Whether you’ve experienced the sudden loss of a loved one or you just aren’t feeling yourself lately, therapy can help people through all kinds of challenges. People turn to therapy for everything from low self-confidence to serious mental health disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 43% of adults with mental illness seek professional help, normalizing the concept that therapy is a tool all people should utilize as part of a healthy mind and body.
For the 57% of those who have yet to seek help, knowing who to turn to can be confusing. It’s not always clear which mental health professional, and what type of approach, is best suited to you and your personal needs. If you’re ready to take the first step to a healthier mind, keep reading to learn what mental health professionals are available, which treatment types are at your disposable, and how you can get started from making the first call to funding your visit.
Breaking Down Your Therapy Options
There are so many options among therapy approaches and mental health professionals that it can be tough to know where to start. Let’s take a look at the most commonly visited professionals, what they do, who they serve, and their educational backgrounds.
Common Types of Individual Therapy
Therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. There are therapies that target phobias, PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, more serious mental illness, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the most common therapy approaches, what makes them unique, and who they might be best to help.
In many ways, group therapy is exactly what it sounds like: A group of people, two or more, visit a therapist in tandem and discuss their shared issues together. Group therapies are common for couples and families, and can help them deal with difficult issues, such a grief, divorce, recovery from abuse, and more.
Online therapy has become more popular over the years and with the COVID-19 outbreak making social distancing the norm, online therapy is quickly becoming the norm, as well. Many of the same professionals who provide in-person therapy also provide online therapy; however, there are some therapists who provide online therapy only, and have built their practice around that premise.
Online therapy works by allowing the patient to use a video or text messaging service, especially one that is in alignment with HIPPA, to speak virtually with their mental health professional. This might be especially good for those who have precarious physical conditions, such as those at risk for infections like COVID-19, those who have extremely busy schedules, and even those who are simply more comfortable with undergoing therapy in the privacy of their own home.
Finding Your Fit: Questions to Ask Yourself
Just as every person is unique, every approach to therapy will be unique as well. That’s why it’s important to narrow down your options to find the mental health professional who is right for you. It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes the first therapist you try might not be the right one for you and in that case, it’s perfectly okay to keep looking to find someone who meshes well with your needs. To help you narrow down the options, here are some questions to ask yourself.
Do you often wish you could simply talk to someone who would listen with an impartial ear?
If this is the case, a counselor or therapist could be a great first line of defense. Consider the issues that you’re struggling with the most and look for counselors or therapists who are dedicated to treating those particular points.
Is it important to you that your mental health professional can prescribe psychiatric medications?
If you know you might be dealing with an issue that could require medication to treat, you’ll want to look at seeing a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has the power to prescribe medications.
Does a professional’s level of training matter to you?
If you want to see someone who has years of clinical experience and training, as well as a high level of education, a psychologist or psychiatrist could be your choice since they have doctoral degrees.
What kind of budget do you have?
Therapy can be expensive, especially when seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. How much your insurance will cover and how much you are willing to spend out of pocket, can help determine the options. Read more about funding mental health treatment below.
Finding Your Match Can Take Time
Once you’ve chosen a provider, keep in mind that your first match might not always be the right one. Ms. Augustus explains:
When to Seek Therapy
Anyone can turn to a mental health professional at any time; there doesn’t have to be a “problem” in order to seek treatment. However, there are some issues and warning signs that tell you to seek professional help for you or a loved one. Here are a few that should spark concern and push you to make an appointment.
|In Adults||In Adolescents||In Children|
|Substance abuse||Outbursts of anger||Hyperactivity|
|Suicidal thoughts||Sudden drops in grades||Excessive crying|
|Confused thinking||Arguments with friends||Acting out with anger or belligerence|
|Excessive crying||Physical aggression||Complaints of headaches, stomachaches, and general illness even though they appear well|
|Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness||Loss of interest in friends, school, sports, and hobbies||Self-harming|
|Sleeping too little, or sleeping too much||Spending a great deal of time alone||A preoccupation with death or dying|
|Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy||Neglecting appearance or hygiene||Withdrawing from friends and family|
Common Myths About Therapy
Unfortunately, the wealth of myths surrounding therapy can sometimes prevent a person from seeking help, even when they really need it. Let’s clear up some of these misconceptions.
- Only crazy people need therapy This is absolutely not the case. Anyone can use a good therapy session. Consider it a “tune up,” if you will, just providing an opportunity to vent to an impartial person who can provide you with some advice or guidance on typical, everyday problems.
- I can solve my own problems In many cases, you can. And that’s great! But sometimes problems can become too much to handle, too heavy of a burden to carry, and that’s when therapy can help. A mental health professional can guide you through the options to solve those problems and even help you see solutions you never considered before.
- Therapy always leads to medication Sometimes you might come to the decision, with the help of a psychiatrist, that medication is a good idea. However, medication is not a first-line treatment; talk therapy is. Many people find that simply talking to a counselor on a regular basis is all they need to stay on an even keel.
- If my boss finds out, I could get fired According to the EEOC, an employer cannot discriminate against you for having a mental health condition. You can’t be fired, forced to take leave, or rejected for a job or promotion for getting mental health care. Furthermore, an employer can’t rely on myths or stereotypes when it comes to deciding if you can perform your job; they must have objective evidence to prove you can’t.
- Getting help means I’m weak On the contrary, it can be quite difficult to reach out for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need someone to talk to, that depression is getting the best of you, or that you are having trouble handling a particular situation. Reaching out helps ensure you are doing the best things possible for yourself and those around you.
Where to Find Professional Help
Now that you’ve decided professional help is a good idea, how do you get started finding it? “In a perfect world, finding a mental health professional would be like shopping at a well-stocked supermarket – lots of choices for a variety of personal preferences,” Ms. Augustus says. “Unfortunately for many people, the search for a mental health professional begins with the list of “in-network” providers who accept their insurance.”
The good news is that as more people seek out mental health care, many insurance companies are expanding what they will cover. These steps can help you get started on finding the right professional.
Insight from the Expert
Dr. Amanda (Banes) Darnley is a licensed clinical psychologist with over a decade of experience working with adolescents and parents in a variety of settings including inpatient hospitals, residential treatment facilities, and outpatient practices.
The APA is a well-known organization that provides a wealth of information, including a provider locator.
This government website is a great overview of mental health issues across the United States.
This site can help you find assistance with mental health, as well as provide some tools that allow you to help others.
This site offers help for veterans and their loved ones.
This site offers great information as well as a rundown of the various types of professionals and what each could do for you.
Part of this website includes a comprehensive search portal to help find a therapist or counselor in your area.
NIMH provides a wealth of information on all aspects of mental health, including finding a professional.
This government website can help you find assistance; keep in mind that despite the name, you don’t have to have a problem with substance abuse to turn here.
This page has numerous resources to help veterans and their families.
You are not alone, and the data on this renowned site proves it. Read here for more information on mental health issues across the world.