Getting The “Right” Mental Health Team

Patients and families and others working to locate and select the right health care provider to provide and other tips for getting the post benefit from mental health or substance abuse treatment for themselves or a family member may find helpful free tips and tools  on the Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD Website.

Choosing A Provider

On big challenge for many patients and their families is finding a health care provider.  A recent article on “Finding a Therapist”  shares the following tips for finding a therapist, counselor, or mental health care provider:

  • Make sure the provider has experience treating people who have experienced a trauma.
  • Try to find a provider who specializes in evidence-based medications for PTSD or effective psychotherapy for PTSD (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT); prolonged exposure therapy (PE); or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)).
  • Find out what type(s) of insurance the provider accepts and what you will have to pay (out-of-pocket costs) for care.
  • You may find more than one therapist. We also have information about Types of Therapists and Choosing a Therapist, (en Español).
  • As your family doctor friends and family if they can recommend someone.
  • If you have health insurance, call to find out which mental health providers your insurance company will pay for. Your insurance company may require that you choose a provider from among a list they maintain.

The website also recommends the following internet resources that offer help to patients and families looking to locate a therapist, counselor, or mental health provider:

In addition to the numbers listed above, the website also suggests that telephone help with locating a therapist, counselor, or mental health provider also is available in the following ways:

  • Some mental health services are listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look in the “County Government Offices” section, and find “Health Services (Dept. of)” or “Department of Health Services.” “Mental Health” will be listed.
  • In the yellow pages, mental health providers are listed under “counseling,” “psychologists,” “social workers,” “psychotherapists,” “social and human services,” or “mental health.”
  • You can also call the psychology department of a local college or university.

In addition to the above resources, the VA also says veterans and their family may qualify for special help from the following resources:

  • All VA Medical Centers and many VA clinics provide PTSD care.
  • Some VA centers have specialty programs for PTSD. Use the VA PTSD Program Locator to find a VA PTSD program.
  • Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling to Veterans and their families after war. Find a Vet Center near you.
  • VA Medical Centers and Vet Centers are also listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look under “United States Government Offices.” Then look for “Veterans Affairs, Dept of.” In that section, look under “Medical Care” and “Vet Centers – Counseling and Guidance.”

Finding & Developing Relationship With The Right Provider

Beyond locating any health care provider, many patients and their families report experiencing difficulty locating and helping the patient develop the necessary relationship to promote the effectiveness of the care and treatment.

The website shares the following suggestions:

1. Be Patient

Many people who start mental health treatment experience a rapport right away. Others may have to meet with several therapists before something clicks. The VA says that patients “shouldn’t hesitate to move on if something isn’t right.” It is not a waste of time to spend a few sessions with a therapist who turns out to be the wrong fit. Each step is a learning experience.  The VA recommends that patients and their families seek help from the patient’s primary care doctor, another health care provider you trust, or for veterans, a VA patient advocate  to help the patient through this process.

2. Keep an Open Mind

The right therapist may not look exactly like the person you pictured and may not be just like you.

3. Be Honest

Being honest in therapy and opening up about your experiences and how you’re feeling are key to making progress. Becoming comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with a professional may also lead to better communication with your family and loved ones.

Honesty about the therapy experience itself is important, too. If you’re going and you’re finding you’re just not making that connection, you need to be honest and find someone else.

Teaming With Patient’s Family & Other Non-Medical Caregivers

The effectiveness of mental health or substance abuse care also often depends upon the extent to which the patient enjoys the effective support from family, friends or other non medical caregivers.

Family, friends and others involved with a patient frequently play an integral role in monitoring the status and needs of patients including sharing valuable information with care providers about personal dynamics, life situations and other issues impacting patient care and safety, getting a patient to seek and cooperate in the care process, provide invaluable support and assistance to patients participating in in-patient and outpatient care.  These non-medical caregivers and supporters also frequently need to know and understand certain information about the patient, his condition, potential symptoms including medications and behaviors suggesting possible safety or care concerns and other care needs.

At the same time, not every friend or family member of a patient qualifies to participate effectively in all aspects of the care process.  properly recognize and respect patient privacy, self-determination and dignity concerns. Effective care and the law both require that all parties clearly possess a proper understanding and show appropriate respect for patient, their capabilities as well as care needs,  and the patient’s choices and preferences about what information about the patient and his care, who accesses and shares this information, who participates or provides input over care choices, and other life and care choices and decisions of the patient.

Timely and appropriate sharing of relevant medical and other information is a key requirement for and common challenge of effective teaming between health care providers and family and other non-medical caregivers involved in the care and treatment of patients. While providers recognize the potential value of appropriate  communication of information necessary for appropriate patient care to individuals involved in patient care, they also recognize the need to be judicious in sharing information with others to protect the often fragile patient trust necessary to effective care and to avoid violating federal privacy rules like the Health insurance Portabiity & Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy restrictions on the sharing of  patient health care information and other state and ethical medical confidentiality and privacy rules. Family members and other individuals involved in or wishing to participate in the care of a patient also need to be sensitive to these requirements to participate effectively and constructively in the care process.

AS a starting point, caregivers and patients might find it helpful to review the HIPAA guidance that the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently issued to promote better understanding of these HIPAA rules by patients, their health care providers and their families in response to a series mass violence incidents to help minimize misunderstandings about the HIPAA rules that might unnecessarily obstruct the sharing of health information about mental health or substance abuse patients necessary for appropriate care or for the patient or community here.