Reaching out to someone for help can be a big step, but it’s important that you get the best help possible. Every counselor, therapist, or mental health professional has a different approach to helping their clients. It’s important to do your research about the provider before you meet with them, as well as get to know them in your first session to know if they’re the right fit.
What should I expect?
There are steps you can take to make sure that you’re getting the best help for you. Here are a few examples:
Know your medical history. When you see any health or mental health professional—like a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist—they will ask you some questions about your health and medical background, such as:
- Are you’re taking any medications or herbal treatments?
- Do you smoke, drink or use illegal drugs?
- Do you have any allergies or reactions to medication?
By knowing the answers to these questions, you can help your provider give you the best treatment.
Be honest. Sometimes health and mental health professionals need to know things about you that you might find embarrassing or uncomfortable. It’s important to try to be as honest as possible with the provider you’re seeing. If you’re unsure about why your provider is asking you certain questions, it’s O.K. to ask him or her why the information is necessary. If you’re worried about your rights or whether your provider will keep your information confidential, make sure to talk to them about it. For more information, check out our Confidentiality article.
Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your health or treatment. If you don’t understand what your provider says, ask them to explain it again or in a different way. Health and mental health professionals should help you find the best solution to your concerns.
Seek support. Talking to family and friends about any treatment decisions you might need to make can help you make the right choice for you. Sometimes you might need to talk to your doctor or mental health care provider again, or get a second opinion from another provider.
Take notice of any side effects. If you’re taking medication, make sure to ask your doctor about any possible side effects. If you do experience undesirable side effects, tell your doctor.
Express your concerns. If you’re unhappy with the provider you’re seeing, it might be a good idea to let him or her know about your concerns. It’s important that you’re comfortable with your provider, and if talking with the person isn’t comfortable, you might want to also consider changing providers.
It’s also important that you let your provider know about beliefs and cultural practices that may be relevant to your care so that he or she can be more sensitive to your needs. You might also find it easier to see a provider who has similar cultural or religious beliefs, or is the same gender as you.
Maybe They're Not the Best Fit
Sometimes the mental health professional you start to see, might not feel like the right fit. Not all counselors, psychiatrists or psychologists are the same. If you don’t like the first, or even the second or third person you see, it’s important to find someone else.
However, like any relationship you have with friends, family or the people you work with, your relationship with your counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist is best when you trust them. Gaining this trust can take time. For more information, check out the Relationship Issues article.
Deciding If Your Provider Is Right for You
Some of the questions you can ask yourself to help you decide are:
- Do I like talking to the person?
- Do I feel meeting with this person helps?
- Do I feel respected?
- Do I feel listened to?
- Is this someone I could grow to trust?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you might want to consider changing providers.
It is also important to realize that when you work with a mental health professional, the work itself might be difficult. Talking about tough issues can make you feel sad, angry, frustrated or uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon to direct these feelings towards your counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist. Be careful that you don’t confuse the hard work and the feelings it might bring up, with thoughts that the helper might not be a good fit. It’s OK to discuss this with your provider; it could mean that you need a change of pace or someone else that can intuit the best approach for your specific goals. Talking it through might help you decide whether it’s best to see someone else.