When should you see a mental health professional?
Most of us experience times when we need help dealing with problems or issues that cause emotional distress. If you are having a problem that is making you feel overwhelmed and/or interfering with normal daily life, you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced, trained professional.
While some people have been taught that seeking mental health (also called “behavioral health,” “psychotherapy,” and “counseling”) services is a sign of weakness, it can actually be a sign of strength in that you are using your resources.
Some of the most common types of problems that move people to seek mental health services include:
- Feeling unhappy, sad, or irritable most of the time
- Feeling worried, nervous, overwhelmed, and/or anxious most of the time
- Having emotional struggles that are interfering with your ability to engage in healthy lifestyle habits (eating, sleeping, exercise) and/or your ability to function at work, at school, at home, or in relationships
- Having thoughts of harming yourself and/or others
- Struggling with substance abuse or other addictions – or struggling with a loved one who has an addiction
- Experiencing a significant life change or loss. Examples would be: illness or death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, or a job change.
- Having an eating disorder and/or struggle with body image
- Experienced abuse at any time in your life and are struggling with how that affects you now
- Having difficulty communicating effectively with people in your life
- Having difficulty with your own sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of someone in your life
Types of Mental Health Professionals (MHPs)
There are many types of qualified mental health providers (MHPs) to choose from. The most important thing is to select a licensed professional who has the appropriate training and qualification.
The following are the most common MHPs and some of their credentials: Psychiatrists (MDs), Advanced Nurse Practitioners (APN), Psychologists (PhD or PsyD), Social Workers (LCSW), Marriage and Family Therapists LMFT) and counselors (LCPC).
All of these clinicians have advanced training and have passed licensing exams. They primarily use various types of talk therapy and/or medications to treat mental health issues. For children, some clinicians use play therapy. Many MHPs have specific areas of interest, experience, and expertise. It may be helpful to speak with that clinician or his/her representative to determine if he/she is a good fit for your needs. When it is in the best interest of the patient, MHP’s will collaborate with and refer to other health professionals.
Each group of MHPs must adhere to strict ethical guidelines, as well as federal and state regulations governing privacy and confidentiality. Clients of MHPs can expect that information shared with the clinician will be kept confidential, except as otherwise required by law. Examples of such exceptions include when a client is dangerous to him-/herself or others and when there is any suspicion of child or elder abuse. MHPs should review confidentiality with each client at their first appointment.
About the Author
Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Advocate Medical Group – Behavioral Health in Normal, Ill. She has helped her clients through a variety of issues for more than 20 years.