The Importance of Seeking Treatment and How it Can Help You
Choosing to seek help for your mental health can feel scary but investing in your mental wellness is rewarding and will benefit you in many areas of your life. The good news is that most people who seek out treatment do get relief from their symptoms and start to feel better.
The goal of your entire treatment team is to address the symptoms that are affecting your ability to enjoy life, cope with emotions, or deal with relationships.
Struggling with mental health problems is not abnormal, and seeking treatment options like therapy, can completely change the trajectory of your recovery.
If you’re feeling alone, it can be helpful to consider how prevalent mental health issues are. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience mental illness at some point—so it is likely if you are have not struggled with anxiety, depression, or another mental health related issue, you know someone who has.
Signs of a Mental Health Issue
It can be confusing to know if what you are dealing with is a mental health problem if you have never talked about the subject with friends and family before. However, there are some key indicators that may let you know itis time to seek help from a professional.
Some symptoms of a possible mental issue could include:
• Low mood
• Excessive worrying
• Changes in habits (eating, sleeping, loss of interest inactivities)
• Emotional highs and lows
• Excessive guilt or remorse
• Emotional Outbursts
• Drug and/or alcohol abuse
• Delusions or hallucinations
• Personality changes
• Thoughts or actions of self-harm
• Suicidal thoughts
If you or those close to you are noticing that changes in your behavior are having an effect on your mood and well being, it can be beneficial to simply express your symptoms to a healthcare provider to talk about potential causes.
Problems that Mental Health Treatment Can Help You Address
The symptoms above are by no means a complete list of problems that can be caused as a result of mental illnesses; however, they are common.Your mental healthcare provider will work with you to discuss your symptoms,evaluate different factors that could be causing your problems, and potentially give you a diagnosis.
Qualified mental health professionals diagnose psychiatric conditions from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-5). Different diagnoses have a set of defining symptoms a patient must meet for a diagnosis to be given.
Receiving a diagnosis isn’t a bad thing. In fact, a diagnosis can help you and your treatment team to better understand how to treat the problems that are affecting your well being.
Mental health problems can also be brought about by life circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one, so a diagnosis isn’t always chronic or life-long.
Some common problems and mental illnesses mental health professionals treat include:
• Sleep Problems/Disorders
• Addiction/Substance Abuse Disorders
• Eating Disorders
• Postpartum depression
• Gender dysphoria
• Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Adjustment problems/disorders
• Grief and Loss
• Bipolar Disorder
• Couple’s Counseling
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
• Family Therapy
• Personality Disorders
Depending on your diagnosis and the severity of your mental health problems, your treatment approach and treatment team may vary. However, the first step to improving your symptoms and overall wellbeing is reaching out for help.
Where to Start
Do I really need help?
Many people often wonder if they actually need mental health help at all. “Maybe I’m overreacting” or “it could be something else” are often things that are said when people can’t attribute the symptoms like fatigue, lack of motivation, mood changes, or other changes in behavior to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
There are many reasons that people fail to seek out mental health help or don’t know where to start.
Some of the reasons people don’t seek treatment for mental illness include:
• Stigma around mental illness and psychiatric treatment
• Fear and shame
• Lack of education
• Attributing mental illness to other causes
• Not thinking their case is severe enough
• Thinking they won’t have access to treatment
• Not knowing where to go or being overwhelmed by the mental health system
The stigma surrounding mental health has improved over recent years, but is still a problem. As Dr. Jessica Gold explains in an article for TIME, “mental health is still viewed negatively in our culture. I have had patients’ parents throw away their medication when they found it and tell them not to take it. I have also had patients who delayed coming in until they were really sick because they thought “I would just get over it” or “I am just a girl and girls are emotional.”
These stereotypes are harmful and often keep people from getting the help and relief they need. Delaying or completely avoiding mental healthtreatment can actually cause symptoms to worsen, leading to more problems down the road.
Gender can also play a role, as the APA notes that “research shows that males are more reluctant to look for help and receive it than females are.”
As all of these examples show, there are numerous barriers that can keep someone from getting the help that they need. If you or someone you love is concerned you are struggling with a mental illness, reach out for help as soon as possible to someone you trust. Early intervention makes treatment easier and more efficient. You don’t have to be in a crisis to seek help.
The Consequences of Untreated Mental Illness
The effects of leaving mental illness untreated are far-reaching. Without treatment, mental health issues can continue to deteriorate and can go from mild to severe and lead to problems like isolation, self-harming behavior, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and even suicide. Early intervention makes all the difference.
Not taking care of your mental health affect your relationships with family and friends, can cause problems with school and/or work, and create financial issues. Most of all, left untreated, mental health issues will continue to wreak havoc on your happiness, well being, functionality, and even physical health.
