Getting the Right Kind of Mental Health Support

    Asking for help can be difficult. We tend to think we’re capable of solving all your own problems. Or maybe you’ve been led to believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness. What you must understand is that seeking the help of a mental health professional is a powerful way to overcome doubts and fears that keep us stuck.

    Often, our emotions can cloud our judgment or overwhelm us to the degree that it becomes difficult to make good decisions. We also hold beliefs and engage in behaviors that impair our ability to overcome a challenge.

    Some common reasons why many people are resistant to seeking help include:

    • We don’t want to let go of our coping mechanisms like comfort foods, alcohol, prescription medications, or drugs
    • Playing the victim gets us attention which is better than no attention
    • We think asking for help is a sign of weakness
    • We feel guilt and shame for our life conditions
    • We doubt our ability to change
    • We worry what others will think


    It’s especially painful when others bring attention to the very things that we’d like to change about ourselves. We’ll try to avoid the pain by shifting our focus to our jobs or family or distract ourselves with TV and social media.


    Why Should You Seek Professional Help?


    Seeking help is a great way to build your support network and create a safe and trusting partnership with a professional who understands your fears without judgment or bias. Talking with a close friend or family member can be helpful but loved ones may unintentionally influence us with their own judgments and beliefs.

    Working with a professional can offer an environment that is free of bias. Mental health practitioners are also trained in helping people to set realistic goals and find steps to reaching those goals. This can help to motivate you and build your confidence.

    If you could interview a successful woman like Oprah or Brene Brown, you’d find that they each sought the help of a counselor or mentor at some point in their life. We must let go of the old stigma about therapy and counseling; it’s not just for those with serious mental health problems.

    Maintaining good emotional health and dealing with mental illness are equally important. Professional support can help us recover from a fall and give us confidence to soar to new heights.


    You Have Options


    When seeking professional help, you have many options to choose from. While degrees and professional experience are important, the most crucial factor to consider is the connection. You need to find a mental health practitioner that you connect with, who makes you feel comfortable.

    The therapeutic relationship is a partnership in which both parties work to meet agreed upon goals. Your counselor or therapist should conduct themselves as a professional and create a safe, non-judgmental environment that encourages openness. Degrees aren’t good indicators of a professional’s ability to empathize so really pay attention to how the person makes you feel.

    First, you need to decide which type of mental health practitioner you’d prefer. Or sometimes, your insurance company will need you to see a certain type of professional.

    The following is a list of the different types of mental health practitioners, which includes their educational requirements, degrees, training, and licensing requirements. This information will help you to find the best service provider for your needs.




    They are M.D.s, licensed physicians who attended medical school, and completed four years of specialized training to include a one-year internship and a three-year residency. The residency is like on-the-job training and often takes place in a medical hospital, psychiatric hospital, or treatment facility.

    Psychiatrists treat mental disorders by use of psychotherapy and medications. However, the more recent trend is that fewer psychiatrist offer psychotherapy (talk therapy) and focus more on medication management.

    A psychiatrist can become “board certified” by passing standardized written and oral exam after residency. They are the only mental health professional that can prescribe medications since they are medical doctors.



    They hold graduate degrees and have completed doctoral or postdoctoral studies in human psychology. A psychologist can have a Ph.D., a Psy.D., or an Ed.D. degree. They must complete at least one year of clinical training in the treatment of patients and one year of supervised postdoctoral experience or research.

    Psychologists offer psychotherapy to their patients. They are trained in different treatment therapies and work with both adults and children. Psychologist must be licensed in the state where they practice. A psychologist may work together with a psychiatrist to to find effective drug treatment for their patients but psychologist do not prescribe medication.


    Clinical Social Worker

    Social workers who have earned a master’s degree (and sometimes a doctorate) and are either certified (CSW) or licensed (LCSW) depending on the state where you live. They have completed a two-year program that includes education in treatment therapies, research, as well as clinical training.

    In most states, social workers must be licensed or certified after completing two years of supervised post-graduate clinical work and passing a written examination. They’re trained to work with both children and adults. Clinical social workers will sometimes work together with a psychiatrist but they do not prescribe medication.


    Social Workers

    Social Workers can hold a master’s degree but not be licensed or certified. They have completed a two-year program that includes education in treatment therapies, research, as well as clinical training. Some social workers practice therapy as interns or associates and must be supervised by a LCSW. Interns and associates must tell you they are under supervision before the start of services.

    There are some social workers that are not clinicians who don’t practice clinically based treatments or diagnosis but may provide support services in the form of counseling, education, community outreach, mediation, case management, and program development.


    Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT)

    Have a graduate degree (most often in psychology) and have at least 2 years of clinical training working with clients to resolve relationship issues. MFTs are licensed (in some states) after completing one to two years of supervised post-graduate clinical work and passing a written examination.


    Coach (Life Coach, Career Coach, Personal Coach, Empowerment Coach)

    These service providers have become more popular over the recent years as alternatives to traditional therapy. The trick here is finding someone who is actually qualified to help. That means they should have both education and work experience in the field of psychology, social work, or a behavioral science.

    There are a ton of different coaching certifications that people can earn after taking a training or workshop but the credibility and standards of these certifications aren’t clear; so be cautious.

    Some social workers who no longer practice clinical social work go on to become coaches who help people with life management or career coaching. These professionals make for a great option to seeing a therapist, as they have the same educational background but are not subjected to the demands of insurance companies and the pressure to diagnose.


    Pastoral Counselor

    These are members of the clergy who offer religion-based psychological counseling. Licensing and certification are not required and not regulated by the state. Counselors may go through an internal education institution and receive some training in treatment therapies. Many pastoral counselor get certified through the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.



    Keep in Mind:


    I can’t stress how important it is that you find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. It’s always a good idea to ask for a referral from trusted friends or family members. You can also ask your primary physician if they can recommend someone.

    Be sure to check out my eGuide Navigating Your Health Care for tips and advice on getting your medical records, protecting your privacy, and finding the best health care professionals.

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