How to Deal with the Mental Health Provider Shortage

With mental health providers already in limited supply the increase in the need for services due to the stresses caused by the pandemic has made finding help extra difficult as of late.  If you are just starting out with problems, your primary doctor or ob-gyn might be a good place to start. In addition to doing an initial assessment, taking a history and prescribing medication, they can refer you to the appropriate mental health professional, if needed.

The obvious way to find providers is to check your health plan provider list. Consider those outside your area who offer teleheath services via the phone or computer. This could widen your options quite a bit. 

Seeing providers out of network or paying out of pocket may be other options to facilitate access to providers, which unfortunately are more costly and not possible for many people.  Although, some providers may offer a sliding-fee scale for those who are self pay that allows them to pay based on their personal income and what they can afford.

If you or your spouse are employed, you can check to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) which is separate from the medical plan. Typically you can access counseling at no cost on a short-term basis. Check with your HR department. 

If you are a student, take advantage of any free campus or university resources.

Your local church might offer pastoral counseling from a trained clergyman or woman which is usually free.

Some teaching colleges and universities may offer low-cost therapy provided by grad students who are supervised while they gain counseling experience. If there is such a school in your area, contact the psychology or behavioral health department and inquire.

SAMHSA is a government organization that is the go-to resource for locating affordable mental health care nationwide. Contact them at 1-800-662-4357 or online https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Online therapy is another option with chats with actual therapists from places like Better Help, TalkSpace or 7 Cups.com.

Theravive is a resource directory you could investigate for low cost therapists by state. 

Open Counseling is another resource for attaining accessible care. The site indicates if providers are accepting new clients and many list their rates. 

Open Path connects low-cost therapists to patients. I think you pay a lifetime membership fee and then get access to discounted rates on therapy sessions in the future. 

You can also get professional help getting professional help by contacting NAMI support services. Call their helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) to find a chapter or services in your area. 

If your mental health puts you in an immediate crisis, help is always available by going straight to the hospital emergency room. All emergency rooms have access to psychiatric care. 

Are you having trouble accessing mental health services?  What are you doing about it?

What About Counseling Works?

Have you ever been to counseling? Did it help? I have been many times and it has helped many times and other times it has not.

I don’t know if it is where I was at or where the counselor was at, but the times it didn’t work were in particular with this one therapist who didn’t seem too confident in herself. Quite frankly, she looked like a deer in headlights which surprised me because she was an older lady so I assumed she had years of experience, but who knows, maybe she was a recent graduate.

On the other hand, I was pretty sick at the time. My symptoms were out of control with much hypomania and anxiety going on, so many of her tactics flew in one ear and right out the other. It was probably more of a “it’s me not you” thing going on.

The times that therapy works, however, oh those glorious times…like today. I went in there wound tight as a watch and left walking a little taller, out into a world that seemed a lot brighter than when I went in.

My good therapist, rephrasing my feelings back to me, validating my emotions, asking insightful questions and providing practical and logical feedback. What a grand lady!

Tell me, has counseling ever helped you?

What’s Good About Depression?

depression

Researchers say there are some positives to having depression. I am not so sure I agree with them. Let’s take a look at what they are saying:

  • Depression makes you a better problem-solver because you need to figure out (usually with the help of a therapist) how to deal with your existing symptoms and the problems they cause in your life.

My thought on this is if we knew how to deal with our problems in the first place, many of us wouldn’t have became depressed to begin with.

  • Depression forces you to learn how to cope, again, usually with the help of a therapist or professional of some sort. Admittedly, researchers say that those who are depressed often initially choose poor coping mechanisms such as drinking.

So what I am hearing is that many of us had poor coping mechanisms which probably increased our chances of becoming depressed in the first place. I don’t see the positive in this.

  • You have better relationships because those who are depressed become better, as part of their healing process, at prioritizing what is and who is important in their lives.

Again, this suggests that before professional help, we did not have the ability to prioritize well. I know this was the case for me as I put financial security above my relationships and my own mental health which lead to a breakdown that almost cost me my life.

  • Depression can make us more compassionate to others going through hard times.

This I totally agree with, hands down! You can’t really understand what a person is going through unless you have been there yourself.

  • We are better at dealing with stress after going through the process, with a therapist, of figuring out what went wrong and how to avoid or manage future stressful times.

While this is true, again, it points to the fact that we did not deal with stress very well before the depression took over.

  • We are more realistic because we better understand what we have control over and what we don’t in life.

Again, we do now, but not before the depression took hold.

  • We can detect deception because we tend to have a more “realistic” view on life.

Realistic? How about pessimistic or cynical – those would be my choice of words.

Don’t get me wrong – I love that research is trying to say there are benefits to having depression. It is all about looking at the glass half-full, I suppose. But, if your depression is anything like mine, there wasn’t any water in the glass to begin with. What are your thoughts on this?

Writing Moment by Moment #23 and #24

#23 – A beautiful person gave me permission to accept help without feeling guilty and to take extra-special care of myself because I am “going through a healing period” which I need not minimize.  A weight lifted from me in that moment.

 

#24 – I think that I finally get what “mindfulness” means versus distraction.  Here’s a fun fact:

“Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density…in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”  ~Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30;191(1):36-43. Epub  2010 Nov 10

Now, to practice it…

What moment are you grateful for today?  I had three wonderful “in the moment” moments today – the above two and a third which I posted here.

For more on “Writing Moment by Moment” click here.