Even if you are not sure if what you are dealing with is mental illness, meeting with your doctor or a mental health professional to talk about your symptoms can help you to determine what you are dealing with and keep you or a loved one from the potentially devastating consequences of untreated mental illness.
How do I find help?
The first step to finding help is having the willingness to get it. It can be helpful to open up to a loved one such as a spouse, partner, friend, parent, or colleague about your struggles and ask for help in your search. However, simply opening up to your primary health care provider, such as a family doctor or OBGYN is also a good start, as they can give you referrals.
While your primary care doctor can prescribe certain medications for depression or other mental illness relief, it is beneficial to work with a doctor, such as a psychiatrist, who specializes in mental health conditions. Working with mental health professionals gives you the best chance of receiving the most precise diagnoses and optimal treatment.
If you are insured, you can also call your insurance provider for a list of mental health providers in your area.
Choosing a Mental Health Provider
Choosing the right mental health provider can feel daunting, especially if you have never received mental health treatment before. The type of provider you seek is often determined by the type of treatment you need, and it isn’t uncommon for multiple mental health professionals to work together to help you get back on track at first.
Treatment doesn’t look the same for anyone, but the ultimate goal of anyone on your treatment team will be to get you feeling better and back to yourself so that you can enjoy your life again.
Types of Mental Health Providers
Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in mental health disorders and diagnoses. A psychiatrist can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe medications to help you cope.
Some of the medications that psychiatrists can prescribe include antidepressants, anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, sleeping medications, antipsychotics, and other psychiatric drugs. While medication can be extremely beneficial, and even necessary when treating mental health conditions, a comprehensive treatment regimen usually combines medication and therapy.
During your treatment, a psychiatrist will continue to monitor and manage your medication and may work with others within your treatment team.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: Many psychiatrists work with a nurse practitioner, who can also prescribe and manage psychiatric medications. Psychiatric nurse practitioners specialize in treating mental health conditions and many also offer holistic and therapeutic services.
Licensed Counselors and Therapists: There are a variety of mental health professionals who specialize in dealing with specific issues or mental health concerns and can offer therapeutic services. These providers include Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), Addiction and Substance Abuse Counselors, School Counselors, and Social Workers.
Psychologists(PhD/PsyD): Psychologists hold a doctorate degree and are highly trained in providing different types of therapy, however they cannot prescribe medication. These professionals are more likely to work with individuals dealing with severe mental illness or symptoms that have become debilitating, however anyone can see a psychologist. They are able to both diagnose and treat mental disorders and may work in tandem with your psychiatrist.
So, which should you see? Well, it depends. If you need medication, you will have to see a psychiatrist. When it comes to therapy, many people find just as much benefit from seeing a licensed counselor as they do a psychologist. However, the main point is that you find someone that you trust and who is experienced in treating the problems you are struggling with.
As Dr. Joe Magliano for Psychology Today explains, “good mental health professionals, whether you initially see a psychiatrist or see a therapist, should have some knowledge of the full range of treatment options, as well as expertise in treating disorders that fall into areas covered by their practice.”
Types of Mental Health Treatment
Medication: Psychiatric medications can help alleviate many of the symptoms that may make it difficult for you to get the most out of other treatment methods, like therapy, especially at first. A medication regimen is usually done with therapy, and will be monitored closely by a medical doctor or psychologist.
Talk Therapy: Talk therapy, or psychotherapy is the basis for many different modalities of therapy. Using different methods, a therapist or counselor will work with you to talk about the issues you are struggling with to help you work through them.
Hospitalization: While this is not anyone’s first choice, psychiatric hospitalization is sometimes necessary in the midst of a crisis. If you or someone you love is feeling suicidal, at risk of self harm, is having hallucinations or delusions, or is unable to care for their basic needs—getting medical attention can be a lifesaving first step. Psychiatric hospitals can help to stabilize you with medications and can give you resources and referrals for immediate treatment options.
Residential Treatment: If you are in a crisis or require intensive care, residential treatment can be a beneficial option. Here you will have a full-time treatment team that will allow you to focus exclusively on recovery. This option can also be beneficial for those who are beginning substance abuse recovery and need additional services, such as detox. Your residential treatment team will set you up with aftercare to continue your treatment after you return home.
Intensive Outpatient: Intensive outpatient programs often follow residential treatment programs. However, intensive outpatient can also be a great first choice for those who need intensive care but can’t commit to full-time residential care. Intensive outpatient will connect you with individual and group therapies and often times, medication management, in a single program.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy that focus on changing distorted thoughts and feelings to change certain, often harmful behaviors. Your therapist will work with you over multiple sessions to help you change your thought patterns and learn healthy coping skills.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy(DBT): DBT is another form of therapy that can be very effective in treating certain psychiatric disorders and other issues. DBT can help to increase stress tolerance, increase mindfulness, balance emotions, and create better communication skills.
