Navigating the Mental Health Jungle: Where and How to Find Help

When we are struggling, it can be hard to muster up the motivation, focus, and follow-through to secure the support we need. Add to this the fact that the mental health world can be daunting and difficult to navigate – even for seasoned mental health professionals – and the unfortunate consequence is that many people who want and would benefit from treatment end up going without. If you are in need of mental health support but are not sure where to start or are confused about the information you have already found, the following may be useful in guiding your next steps:

Types of mental health care

  1. Therapy: Broadly speaking, mental health therapy is a process designed to improve quality of life by exploring and altering one’s thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors. Therapy can help with a wide spectrum of issues, from general stress to severe mental health disturbances. Sessions may take place individually (i.e., with a therapist and a single client present), between couples, within family units, or in a group setting. Therapy may be conducted by a clinical mental health counselor (you will see the initials LPC or LPCC after their name), chemical dependency counselor (LCDC or LICDC), social worker (LSW or LISW), psychologist (PhD or PsyD), or psychiatrist (PhD).
  2. Case Management: At times, people may need extra assistance with practical concerns due to difficulties stemming from mental health issues. Case managers – also known as case workers or CPST workers – are advocates who work closely with individuals to actively address such practical concerns; they help to increase individuals’ functioning and independence by working to remove barriers in the environment. Some examples of issues a case manager might help with include applying for benefits, connecting with support groups, finding/applying for housing, and organizing appointments.
  3. Medication Management: For some issues, medication can be useful in providing symptom relief by altering brain chemistry. Psychiatric medications can help with issues such as low or fluctuating mood, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep difficulties, concentration problems, hallucinations, and more. Medications affecting mental health are typically prescribed by a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner following an in-depth evaluation of symptoms, social history, and medical history. Once a psychiatric medication is prescribed, its effects are monitored closely and on an ongoing basis by the prescribing physician.

Levels of mental health care

  1. Outpatient: The majority of mental health treatment takes place in an outpatient setting. This means that sessions are held in an office or community setting on a fairly unintensive basis (weekly, biweekly, monthly, bimonthly, etc.), and that once each session is complete, clients are free to resume their activities as normal. Outpatient appointments generally last approximately one hour.
  2. Intensive outpatient: Like outpatient treatment, intensive outpatient – or IOP – treatment allows clients the freedom to resume activities as normal following each session. The main difference is the frequency and duration of sessions. Intensive outpatient treatment typically takes place several days per week, and sessions last up to 2-3 hours.
  3. Partial hospitalization: When a person’s treatment needs exceed what intensive outpatient can offer but do not require full hospitalization, partial hospitalization – or PHP – is an option. As the name implies, partial hospitalization usually takes place in a structured hospital setting. Partial hospitalization programs typically require anywhere from 4-8 hours of treatment per day (with breaks) 3-7 days per week, depending on the program and the level of care needed. Clients are permitted to return home at the end of each treatment day.
  4. Inpatient: For those who are experiencing acute mental/emotional distress and who require close monitoring in order to ensure their safety and/or the safety of others, inpatient care may be selected as the appropriate level of treatment. Inpatient stays occur in a hospital or clinical setting and generally last anywhere from 24 hours to several months. Following an inpatient stay, clients may be referred to a partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, or outpatient program for continued care.
  5. Residential: As with inpatient treatment, residential treatment involves 24/7 participation by clients, meaning that they are present at the facility every day and overnight for the duration of their stay. In contrast to inpatient care, residential treatment typically takes place in more casual or “homey” quarters and may last up to 6 months or longer. Residential treatment facilities are a common choice among those in recovery from addiction or eating disorders.

If you are not sure which type of treatment or level of care is appropriate for you, an initial diagnostic assessment by a qualified mental health professional is a good place to start. The evaluating practitioner can use the information you provide during the assessment to determine areas of need and provide referrals accordingly. Here at Mindfully we offer a service called Care Connect which helps match you to the type and level of care that you need.

Finding a Provider

So, you have a general idea of what is out there in terms of mental health treatment…but how do you access it? Here are some options:

  1. Request a referral: Many primary care physicians have access to mental health resources.
  2. Contact your insurance provider: If you have health insurance, your insurance provider can help you find in-network practitioners. Keep in mind that many insurance companies will provide some coverage for services even if your preferred provider is out-of-network; should you opt for an out-of-network provider, it will be your responsibility to ask your insurance company about out-of-network benefits.
  3. Ask around: Your friends, family, and coworkers may have recommendations.
  4. Search the internet: A simple search – e.g., “outpatient therapist Cincinnati Antheminsurance” – can reveal numerous options. You may also be able to find reviews/testimonials for providers, which can be useful in selecting a good fit.
  5. Come see us: At Mindfully, we place high value on ensuring that each individual is connected with the appropriate type and level of treatment, and we have compiled a comprehensive list of resources in the Cincinnati area to ensure that this can be achieved in a smooth and efficient manner following intake/assessment.

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