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Finding Psychiatric Services
by Mel September 8th 2010, 01:14 AM

Article featured in Avatar - Volume 4, Issue 2 (August 2010).

Finding Psychiatric Services
By Robin (PSY)

Have you ever wanted to get help for your mental disorder or substance abuse, but have been discouraged by the incredibly high prices of medications and rehabilitation programs? How about wanting to talk to someone regarding your depression or self-harm, when you’ve been told that private sessions with a psychologist are out of your price range?

This issue is not new to me, both on TeenHelp and in my field of study. While it is true that many psych-related services are expensive (especially for teenagers who cannot find work, or young adults who are barely able to make ends meet), there ARE ways to seek help for yourself and for your friends who may be suffering from any number of problems! This article explores two aspects of the mental health industry: how to find the psychological professional that is best suited for your needs, and where you can receive low-cost (or even FREE) mental health services.

There are many different types of psychological professionals; however, I will focus on four of the most commonly found professions in hospitals, private practices, and other clinical settings (such as low-cost and non-profit organizations).

Marriage and family therapists typically earn a specialized masters degree (M.A. or M.F.T.), and must become licensed in their state before they can practice. Therapists may focus on all aspects of relationships with family members and romantic partners. For example, if two people are planning to get married, but have some concerns, they may turn to a marriage and family therapist for support, advice, and resources. A parent who is worried about their child's or teenager's well-being may address their concerns with a therapist, either one-on-one or in group sessions with other family members (where the child/teenager may or may not be present).

Social workers can be found in a variety of settings, depending on whether they have earned a bachelors or masters degree. In order to provide mental health services to patients, a social worker must receive a specialized masters degree (M.S.W.) and become licensed in their state. Licensed clinical social workers may work in hospitals, private practices, and other clinical settings, as well as in schools as guidance counselors.

Psychologists are individuals who have earned a doctorate degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology. Generally, when seeking treatment for an emotional or mental disorder, patients would see a clinical or counseling psychologist. There are different types of psychologists (developmental, forensic, sports, etc.); however, clinical and counseling psychologists are usually found in hospitals, private practices, and other clinical settings, rather than in academic or research settings.

Psychiatrists also possess doctorate degrees (M.D.); however, unlike therapists and psychologists, these psychological professionals can write prescriptions for medication. Some psychiatrists will offer both medical and therapy services, whereas other psychiatrists will only focus on the medical aspect and refer patients to therapists or psychologists for additional treatment.

Psychological professionals may utilize any number of therapy methods in order to assess, diagnose, and treat their patients. These are just a few of the many different techniques that may be used in counseling or therapy sessions.

Psychodynamic approaches focus on helping patients to become more aware of their unconscious conflicts, perhaps stemming from their childhood or adolescent years. Cognitive treatments strive to change a patient's way of reasoning and perceiving every-day situations. Behavioral therapy attempts to change not only a patient's response to situations, but also seeks to change the patient's environment by working with family members, friends, co-workers, etc. Psychological professionals may use a combination of therapy methods, with cognitive-behavioral therapy being a popular option for a variety of emotional and mental disorders.

Finding free or low-cost mental health care isn't always easy; however, with a bit of searching (and luck, given the current economy), you CAN receive the psychological help needed in order to begin working toward coping with emotional, mental, or substance abuse disorders. Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT always need insurance in order to obtain medical and therapy services. There are many "community" clinics across the United States that are federally-funded and will only charge what you can afford. This includes physical check-ups, as well as psychological services and any medications you may need for your illness. Search engines and telephone books can give you a list of free or low-cost clinics in your area.

If your individual or family's income is too high to qualify for free or low-cost mental health services, there are other ways to find local psychological professionals. Ask your family doctor or general practitioner for a referral. Talk to family members and friends who have sought help in the past (or are currently seeking help now). Search engines and telephone books can give you a list of psychological professionals; however, it's important to ask a variety of questions before deciding whether or not you'd like to work with that particular therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Ask them where they went to school, what kind(s) of degree(s) they earned, how long they've been working as a licensed professional, what disorder(s) they specialize in, how often they work with people who are your age, and any other questions that you may have. Most importantly, ask yourself if you like this particular therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. If you do not feel comfortable around him or her after attending several sessions, then you may not be able to benefit from the services they offer. Many patients switch from one psychological professional to another over the course of several years before finding someone that they truly feel comfortable with, so don't give up if things don't “click” after the first session with the first person you meet!
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