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When and How to See a Mental Health Professional for the First Time

Updated: Oct 19

When and How to See a Mental Health Professional for the First Time Mental health disorders are common. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults will experience mental illness in a given year. Despite the prevalence of mental illness in the US, less than half of those people will get treatment. Why don’t people who need help get it? While cost is a barrier for many, perhaps a bigger obstacle is the stigma that still exists around mental illness. People worry that a mental illness means they’re unstable or weak, believe they’re at fault for their mental illness, or fear that medication will fundamentally change their personality. These misconceptions aren’t true. Mental illness can happen to anyone, and it’s treatable — not only by medication, but also talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and complementary therapies like exercise, meditation, and nutritional therapy. Do you have more unanswered questions about mental health treatment? Simmons Fitness & Nutrition hopes this FAQ will answer the most common questions people have about mental healthcare so you feel confident in the decision to improve your emotional wellness.


Which healthcare professionals provide mental health treatment? When you need mental healthcare, where do you turn? These are the medical professionals who play a role in mental healthcare and the services they provide: Primary care doctors: Primary care physicians screen for mental health conditions such as depression and provide referrals to specialist providers. Psychologists: Psychologists diagnose mental health conditions and provide therapy. Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists diagnose mental health conditions and manage medications. Some psychiatrists also offer therapy, but most don’t. Counselors and therapists: Counselors don’t diagnose mental health conditions, but they do provide therapy. Licensed therapists, meanwhile, can diagnose mental health issues. However, they cannot prescribe medication. Clinical social workers: In addition to counseling, clinical social workers provide case management services. How can I pay for mental healthcare? Finances shouldn’t stand in the way of necessary mental health care. Luckily, most health insurance plans cover mental health services. However, the quality of coverage varies depending on the type of health insurance you have. Private health insurance: ACA-compliant plans must offer essential mental health services, including therapy and substance abuse treatment, but deductibles and copays apply. Medicare: Seniors aged 65 and up who are covered under Medicare receive annual depression and alcohol misuse screenings at no cost, and are also eligible for a variety of counseling services when covered by Medicare Part B or a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicaid: Medicaid benefits vary from state to state. Most states provide some coverage for psychologists and other mental health services. Find information about state Medicaid programs at the Kaiser Family Foundation. If mental health treatment is out of reach even after health insurance, look for mental health providers who offer sliding scale payments. There are private practitioners who offer reduced fees to low-income patients, and health clinics that cater to patients with limited financial means. When is the right time to see a mental health professional? You don’t have to wait for a mental health crisis to reach out to a mental health professional. If you’re experiencing symptoms of persistent sadness, withdrawal, anxiety or worry, emotional outbursts, issues with sleep, or weight and appetite fluctuations that affect your well-being, mental healthcare could help you overcome these challenges and regain control of your daily


life. Keep in mind that in many areas, patients face long wait times to see a mental health professional. By scheduling an appointment when you first notice symptoms of a mental health problem, you can ensure you see a doctor before it grows unmanageable. If you need help now, call a crisis hotline or mental health warmline. Exercise and nutrition are vital components for achieving mental wellness. If you need help on your diet and fitness journey, connect with Simmons Fitness & Nutrition today. We have packages that suit anyone’s needs. Image via Rawpixel