When to seek professional help

Remember in the one of my posts, I talked about going to a therapist? Well, if you did or did not read it, this chapter is solely focused on what to do when you need to seek professional help. Once you’ve admitted to yourself and your family that there’s a problem, your next step is to get a lot of information and look for the right doctor that meets your needs.

What kind of doctor should you go to? Should I see a psychologist or psychiatrist or just a primary doctor? First of all, finding a great doctor can be challenging! And here’s where you need to do! Do your homework: know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. A psychologist is a mental professional with a PH.D in Psychology and Clinical Psychology and are generally, licensed as per to state laws. This type of doctor specializes in psychiatric evaluations, counseling and also make an official diagnosis. Whereas, a psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor that’s specialized in specifically, mental health and have the training as well. These doctors are MDs as well as Board Certified and licensed, of course, and psychiatrists are experienced with diagnosing mental illnesses and provide various treatment options including therapy and prescribing medication. There are also clinicians/counselors and therapists that are available and are certified and licensed that evaluate your mental health and have their own ways of treating patients. If you need more information about what kind of doctor will help you, then research http://www.nami.org.

I always carefully do my due diligence when it comes to a lot of important life decisions. For example, when I look to hire new employees for work; I do extensive research that goes beyond their resume. I interview them, and ask them open ended questions (such as “Why do you want to work for this company?” and “Why should I hire you?”. You have no idea of who you’re hiring if you don’t do your research. When I decided to buy a car, find a church or a place to live, I always think about how will this help me and what do I get out of this or benefit from this?

Luckily, my primary doctor, at the time, knew a very good psychiatrist that was a colleague of his at medical school and was able to refer me to his office. I went in for an official interview (just like a job interview) and had my list of criteria & expectations along with questions for the doctor. What you want in a doctor is different for many people. I wanted a doctor that I could talk to openly about deeply personal issues and I wanted to explore various options of treatment that best suited me. Above all, I wanted a doctor that I could trust. An important aspect of human relations is trust! Being able to communicate effectively and open and honestly, is important.

Here’s a list of criteria that I had with in the official interview:

  • I asked the doctor to tell me more about themselves (ex: education and experience)
  • Are you licensed and board certified? (Very important!)
  • What experience do you have in dealing with patients suffering from the same disorder as me?
  • What is the different between a psychiatrist and psychologist?
  • Why should I see you and not another doctor? How are you going to help me?
  • What approaches do you take in treating various patients with different disorders?
  • What tools do you use to help your patients on the road to recovery? Such as different therapies, medications, hospitalizations and etc.
  • You can even ask questions about the cost of their services such as the cost per office visit and medications (if prescribed).
  • What are your office hours and are you able to reach out to me when I need you? (This one is so important because my mother’s psychiatrist is always on call whenever she needs help since my mother suffers from schizophrenia, and severe depression with suicidal tendencies.)

This is list is not all inclusive (because I could go on and on), but the point is, get all the information you can about that particular doctor and their office before you make the decision to start therapy.

I attended at least a couple of hour long sessions with this particular doctor before I became an official patient. It was nice of the doctor to answer all of my questions first before we divulged into the drama in my life. For some people, they view visits to doctors’ offices or psychiatrists’ offices as a complete waste of time. It a lot of cases, that is true. Different approaches work for different people because we all unique in our own ways. For me, sessions with my doctor, were therapeutic. Once I accepted disorder, now I had someone to talk on a one on one basis. Socially speaking, acceptance was harder! I had employers that had little to no care whatsoever about my depression. I’ve had employers tell me to “turn that frown upside down and be happy”. Yeah! That’s a little hard to do when you have depression. Turning a frown upside down into a smile, is no simple task at all! The reason being, is that society isn’t very accepting at all and they don’t understand what they don’t know. Period! Case closed!

I’ve talked to my doctor about this and he explained to me that it’s very common (more common that you think!) for people to have no clue about people suffering from depression. Of course, we talked about the major stressors in my life and discussed treatment options (more on that, later!) and goal or achievement board of what we want to accomplish in therapy. Believe me, I had seen quite a few of psychiatrists in my day and had to leave their offices for various reasons such as unhappy with their services and etc. So long story short, check out all the resources available online and check your area for local doctors and work on getting better!



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