Therapist, Psychologist, or Something Else: Choosing a Mental Health Care Provider
So you have come to the decision that you want to seek help with any mental health issues you may be experiencing. First of all, you should feel proud that you’re making the choice to strive to be your best self. But it can understandably be overwhelming when you begin the search to find the right type of provider for you. There are so many choices now, which is absolutely a good thing, but it’s not always easy to determine where to find care. I’d like to provide a small guide to help you make that choice.
TYPES OF PROVIDERS
To start off, just the terminology can be confusing! From psychologists to therapists, counselors to psychiatrists, it might be hard to know where to start. Here’s the difference between providers and what they can offer you.
- Psychologists–have a degree in psychology. They have studied behavioral and personality disorders and psychotherapy. They can make diagnoses but can’t prescribe any medication. They can help you determine a course of treatment and what your next steps might be.
- Psychiatrists–possess a medical degree. They don’t typically provide therapy sessions, but instead meet with a patient to discuss prescribing medications.
- Therapists–can have a degree in various fields. They are ready to help you talk about and address problems and feelings, and guide you through them at your own pace.
- Counselors–the same as therapists but usually they concentrate on one specialty or another, i.e. marriage counseling, family counseling, etc. Much like psychologists they can help you assess problems and follow a plan of action.
HOW TO CHOOSE
One of the first steps you will want to take is checking what exactly your insurance will cover. Many insurances will only have a certain number of each type of provider in network. It’s up to you to figure out if you are able to afford to go in or out of network for your coverage. Be aware that mental health issues often require multiple visits to deal with, so cost might be one of the most important factors.
Once you’ve got your list, start calling around. You need to see who is taking new patients. This can be a little disheartening at times because it seems that no one has an opening to suit you, but don’t give up. Providers can only take so much of a patient load and within a short amount of time there may become an opening available at your chosen provider.
If you live in a more rural area, you might have a more limited list to choose from. I know I am in a small town and the only choice available in my town is a counselor. Keep in mind that you might have to travel to find the provider with the right fit for you, but it’s an investment in yourself.
I hope this short guide has helped make your choices a little less daunting. Most importantly, know that you are not alone, and there are people in the world who want to help you.