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How to Choose a Mental Health Professional

How to Choose a Mental Health Professional

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If you have never used the services of a Mental Health Professional, you may be unsure how to choose a provider that meets your needs. Here are some tips that might help.

Types of Mental Health Professionals

Mental Health Professionals are highly trained individuals who are able to both diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions which may impact an individual's everyday life. All have either a Master’s Degree or more advanced education and training. In addition, providers are licensed to provide mental health services. The services providers offer depend on their training and area of specialty.

Among the Mental Health Providers you will find in the Siouxland area are Psychiatrists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (L.I.S.W.) with training and experience specifically in mental health.

A Psychiatrist is a physician – Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) – who specializes in mental health. This type of doctor may further specialize in areas such as child/adolescent, geriatric or addiction psychiatry. A psychiatrist can:

- Diagnose and treat mental health problems

- Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy

- Prescribe medication

A Licensed Professional will have training and experience specifically in mental health and must have a Master’s Degree in Social Work (M.S.W.), a Master of Science in Social Work (M.S.S.W.) or a Doctorate in Social Work (D.S.W. or Ph.D.

Social workers:

- Provide diagnosis and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for a range of concerns

- Are not licensed to prescribe medication

- May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

When choosing among mental health providers, consider your concern or present symptom. If your condition is life threatening you will want to seek immediate help at a local emergency room. Otherwise you will want to spend some time to find someone who focuses on the problem you wish to address.

A Mental Health Professional will likely conduct an interview with you and pay considerable attention to your medical history. Gaining a stronger grasp of a patient's symptoms enables doctors to prescribe the most effective courses of treatment. Treatments may include patient education, therapy or medication.

When choosing a provider you will want to consider and discuss your health insurance coverage. Check with your insurance company ahead of time for a list of covered mental health providers, the types of covered services, and the benefit limits, so you're not caught unaware.

Besides asking your health insurance company for a list, seek referrals or recommendations from other health providers, such as a family physician or pediatrician, ask trusted friends, family or clergy, check local listings, search nonprofits, government or mental health websites that provide a list of providers in your area, ask your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) for a referral or contact a local or national mental health organization or medical society.

Either by phone or at your first appointment, consider asking about the provider’s education, training, licensure and years in practice; office hours, fees, length of sessions and which insurance providers they work with or if they work with Medicare or Medicaid; their treatment approach and philosophy to make sure it matches your style and needs, and whether they specialize in certain symptoms or age groups.

If obtaining a referral through employer coverage isn’t an option, many organizations can provide state-by-state mental health provider listings, including the American Psychological Association, National Mental Health Information Center and Centers for Disease Control.

Choosing a mental health provider can seem daunting, but with referrals and some research, you should be able to find someone with whom you feel comfortable and have a natural rapport.

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