How To Find And Work With A “Depression Doctor”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million adults in the United States reported at least one major depressive episode in 2020. It’s one of the most common mental health disorders. Effective treatment is available, however. If you’re experiencing depression and are ready to find support, here are a few things you should know about connecting with the right mental health professional for you.
Begin With The Basics
The way depression manifests can vary somewhat from person to person, but some common symptoms include apathy, hopelessness, losing interest in previously pleasurable activities, mood swings, irritability, social isolation, changes in sleep, appetite, weight, or an inability to concentrate. Remember, clinical depression is a diagnosable disorder that’s generally longer lasting and more severe than simply feeling sad. In some cases, this mental health condition can lead to undesirable behaviors such as overuse of alcohol and drugs, or even self-harm.
Next Step: Choosing A Mental Health Provider
Whether you get a referral from your primary care physician or seek out a mental health professional yourself, there are a few different types of providers you might choose from. These mental health professionals have either a master’s or doctoral degree and are held to practice standards set by the American Psychiatric Association. When it comes to “depression doctors,” here are a few of the most common options.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are trained to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They may run physical tests, conduct evaluations, and then create a treatment plan accordingly, which may include psychotherapy, medication, or both. Typically, psychiatrists are the only psychology doctors who can prescribe medications for treating depression and other mental health conditions. This is because they have completed medical school as part of their education.
- Psychologists are not medical doctors, but they are trained to assist individuals with mental health challenges. Their primary approach is usually to focus on psychology and using evidence-based practices to shift thoughts and behavior through talk therapy.
- Therapists are not medical doctors, and are also trained in assisting individuals with mental health challenges through counseling and talk therapy. While all psychologists are therapists, therapists are only psychologists if they also have a doctoral degree.
Connecting with a therapist or psychologist is a common starting point for people who may be experiencing depression and want to seek the help of a mental health professional. Research suggests that talk therapy can be an effective treatment for major depression and other conditions, as well as contribute toward preventing relapses, so reaching out to one of these two types of professionals is generally a good first step. If they believe you would benefit from connecting with a psychiatrist, they may suggest this and even provide a referral, as there are several medications that may help manage the symptoms of sever depression.
Where To Find A “Depression Doctor”
If you have medical insurance and it covers mental health, you might start your search for the right mental health provider at your health insurance company. They may be able to provide you with a list of providers that they cover. If you do not have health insurance or mental health services are not covered, community-based organizations in your area may offer financial support or lower-cost resources for those in need. Free mental health clinics may also be available in some areas, and some providers may offer a sliding scale for fees based on income.
If you can afford treatment but simply don’t know where to look, doing an internet search for “therapist near me” can give you a starting point. You can see if the location of a particular provider’s office is convenient for you, learn about their professional background, read reviews from other clients, and then contact them to learn more about pricing and availability.
If you prefer to meet with a mental health provider virtually instead of in person, there are options available for this too. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp can connect you with a licensed therapist who meets your needs based on a questionnaire about your situation. While BetterHelp does not accept insurance, rates for seeing a mental health professional through the platform are typically comparable to most co-pays. Since research suggests that virtual therapy offers similar benefits to traditional, in-person methods, it can be a more available, cost-effective option for depression treatment for those who prefer this format.
What To Look For In A Provider
Any provider you meet with should hold the appropriate licenses for their particular state, which signifies to patients like you that they’ve completed the necessary training to do their job well. All therapists on a platform like BetterHelp, for example, are licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (MFT), clinical social workers (LCSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC). If you’re unsure of whether the mental health professional you’re interested in working with holds the proper certifications, it’s your right to ask.
It’s also important to choose both mental health professionals and a format you feel comfortable with. If you prefer either in-person or online sessions, prioritize that. If you would prefer a therapist who is your same gender, is within a certain age range, or has experience with certain types of situations, you’re entitled to prioritize those things. If you require medications as part of your treatment plan, that will obviously want to meet with someone who can prescribe and manage your medicine. You may even meet with a few different providers before you find the one that fits you best. Remember: The more comfortable you feel opening up to your therapist, the better you’ll be able to receive the treatment and support you deserve.
What To Expect In Your Sessions
The content of a session with a mental health provider may vary somewhat based on their title. A session with a psychiatrist may look different than one with a psychologist, for example. A psychiatrist may ask about your medical history and take your vitals in addition to asking you questions about how you’re feeling and the challenges you may be facing.
A psychologist, therapist, or social worker will focus only on the latter. They may ask you to tell them about yourself, your life, your symptoms, your goals, and what’s been bothering you. Once you’ve been working together a while, they may also provide you with “homework” from time to time: things to think about or practice in your life before your next session.
Building a relationship with a mental health professional is like any other relationship in that it involves trust being built over time. Your provider should be a good listener, non-judgmental, and able to create a space where you feel safe and comfortable expressing your feelings. If not, it can be difficult for trust to form which can impede the therapeutic process. In a case like these, it’s in your best interest to continue your search by seeking a different provider.
If you’re nervous going into an appointment, you can talk about this with your therapist. They’ll likely try and make you as comfortable as possible so you can get the most out of the appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way, either. A therapy session is your time, and it should suit your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What doctor helps people with depression?
What do doctors ask to see if you have depression?
Can doctors tell if someone is depressed?
Who do people talk to about depression?
Who can diagnose depression?
How do doctors treat anxiety and depression?
Is depression curable permanently?
Do neurologists treat depression?
How do doctors treat mild depression?
Is depression a form of mental illness?
Who to talk to about anxiety?
Can you see depression in a brain scan?
Can you test yourself for depression?
Can depression make you lose your memory?
What is the fastest way to treat depression?
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