A multistep process
Appropriate treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis. If possible, attend an appointment with your loved one and their primary care provider who can perform a mental health screening, take family history, and rule out other medical conditions. In the appointment, you can filter information without emotion, ask clarifying questions, and support your loved one in getting the information needed to make sound decisions.
A mental health professional can do a more thorough assessment. This includes professionals such as clinical social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Be prepared for the appointment with a list of questions.
While your loved one's primary care physician may be able to recommend one or more mental health providers, you should expect to do some research to help your loved one choose the best match for their care. Trust and comfort with a clinician are integral to recovery.
One of the most comprehensive online resources for finding therapists and psychiatrists is Psychology Today. Their database allows you to search for a provider by "issue" (e.g., anxiety, depression, family conflict), insurance accepted, gender, racial and ethnic identity, therapeutic approach, and other criteria. InnoPsych is a database for families searching for a therapist of color.
There may be more than one professional involved in your loved one's mental health care. Their care team might include a primary care physician, talk therapist, prescriber (e.g., psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner), care coordinators, peer support specialist, and holistic practitioners. You can support your loved one by helping to identify providers, managing logistics, and keeping records, especially because it can be challenging to keep track of appointments, decisions, and experiences with medications and providers.
Use these questions when choosing a clinician and attending appointments.
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