Looking for a mental health provider?
Finding a good therapist begins with talking to your primary care physician.
Juice Staff Published: 10/4/2018
Do you have a cold you just can’t shake? Have your family doctor check it out. A broken arm? Head to the ER.
Have you been feeling blue for weeks? Eaten a half-dozen doughnuts this morning? What do you even do about that?
There’s a stigma surrounding mental health that often prevents people from getting care, said Stacy Quinn, DO, a family physician at Baptist Primary Care in Orange Park.
“A lot of people think this is something they should just be able to do for themselves,” she said. “People often believe it’s caused by a decision they’ve made.”
That’s common in cases like post traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety. But these mental health problems can actually be hard to overcome.
A mental health provider can help by offering a different perspective on things, Dr. Quinn said. Consider, for example, how typical it is for people who’ve been abused to blame themselves.
“They can’t just make a decision to think differently. They need some help,” Dr. Quinn said.
It may not seem obvious, but a primary care physician is one of the best places to begin the search for a mental health provider. Primary care physicians are trained to evaluate the mental health status of their patients and give a referral. They can assess whether a person needs medical treatment from a psychiatrist, or therapy from a qualified psychologist.
They’re also trained to look for physical conditions that impact mental health, such as low blood count, over- or under-active thyroid, or hormones. And, they can identify contributing factors, such as the need for dietary changes, exercise, or adequate sleep.
You should ask your doctor about therapy if you’re experiencing:
- Thoughts of harming yourself or someone else
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Over- or under-eating
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Mood swings, becoming more emotional, or having difficulty expressing emotions
Finding the therapist who’s just right for you might mean shopping around.
You can narrow your search by asking whether a therapist is experienced in treating the issue you’d like to address, said De’Von Patterson, PhD, a licensed psychologist with Baptist Behavioral Health at the Baptist Clay Medical Campus. Clinicians often develop specialties in areas like trauma, family counseling, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and alcoholism.
You might also consider whether a therapist’s approach sounds like a fit for you, Dr. Patterson said. Do you want a behavioral approach, which focuses not just on thoughts and emotions, but also on your behavior outside of the sessions? Or are you looking for a supportive approach, which offers a place to talk, reflect and develop a non-judgmental relationship with someone.
When you meet with a therapist, try to be aware of how it feels to be with him or her, Dr. Patterson said.
“Can you imagine talking to this person about sensitive things?” he said. “Focus on how at ease you are by the end of the session because, at the beginning of the session, everyone is nervous.”
Your therapist and you should discuss what your expectations are up front and how you both will measure progress. Then later, if a therapist isn’t syncing up with what you need, have a conversation about what you’d like him to do differently.
If you’ve done your best and you’re just not getting any relief, try someone else, Dr. Patterson said. A clinician is not going to take it personally.
“Fit is important. A good fit is most of what makes therapy work,” Dr. Patterson said. “My main goal is always to help a person, even if it’s not always me that does it.”
If you or someone you know needs help with a mental health issue, and you need a primary care provider, visit baptisjax.com/bpc to find a doctor near you. For more information on mental health issues, visit Baptist Behavioral Health.