Let Us Answer Your Questions About Mental Health Professionals

By Olivia K Pitkethly, MA, LMHC
Questions About Mental Health Professionals

So, what do those letters after your name mean? Can you prescribe me some Xanax? Are you psychoanalyzing me right now? If both you and your husband are counselors, do you ever argue? As a therapist, I’ve been asked all of these questions and more. Rather than laugh (well, maybe I do, especially at that last one), I use the questions about mental health professionals to educate people about what I do and why I do it. Here are the answers to some other questions I often hear that may be helpful for you.

» What can I expect at my first appointment?

The first appointment is more of a “getting to know you” session. The mental health provider will ask you a series of questions, such as current symptoms, family history, stressors and medical issues. He will also screen for risk of harm, such as suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Be honest. It’s the only way you will get the help you need.

» Will my insurance cover this?

Most insurance policies have mental health coverage. However, be sure to double check. I’ve seen some policies that only pay for psychiatric hospitalization or will only pay for a certain type of mental health provider. A quick phone call will save you time and money.

» I’ve been feeling really depressed lately . Who can I talk to?

A licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) can diagnose and treat a wide variety of general mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, stress, etc. Most LMHCs have a specialty area, such as grief, postpartum depression or relationships, to name just a few. LMHCs also identify themselves as therapists, clinicians, psychotherapists or counselors.

» My wife and I have been married for a while and are starting to grow apart . Is there someone who can help us get back on track?

A licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) has the same experience with general mental health as an LMHC, but has a specialized degree to help those with relationship and family issues. An LMFT sees the unit as a whole and pays special attention to how the family system works.

» When my mother was under hospice care, there was a really nice counselor who helped us cope with our grief. Who was this?

Most likely it was a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LCSWs are often found in hospitals, clinics, hospice and private practices. While they are knowledgeable about general mental health issues, they also are trained to work with people in their environments, taking into account all aspects of a person’s life at the moment.

» I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before moving to town, and I need to get a prescription refill. Where do I go?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and the only mental health provider who can prescribe medications. A primary care physician can also prescribe medication, but a psychiatrist has more specific training to diagnose psychiatric disorders. After all, you wouldn’t see a cardiologist to treat a broken leg.

» My child’s pediatrician screened my son for autism spectrum disorder, and suggested I get him tested by a mental health professional. Who can do this for him?

A psychologistpreferably one who specializes in children’s issues, can complete comprehensive psychological testing to formulate an accurate diagnosis. They have a more scientific view of the role of psychology.

» My husband and I are getting a divorce and our daughter’s kindergarten teacher is noticing some disruptive behaviors that could be related, but she’s not really opening up to us. Is there someone who can help her communicate how she feels?

Play therapy is beneficial for children this age. Children communicate and cope through play and a registered play therapist (RPT) has the advanced knowledge and skills to assist children who are too young to communicate or identify their feelings.

» I lost my job last year and I’ve noticed I’m drinking more to deal with it. Do I have a substance abuse problem?

A certified addiction professional (CAP) is a mental health provider who has additional training in substance abuse disorders. They can diagnose and treat addictions or help family members of addicts.

» I saw a counselor once and had a terrible experience. Should I go back?

It may take a few different therapists to find a good fit. The important thing is to never give up. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and you deserve a well-balanced life!


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