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Selecting a Mental Health Professional

posted by Outside Source on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

For the many Americans that seek help from mental health professionals, selecting a provider is an important decision that should be made carefully. Credentials, competence and your comfort level with the provider are worth considering. 

Who's Out There? 

There are different types of professionals out there to help. The following are the most common for mental health care: 


Have a doctorate in psychology and generally, complete one or two years of internship prior to licensure.

Professional Counselors

Have a minimum of a master's degree in a mental health discipline, and at least two years of post-graduate supervised experience.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Typically have a master's degree or doctorate in marriage and family therapy, and at least one year of supervised practice. 

Social Workers

Have a minimum of a master's degree in social work and at least two years of post-graduate supervised experience. 

Who's the Best Fit? 

Finding the right mental health professional requires a bit of work. If you are depressed or have another serious mental illness, it can be difficult to do that work on your own. If you are in this situation, ask family, friends or your primary physician for assistance. 

Here are some dependable ways to locate a provider: 

  • Through referrals by physician, friends or family members. 
  • Ask your health insurance company for a list of providers. 
  • Check your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work for a referral.

Also take into account factors that are important to you like age, race, gender, religion and cultural background. It is not wrong to rule out certain providers because they don't meet the criteria; you will be establishing a long-term relationship with this person, and you need to feel as comfortable with him or her as possible. 

Questions to Ask

  • What types of treatment do you provide? 
  • Are you licensed? 
  • What is your training or experience with my problem area? 
  • How will we determine treatment goals? 
  • How often will we meet? 
  • How will we measure my progress? 
  • What do you expect from me? 
  • What are your office hours? 
  • How do you handle emergency situations? 
  • Do you charge for missed appointments?
  • What is your hourly fee? 
  • Are you in my health plan's provider network? 

Once you have chosen a mental health professional, make sure the match is working. If you don't feel comfortable at your first session, talk about your concerns at your next session or consider trying someone else. 

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