Trauma Therapy: If you have been through a traumatic event or loss, it is completely normal to feel abnormal. Trauma therapy or other trauma interventions such as EMDR therapy can help you to process trauma and start feeling healing.
Group Therapy: Group therapy is conducted by a licensed counselor or psychologist and involves multiple people. Many people find group therapy useful, as it can be helpful to talk with those struggling with similar issues and group therapy can be a safe environment to practice to interpersonal skills.
Support Groups: Unlike group therapy, support groups are more informal and are not usually led by a mental health professional. However, they can still be very beneficial throughout the treatment process. These groups can include 12-step programs(such as Alcoholics Anonymous). For more information about support groups, see our full guide below.
Other treatment interventions: While medication and therapy interventions are the most common interventions, they are by no means the only treatment options. If you are struggling with treatment resistant depression or certain nuerological issues, other methods may be implemented such as transcranial magnetic stimulation(TMS), electroconvulsive therapy(ECT), or ketamine therapy.
No matter what your treatment looks like, it is extremely important that you are making changes to your daily lifestyle, engaging in healthy habits, and fostering healthy relationships throughout the treatment process as well to aid in your recovery.
Lifestyle: See below
What about Teletherapy?
Therapists have been conducting sessions through video technology like Skype for patients for a while now, however the demand for telehealth services has skyrocketed with the rise of COVID-19. Now, more mental health providers than ever are offering their services through online chat rooms, phone calls, and video sessions.
Is teletherapy just a “Plan B” though? Not necessarily. Teletherapy has many benefits of its own and many providers and patients even prefer to meet electronically.
As Abigail Eastman for The Georgetown Voice writes, “With telehealth, patients now have much greater access to the country’s network of therapists and psychiatrists… telehealth removes some of the stigma of having to visit a therapist in person, where you may find yourself making shifting eye contact with someone in the waiting room. Online appointments provide comfort and privacy in ways unattainable in physical space.”
The environment that teletherapy can offer can be much more comfortable for those who are new to therapy or are scared about opening up to a stranger for the first time. Telehealth can also be beneficial if you need a specialist who is not available in-person in your area or if you have limited access to providers in general.
But is it effective? Actually, yes. A recent study that compared CBT conducted in-person vs through teletherapy showed that the results from treatment are just as effective.
In addition to teletherapy, many psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practioners now offer their services through telehealth services as well.
Need help looking for telehealth providers? We have several qualified mental health professionals and clinics included on our digital health finder.
Just because you don’t have insurance or are low-income, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have access to quality mental health care. Good mental health care saves lives and can make the difference in you living a fulfilling life.
Going to a therapist without insurance can cost anywhere from $75-$250, a fee which is just not feasible for many people to pay once or twice a week. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t access therapy and other mental health treatments.
“Everyone deserves care that can help best address everything from relationship problems to severe depression,” JOY MD founder, Henry Camacho says. “Fortunately, with new treatment options, the rise of telehealth, and a growing number of support groups nationwide, people have more access to mental health support than ever.”
When it comes to finding the best care at an affordable rate, you have choices:
• Sliding Scale Therapy: Many therapists offer sessions based on a sliding scale. This means that they will adjust their rate based on your income or situation to help make their services more accessible. This can be a good option if you need to see a specialist or need therapeutic services right away.
• Teletherapy: Some teletherapy providers are covered by insurance, but even if you aren’t covered, you can still get connected to licensed counselors for a fraction of the cost of what it would be to see a professional in-person. Popular platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace offer affordable chat-based therapy where you can get matched with a licensed counselor. There are also free services such as 7 Cups which connect users with trained “listeners” they can talk to for on-demand emotional support.
• Clinics and Local Services: Depending on where you are located, your local social services may offer a free or low-cost mental health clinic where you can get supportive services and referrals. Students should also look for free counseling and mental health help from your school or university’s counseling center. Finally, many corporations also offer mental health benefits to their employees, so it can be beneficial to check with your HR department about what your company offers.
Asking Questions Will Help You Choose the Right Provider
When conducting your search, don’t just settle on the first mental health professional you find. Even after you meet with someone for the first time, if you don’t feel comfortable, you can keep looking.
Finding someone who is a good match for you and who you feel like you will be able to talk to and trust will make your treatment easier for you and your treatment team.
When looking for mental health professionals to work with, ask questions.
