There are many reasons you may decide it’s time to see a mental health specialist—for example, you may be going through a major life transition, struggling with depression, or feeling simply overwhelmed by stress. While these are pressing concerns that should be addressed in therapy, many people will hesitate with the crucial step of finding a mental health professional they can talk to. And it can be tough to find the right fit. You should feel comfortable talking to your therapist about even the most intimate parts of your life, so you won’t want to scramble to find just anyone with the right professional qualifications. You’ll want to put in the time and effort to find the mental healthcare provider who’s a match for your personality and lifestyle by taking the following essential steps.
Check in with your primary care physician
Many people make the mistake of isolating their mental health, but mental health is a part of your overall health, so your primary care doctor should play a role in your treatment. Schedule a visit to your doctor for an initial diagnosis and an assessment of whether medical treatments are necessary in your situation.
Your doctor may order lab work to get a full picture of underlying physical conditions such as nutritional deficiencies or hormonal imbalances that can lead to mental health symptoms like anxiety and sleep loss, and he or she can point you in the right direction for further care. For example, if your primary care physician recommends taking medication for your condition, you may receive a referral to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication and has a more specialized mental health background than your regular doctor. When medication is not necessary, your doctor may recommend seeing a different type of therapist, such as a licensed mental health counselor, marriage counselor, or social worker.
Read up on treatment philosophies
There are many different approaches to therapy, including relationship counseling, client-centered therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Doing your research on different types of therapy can inform you on the best type of therapist for your needs, but you should also look for more specific treatment philosophies in a provider’s bio before making an appointment. Some therapists specialize in a religious approach while others will focus on specific client groups, such as veterans or the LGBT community. Remember—therapists are people too, and they will have their own opinions, experiences, and personalities to consider.
Don’t be afraid to take a test run
Of course, it’s hard to get a read on someone just on paper, so you might make a short list of mental health professionals whose credentials you like and schedule a series of introductory sessions to find the right fit. This is a common practice, as finding a therapist is a much more nuanced process than finding other types of medical specialists. You don’t have to dive in deep on the first session, but you will get a good feel for what it’s like to talk to a particular therapist and how your personalities will interact in that first visit.
With MeMD, it’s easy to try out therapy without a long-term commitment, and you can do so from the comfort of your own home. We have a large network of mental health professionals partnered with us to facilitate web-based therapy sessions at an affordable rate. No referral is necessary, so you can get started right away.