Archive for November, 2013

A Guide to Finding Help with Mental Health

November 26, 2013

Sometimes we need help with problems beyond what family and friends can provide. Substance abuse, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are conditions best addressed by professionals who have the specialized knowledge to handle them.

But whom do you all for what and how can you tell if the professional is qualified to handle a particular problem? It can save time and minimize confusion to ask for guidance and referrals.

Many people can serve as guides. Your employer may have an employee assistance program which can put you in touch with an employee assistance professional. These people are trained to assess a problem, help when it’s possible and to refer employees to other helping professionals when needed. A school’s student¬†assistance counselor can do the same for young people. Other sources for help or referrals to help are clergy, hospitals and community-based mental health clinics.

When asking for referrals to mental health professionals, be specific about the nature of the problem as you know it. For example, if you know or suspect that substance abuse it the problem, don’t be shy about saying it. Helping professionals do not judge. They understand that we all have problems sometimes. Specific information can help them get you to the person who can most quickly and knowledgeably help you.

This is an important point. Various types of mental health professionals are trained in a general way to help people of all ages with a variety of problems. But many of them continue their training by focusing on a particular area of knowledge. For example, a therapist or counselor also may be a certified addiction counselor (CAC), which means s/he has developed additional expertise in substance abuse problems. This person may further specialize by working with adolescents who have substance abuse issues or people who relapse frequently.

When you select someone to call, ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask the professional to explain it to you until it’s clear. This is a good way to get a feel for how the person interacts with you. You’ll want to feel comfortable with this person and with entrusting your health to him or her.

A word about insurance: Call your insurance company to find out what mental health services are covered and for how long or how many visits. Be sure to ask the professional or agency which insurance plans they accept before scheduling an appointment.

It may take time and several calls or an introductory visit or two to find the person who can best help. Stick with it even though it’s a difficult time in your life.

Questions to Ask – Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine who can best help you.

  1. How many years have you been in practice?
  2. What are your professional credentials? (Write down the acronyms (letters) and names so you can ask for an explanation of any terms or letters with which you are not familiar.)
  3. Do you specialize or have a special interest in a particular area of mental health or behavioral health, such as substance abuse?
  4. Will your services be covered by my health plan? (Have your health plan information handy.)