Questions to ask can include:
• What their qualifications are
• What kind of problems/mental illnesses they treat
• What their treatment approach is
• If the provider has a certain cultural, religious, or social background that you would feel more comfortable with
• If they accept insurance or work on a sliding scale
• How soon and how often they are able to see you
• If they are able to connect you with other mental health resources if needed
Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during your treatment. Regular communication with any of your treatment providers will help you feel more comfortable and will also give your treatment providers valuable feedback about how you are feeling and responding to treatment.
Starting Treatment: What to Expect
Everyone’s treatment journey varies, but in general, you can likely expect your mental health treatment to begin with some kind of evaluation.
Your provider will talk with you about what you have been struggling with, how your life has been impacted, and what your goals are. Based on your responses you and your provider can begin to determine a treatment plan to try and help relieve your symptoms.
If you are going to therapy, most sessions typically last about 45 minutes to an hour.
As you progress with your treatment, your provider will assess how you are responding and may adjust your treatment accordingly.
Depending on your symptoms and the type of mental illness you are dealing with, your treatment may be short or long-term. As you work with the professionals on your treatment team, you can get a better idea of what your long-term treatment plan will look like.
Lifestyle Changes and Family Support
While seeking professional help is crucial in making the most of your mental health care, it is also important to involve those who are involved in your life on a daily basis and make lifestyle changes. Your therapist or another member of your treatment team can help you to establish some of the changes you may want to implement, however there are some things you can start right away to improve your wellbeing and mental health.
• Establish and Connect with Your Support System: Having support is vital during your treatment and it’s important not to isolate. It can be helpful to make a list of people that you trust and can call if you are in a crisis or just need to talk. Surround yourself with family members, friends, and other supportive people who you feel comfortable sharing with. Toxic relationships can make it difficult to focus on yourself and can dampen your self-esteem. If you are looking for new people that you can connect with, mental health groups, support groups,12-step groups, workout classes, activity groups, or religious groups are a good place to make new acquaintances.
• Create and Stick to a Routine: Creating healthy habits can help a lot when you’re trying to reestablish “normal”. Try adding little things to your day like waking up at a certain time, meditating, exercising, taking time to spend time with friends, playing with pets, or accomplishing small tasks. By giving yourself little goals throughout the day, you can feel like you are achieving something, and the results are powerful. Routines can be especially beneficial for those struggling with life changes, sleeping problems, depression, and anxiety.
• Self-Care is Necessary: Making time for yourself is more important than ever when dealing with mental health issues. Do things you enjoy and that relax you to improve your mood and reduce stress. Take a hot bath, cook a new recipe, go on a bike ride, read a book, meditate, listen to music, paint, or work on a home improvement project. (Tip: Create a list of things you can do when you are feeling down or need a mood boost)
• Incorporate Exercise Into Your Life: Exercise has numerous benefits for your mental health. Getting your body moving can reduce stress, decrease depression, improve your mood, and help you think better. You should also try to eat healthy foods and limit things like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine,
• Journal Your Progress: Creative outlets can be helpful during your recovery, and journaling is a great way to express yourself in a space that is your own. Keeping a journal throughout your treatment can also help you see how you are progressing, what is working for you, and what your triggers are. Another option is to monitor your mood through an app on a smartphone.
• Explore alternative therapies: For many, it can be helpful to incorporate a number of different holistic approaches to improve mental health. Some of these things can include acupuncture, massage, yoga, and taking natural supplements.
Crisis and Referral Hotline Numbers
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can be beneficial to have crisis numbers available should you need them. Many of the numbers below also offer referral services if you are looking for mental health, substance abuse, or other treatment services.
Crisis and Suicide:
-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454
-Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” to 741741
-Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
LGBTQ Crisis Support:
-The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
-TrevorTEXT: Text Trevor to 678-678
Mental Illness Support and Referrals:
-National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI) HelpLINE: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
Substance Abuse Support and Referrals:
-SAMHSA’s National Helpline: (800) 662-4357
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:
-National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN): 1800-656-HOPE (4673)
-National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
List of Support Groups
Support groups can be a valuable place for you to connect with others who are struggling with similar issues during your recovery. A sense of community can help address feelings of loneliness and help you form valuable relationships that will strengthen your support network.
There are many specialized support groups that meet both in-person and online.
Choosing to start mental health treatment is the first step to beginning a life that is more fulfilling. There is no need to suffer alone and choosing to start therapy, work with a psychiatrist, get support from a group, or make holistic lifestyle changes can make a complete difference in your life. The key is to find a comprehensive treatment plan that works for you.
It is important to be patient with yourself during this process as you heal and acknowledge the fact that you are seeking help.
Beginning your search for mental health treatment can feel frightening, but the first step is to start and to have willingness. We hope that this guide has been helpful giving you the resources you need to get started in your search for mental health treatment.
*Are we missing a resource, support group, or is there something you think we should add? Get in touch with JOY MD to give us your feedback!*