How do I Choose the Best Mental Health Clinic?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Choosing a mental health clinic must first begin by defining the term. A clinic could be a privately run organization that serves people on an outpatient basis, offering access to things like therapy and psychiatry. Some clinics are similar to this in nature but are instead run by communities, health services or governments. Other times, people searching for a mental health clinic are really looking for an inpatient or day-patient mental hospital, and these might be run by governments or by private industries. Identifying what is needed is the best place to begin a search, and then people may need to take other things into account like whether the clinic takes insurance or other forms of medical payments, and what services it may offer.

Some medical centers retain mental health professionals who work with hospitalized children and their family to help reduce their worry or unease.
Some medical centers retain mental health professionals who work with hospitalized children and their family to help reduce their worry or unease.

In many locations there will only be one or two government or private run mental health clinic facilities. Particularly, state run types in places like the US have seen a high degree of closures, and it may not even be possible to find a community run one in all areas. One advantage to government run clinics is that they may have direct ties to government-operated mental hospitals. If a person is unstable and might need hospitalization, these may be a better choice.

Private clinics may have mental health practitioners who specialize in certain types of therapy, such as play therapy for children.
Private clinics may have mental health practitioners who specialize in certain types of therapy, such as play therapy for children.

The private mental health clinic can have advantages too. A number of these aren’t really clinics but are simply a collection of therapists and psychiatrists who work in concert. There can be lots of different choices of either practitioner, and the close working environment in these clinics can mean excellent communication between therapists and psychiatrists, if a person needs to see both. Moreover, private clinics may have mental health practitioners than specialize in certain types of therapy or clients. For instance, there could be a few child psychologists on hand, or those particularly gifted in couples therapy.

While a few of the private clinics may have sliding scale arrangements, their disadvantage is that many do not. Checking whether insurance works with one of these could be useful before making a choice. Otherwise payment for therapy, group therapy or other services could quickly get expensive.

When people mean day treatment center or inpatient mental health clinic, the search can be a little bit different. Some hospitals, which may be private or owned by a state, have separate facilities for this, and others have lock-down sections of a larger hospital serving a diverse population. Again, unfortunately, finding the best clinic, without significant wherewithal or ability to travel, is often extremely difficult.

Like many state run clinics, many hospitals have shut down clinics too. Unless people live in an urban area, they are likely to only have one or two of these available, and they may have travel a distance to get to one. This eliminates choice for many people, and they go where they’re sent, particularly if they feel unsafe or are currently deemed a danger to self or others. A few more areas have day centers, which might be useful for those who need daytime support, but can handle nights alone or with family.

It’s suggested people in need of any form of mental health clinic contact local mental health societies, speak with a family practitioner, contact regional public health agencies, or check the phone book for large therapist/psychiatrist associations. Keep in mind any insurance information, if needed, or any income information that could be used to qualify for low-fee or no-fee services. When all else fails and a day clinic or association can’t be found, developing a good working relationship with a therapist and one of the psychiatrists that he or she recommends could be useful. If the matter can’t wait for this, calling a suicide helpline or 911 is suggested as an important immediate step.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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