If the problems in your life are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good, professional help can make a big difference. And if you’re having trouble, know that you are not alone. Studies have shown that a significant percentage of youth in America are living with diagnosable mental health issues. These numbers increase as young people enter the adolescence age brackets. Many don’t get the help they need.
If you or someone you know is feeling especially bad or suicidal, get help right away. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, dial 2-1-1 in Vermont, or dial 911 for immediate assistance.
Of course, you don’t have to be in crisis to seek help. Please don’t wait until you’re really suffering. You could benefit from talking with a mental health counselor.
A mental health professional can help you:
- Come up with plans for solving problems
- Feel stronger in the face of challenges
- Change behaviors that hold you back
- Look at ways of thinking that affect how you feel
- Heal pains from your past
- Figure out your goals
- Build self-confidence
What is Psychotherapy?
It’s a general term that means talking about your problems with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes. Depending on your situation, treatment can be fairly short or longer-term. Some people worry that getting help is a sign of weakness. If you do, consider that it can be a sign of great strength to take steps toward getting your life back on track. Most people who seek help feel better. For example, more than 80 percent of people treated for depression improve. Treatment for panic disorders has up to a 90 percent success rate.
Get names of local mental health professionals hereor from your doctor, friends, clergy. Interview more than one professional before choosing, if possible. You’ll want to feel comfortable with the person.You can see a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, pastoral counselor or other type of mental health professional. Of these, only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication. Sometimes, your health insurance company will cover only certain types of providers, so check how your plan works.
When you call, you may get an answering machine or service. Leave times the provider can reach you and whether or not it’s OK to leave a message on your answering machine or with the person who answers your phone.
Your First Meeting
If you’ve never been to a mental health care provider, it can feel a little scary. During the first visit, you should expect that the therapist will ask questions about your background and why you’re seeking help. You can ask questions, too, like what treatment would involve and how long it might last. Also ask:
- What experience do you have treating my issues?
- Do you have a particular approach, expertise or training?
- What does treatment cost?
- Do you regularly work with adults or kids?
Think about what you’d like from your provider and what will make you feel comfortable. If you’re going to be talking to someone about your most personal problems, you want to feel like you can trust them. Consider if you’d prefer to see a man or woman, if you care whether the person is older or younger, or if there are any other character traits that matter to you.
You can also ask about confidentiality. Providers will respect your privacy, but if you are a minor their are rules may require providers to share some information with adult caregivers. Be sure to ask so you and your provider can be open and clear with each other.
Being a Partner in Your Treatment
Your relationship with your provider is like a partnership. You’ll get more out of if you:
- Tell your provider why you are seeking treatment. What are your biggest concerns?
- Be flexible. Your provider might ask you to consider new ways of behaving and thinking as part of treatment.
- Be open. Talking about personal issues can be tough, but it can help you work through things and make you feel better.
- Share your concerns about all the things that matter to you, including your general health.
- Be honest. Your provider can’t really help you if you hold back. Don’t say you’re fine if you’re not.
If you think you’re not making progress, you should tell your provider. A good provider will want to work with you so you can get the most out of your sessions. If, after discussing your concerns, you’re still not comfortable, you might consider looking for another provider.
Some people with mental health issues find medications very helpful. Still, medications may cause side effects that can be annoying or sometimes even dangerous. You may want to weigh the pros and cons of a particular drug with your provider. You might also decide that you’ll try medication for a while and then re-evaluate.
If you decide to take medication, you may have to wait a few weeks before you start feeling better. Your provider will want to know how you’re doing and may suggest a different medication if the first one doesn’t work well. It can be dangerous to stop taking a medication suddenly, so always talk to your doctor first.
If your provider prescribes a medication, ask:
- What is this medication supposed to do?
- How soon should I expect to feel better?
- When do I take it?
- Do I need to avoid certain foods, drinks or other medications?
- Do I take it with food or on an empty stomach?
- What are the possible side effects?
- What can I do if I get side effects?
Paying for Treatment
If you are a minor, your parent or guardian will be asked to provide insurance information. If you have insurance, you should find out if it covers mental health services and the extent of the coverage, including limits on the number of visits allowed. To qualify for coverage, you might also be required to take certain steps, such as getting a referral from your primary care doctor. If you have Medicaid, the Medicare Participating Physician Directory can help you find a provider who accepts Medicaid. If you have no insurance, dial 2-1-1 to find a community mental health center.