Choosing a mental health provider
Getting the right help for mental health
Mental health has finally been getting the attention it deserves. And as part of that, it’s become normalized as a crucial piece of our overall health puzzle. Without a healthy mind, living a healthy, happy life can be a challenge. Luckily, there are lots of resources to help keep your mind in a positive place. Knowing when to get mental health counseling is the first step to feeling better.
Struggling with mental health looks different for everyone. Many people might think they are mentally healthy if they haven’t had a mental health diagnosis or illness. However, knowing the factors or situations that may put your mental health at risk may help you be more tuned in to warning signs. That’s important because if you recognize the signs, you may be more aware when it’s time to get help.
When should I get help for mental health?
In some ways, the list of signs and symptoms that you may need help could apply to many of us after a stressful day. If you’re experiencing some of the following for more than just a few days, it might be time to get mental health support.1
Persistent sad or anxious mood
Feeling guilty, worthless, helpless or hopeless
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
Decreased energy or increased fatigue
Moving or talking more slowly
Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up in the early hours of the morning; wanting to sleep much of the time
Appetite, weight changes or both
Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that don’t go away with treatment
Who do I talk to about mental health?
To get started, you could talk to your primary care provider. They can do some initial mental health screenings, begin medication treatment and offer referrals to mental health specialists. Use these tips to get the most from your doctor visit:
- Prepare for your conversation. Write down your questions and concerns and bring a list of your medications. You may also want to do a little digging into your family history to see if mental health issues run in your family. Knowing that information can help your doctor better assess your risk for certain disorders.
- Bring someone with you. Having a loved one by your side during important conversations with your doctor may help you stay relaxed. Plus, it may help to have another set of ears to retain information and remember important details.
- Be honest. Your doctor is there to help you. The conversation you have with them is meant to be totally confidential and judgement-free. Be open about how you’re feeling, describe all your symptoms and call out any significant life changes that may be a trigger.
- Ask questions. If you have doubts or hesitation around a diagnosis or treatment plan your doctor recommends, ask for more information. Remember, too, that you can feel empowered to get a second opinion. It’s important to feel comfortable with the recommended approach to treatment.
The types of mental health professionals
There are lots of different professionals who can help support your mental health, and there’s no right or wrong person to turn to. In fact, someone may see a combination of experts. Here are 4 common mental health specialists you’re likely familiar with:
Someone who has received a degree in Social Work. Social workers often provide counseling, but they also focus on causing change in the community, including legislative efforts, and work to help their clients find the right resources in their community to help them. Social Workers might have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.
Someone who has received a master’s degree in Counseling, or a similar field. This title means that they have thoroughly studied counseling tools, theories, and interventions, including the proper way to work with various mental health issues.
Someone who has received a doctorate in Psychology. This requires more schooling beyond a master’s and sometimes means that they can also do testing (that can be beneficial in certain cases).
Someone who has received their medical degree and has done post-graduate training to become a psychiatrist, (completing a residency), but unlike psychologists, received it in the field of medicine. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications. Psychiatrists provide psychotherapy as well.
How are mental health issues treated?
There are many different types of mental health services – and some mental health programs may be included with your health plan benefits. Treatment for mental health issues usually includes therapy, medication or both. That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, it may take some time and a little back and forth with your provider to see what works best for you.
What are the different types of mental health therapy?
Common mental health treatments include:2
If you decide to find a therapist, that approach would fall into this treatment. Psychotherapy involves a mental health professional who works with you to explore thoughts, feelings and behaviors to improve your well-being. Types of therapy include supportive psychotherapy cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and more.
Prescription medication may help treat the symptoms of the illness. It’s common for medication to be paired with different types of therapy.
Meeting with a group of people who have similar struggles and lived experiences may help individuals guide each other toward the shared goal of recovery.
If you want to take treatment into your own hands through intentional lifestyle changes, you can create a plan that includes strategies to promote wellness that involve exercise, diet and sleep.
In severe cases, hospital care may be needed to closely watch a patient or adjust their medication.
What should I do if I’m ready to see a mental health professional?
Ready to talk to someone? If you have a UnitedHealthcare health plan, you can take the next step and find a behavioral health specialist that’s in network for your plan. Once you find a network provider, you can talk to the provider about scheduling a visit.
Mental health support and resources
If you believe you need help right away — for yourself or a loved one — call 911 or use the emergency numbers below.
Substance Use Helpline — 1-855-780-5955
If you feel that you or a loved one are experiencing signs of addiction, call the confidential helpline to get support, guidance on treatment options, help finding a network provider and answers to your questions.
National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Get help with crisis intervention, information and referrals to local services for victims of domestic violence and those calling on their behalf.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org/chat for 24-hour, toll-free, confidential support and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. For TTY users, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
The Crisis Text Line — Text “Home” to 741741
The Crisis Text Line is a free resource available 24/7 to help you connect with a crisis counselor.