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1. Like everything medical, mental health is a covered benefit with most health insurance. Step 1 is to locate the mental health providers listed in your mental health provider directory.
If you do not have mental health coverage, your budget will impact choices.
Michigan 211 may help locate your options. Free emotional support via phone 24/7 is available by calling 888-535-6136 then prompt 8.
2. Clarify your service needs. What would you like help with? What do you hope to achieve with mental health therapy? Diagnostics? Grief work? Symptom specific treatment? Guidance, mentoring or support? Remember that only psychiatrists, doctors and nurse practitioners may prescribe medication. Speak with your primary care doctor if medication is your main concern.
a. Evidenced based treatment approaches to mental health offer treatment options that have been studied and proven successful. Evidenced based therapy is best for treatment of mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, guidance through stressful life events and recovery from grief, trauma and substance use disorders.
b. Supportive therapy is for those seeking “someone to talk to”. The therapist’s role is that of a paid listener. Supportive therapy does not set expectations, focus on change or measure outcome. That said, it’s only fair to inform you that most communities offer supportive listening at no cost. 12-step programs, local community support groups, educational centers, women's centers, schools, religious organizations, and non-profits are helpful in providing support without requiring a mental illness diagnosis or generating a medical record.
3. Once you have identified your specific needs, it's time to do your research. Check the education, credentials, license, and experience of anyone you consider. Just because someone claims to be a "therapist" or "counselor" does not mean they are a reputable mental health provider. Ask people you trust for names of therapists in your community. Ask your health care providers, educators, church, co-workers, neighbors. friends and family. Some social media groups offer recommendations as well. Conduct an internet search by location, treatment areas and services offered www.psychologytoday.com
I’m sorry, unfortunately bad experiences are real. Just like with a bad plumber, nurse, police officer, financial advisor, or teacher—every profession includes a range of different personalities and skill levels. Every professional has a learning curve during the first 10 years.
1. Let’s consider what made the experience “bad”. Use what you learned in the past to avoid the same mistakes when screening a potential new therapist.
2. You are not required to, but you are allowed to ask questions prior to scheduling therapy. If a therapist will not answer your screening questions, and you can't find the answers on their website or on the internet, move on to the next therapist on your list.
3. Inform the therapist of your needs and expectations. Discuss your likes and dislikes based on past experiences. Ask if your needs align with the services available from the therapist.
4. If you are court ordered for treatment, discuss your options and your rights with your caseworker, attorney, probation officer or advocate.
Check out the “Creating Best Results” pdf on this site. In addition to those 20 tips, I also suggest that you take responsibility for your therapy. The therapist provides the map, but it’s your journey and your choice of destination. You are welcome to use all the tools, videos and resources on this site with the therapist of your choice.
1. You could simply ask that exact question directly to your therapist either in person, on the phone, a voicemail or in writing. " I want to try a new therapist, but I am afraid to talk to you about it because I don't want you to be mad, offended or hurt. " A professional and skilled therapist will thank you for the feedback and assist you with whatever you need. If you prefer services that better accommodate your schedule, location, budget, personal preferences or treatment needs, your current therapist could offer ideas to assist you.
2. "Trying someone new" whether that be in the form of a transfer, referral, consult or closure, is similar in all healthcare. Patients have the right to advocate for their needs, assess progress and report satisfaction regarding care*. Honest feedback is important to create the best results.
3. You are not responsible for your therapist's emotions. Therapy is not a personal relationship; it is a professional relationship. You might feel loyal, friendly, empathetic or caring toward your therapist, but bottom line is that mental health therapy is medical treatment, not friendship. You are not mean or unkind when you advocate for your healthcare. Practice communicating your needs assertively to help overcome fears and establish healthy boundaries.
4. Based on your specific situation, personalize any of these examples to share in person, voice message, or in writing.
(*If therapy is employer mandated, court ordered, or connected to legally binding contracts, involuntary placement or incarceration—then contact your caseworker, attorney, human resources representative, probation/parole officer or mental health patient rights advocate to gain understanding of your specific patient rights.)
Thoughts for consideration: Determining therapy goals, symptoms to address, and changes you are willing to make, is a great way to help improve an “unhappy” situation. If your “unhappiness with therapy” relates to disinterest in addressing self-defeating behaviors, addictions or other behavioral changes necessary for mental health, then switching therapists may not solve "unhappiness". Discuss your thoughts about “trying someone new” with your other health care providers and with people whose judgement you trust.
Death by suicide is heartbreaking, confusing, and tragic. I want to share with you something that I learned while working in an outpatient mental health hospital. When we lost a patient to suicide, the whole treatment team would meet to debrief the crisis. We all— therapists, doctors and nurses shared our feelings of helplessness and grief. We wanted to know what we could have done, if this was anyone's fault, had we failed? We were the PROFESSIONALS and we could not prevent every death by suicide.
The most valuable information I received during a debriefing was from a psychiatrist who said that when an organ in the body fails to work properly, we refer to that as an organ failure. Organ failure as a cause of death makes sense to everyone– especially when the organ is a heart, lungs, liver ..etc.. People accept organ failure as a cause of death and understand it as a medical event, without personal failure or judgement. Organ failure is part of the life cycle and understanding the cause of death helps facilitate healing.
But when the organ that failed to work properly is the human brain, society does not always understand as clearly. The ultimate function of the brain is to sustain life through an internal, automatic drive to survive. When the brain fails to perform that survival function — the psychiatrist reminded us that the cause of death is actually organ failure. Medicine does not yet have a cure for the numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions that ultimately result in death by suicide. Neuroscience is decades behind treatment for the brain compared to cardiac care and cancer treatment.
Losing a loved one is painful enough but losing a loved one to death by suicide is a complicated pain. Healing is possible when we accept organ failure as the cause of death, without blame or judgement. My wish for you and your family is that you find peace in the memories you share and that you reach out to support each other at this difficult time. May the information shared in this writing become one small step toward healing discussions, learning to cope, and embracing your grief effectively.
Telka's tools, resources and recommendations are not a substitute for mental health treatment or intended to be used as medical care. This site is not intended to diagnose or treat psychiatric or medical conditions. Always consult your own health care professional for the treatment of mental illness. Report to the nearest emergency room when you have a mental health emergency. Telka does not offer emergency services or crisis intervention. Telka is not a physician, does not prescribe medication. Suicide Prevention Hot line