difficult to find a therapist online, there are certain search tools that can help make it easier. Psychology Today has a free search tool that can help you locate providers in your neighborhood. Providers on this website list their specialties, so this can be helpful to find care that will meet your needs.
Find the right therapist for you
Therapy can be an important part of treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mental health condition. Good therapy can help you process feelings, teach coping skills, and help you to find wellness strategies that can reduce symptoms and improve your overall mental health. Find out how to get the most out of your therapy experience, types of therapy, and how to go about finding a therapist.
Medications for Depression and Bipolar Disorder
There are many safe and effective medications that may be prescribed to treat symptoms of a mood disorder. Remember, no two people are alike, and therefore it may take some time to find the right medication and dosage that will work best for you.
Brain Stimulation and Other Technology Therapies
Treatment for depression or bipolar disorder often includes 4 basic elements: talk therapy, medication, peer support, and a personal wellness plan. But sometimes, these aren’t enough. Fortunately, there are several other biological treatments currently in use that have been shown to help reduce mood disorder symptoms.
Treating depression and bipolar disorder with different therapies and medication is often only part of the journey. And because everyone’s path to wellness is unique, it’s important to look at other ways to support your mental health.
Communicating with Your Health Care Provider
Collaborating with your health care providers (HCPs) can be very helpful in working toward achieving your wellness. You and your HCP should have a partnership in which you both have input and open lines of communication. A good health care provider pays attention to your needs, goals, and background.