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How Do I Choose the Best Mental Health Specialist?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

Choosing the best mental health specialist depends on the types of problems the patient is experiencing. In some cases, one's choice of specialist will be limited by insurance or proximity, but there are many different factors to keep in mind even within the group of specialists available. For example, it is important to be comfortable with one's therapist, and it is essential that the mental health worker is suited to the type of problem experienced. For safety, a patient should endeavor to only seek advice from licensed professionals.

A mental health specialist is any type of professional who provides mental health care. This can include therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists. When choosing a mental health specialist, it is important to think about the kind of care provided by each of these types of professionals. A psychiatrist, for example, can prescribe medicine, while a marriage counselor will typically not be involved with medications.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

On a personal level, it is important that one feels comfortable with whichever mental health specialist one chooses. What causes a person to be comfortable with a particular doctor is difficult to define, but it is often obvious to the individual. There are a variety of questions to ask a mental health specialist to determine if his or her style is a good match, but it is usually best to go with one's instincts.

Different specialists focus on different areas of mental health, and while a person who is highly specialized may not be the best match for an individual, specialization may indicate more informed treatment. For example, people dealing with a particular problem such as pain or a terminal illness may be best treated by a specialist who often deals with these cases. Asking about the mental health professional's experience with cases specifically like yours can help not only make sure that he or she is qualified, but also that his or her approach is appropriate.

In the end, choosing the best mental health specialist may not be a perfect process. For many people, what matters is seeing the same person over a long period of time in order to build up a relationship through which real changes can be made. This means that it is important to choose a specialist who is affordable and relatively near to where you live, so that you will continue to be able to see the same specialist for the duration of treatment. Even a specialist who is not perfect can provide valuable insight when he or she is given enough time to gather information.

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