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It’s hard to describe to anyone the agony of discovering a treatment regimen that works for you in treating your mental illness. I think the closest people to understand that pain are the loved ones close by.

As if the idea of having a mental illness isn’t hard enough, now you have to tap into the world of “psych” treatments. I call it that because most of the professionals that you deal with will have that prefix to their title, or the treatment you will be receiving will be in the realm of psychology. You have psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nutritionists, occupational therapist, behavioral therapist, general physicians, and social workers.

That is a lot! So today I’m going to give you some helpful tips when searching for and making decisions about who to include in your treatment team. We’ll start by defining all of the roles above:

  1. General Practitioner – A physician whose practice consists of providing ongoing care covering a variety of medical problems in patients of all ages, often including referral to appropriate specialists.
  2. Psychiatrist – a physician with additional medical training and experience in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders.
  3. Psychologist – A person trained and educated to perform psychological research, testing, and therapy.
  4. Therapist – A therapist is a broader umbrella term for professionals who are trained—and often licensed—to provide a variety of treatments and rehabilitation for people. Therapists can be psychoanalysts, marriage counselors, social workers and life coaches, among other specialties. A therapist’s goal is to help patients make decisions and clarify their feelings in order to solve problems. Therapists provide support and guidance, while helping patients make effective decisions within the overall structure of support. When selecting a therapist, their education, licensing and professional credentials should be essential considerations.
  5. Social Worker – a person with advanced education in dealing with social, emotional, and environmental problems associated with an illness or disability.
  6. Nutritionist – a person who uses the science of nutrition to help individuals improve their health. There is often no accreditation process for nutritionists, and those using the services of one should examine his or her qualifications carefully
  7. Dietician – one concerned with the promotion of good health through proper diet and with the therapeutic use of diet in the treatment of disease. The dietitian may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals and other health care agencies, schools, hotels, and other commercial institutions where duties include both food service administration and therapeutic nutrition services, or may choose to enter the fields of education and research. Some dietitians practice independently either as consultants or private practitioners in the area of therapeutic dietetics.
  8. Occupational Therapist – an allied health professional who is nationally certified to practice occupational therapy. The OT uses purposeful activity and interventions to maximize the independence and health of any client who is limited by physical injury or illness, cognitive impairment, psychosocial dysfunction, mental illness, or a developmental or learning disability. Services include the assessment, treatment, and education of the client or family; interventions directed toward developing daily living skills, work readiness, or work performance; and facilitation of the development of sensory-motor, perceptual, or neuromuscular functioning or range of motion.
  9. Art Therapist – a human service professional who uses art media and images, the creative process, and client responses to artwork in order to assess, treat, and rehabilitate patients with mental, emotional, physical, or developmental disorders. Through art, the therapist attempts to help the client access and express memories, trauma, and psychic conflict often not easily reached with words.
  10. School Counselor -A school worker trained to screen, evaluate and advise students on career and academic matters

So, now that you have an overview of some of the different providers in the field. What do you really want from your providers. Below is a list of questions to ask yourself that should help you get a sense if your providers are working for you.

  1. Does my provider listen to what I am saying?
  2. Do I feel validated as an individual when I am expressing my concerns?
  3. Does my provider answer my questions in ways that I can understand them?
  4. Does my provider make it a priority to explain to me what is going on?
  5. Am I comfortable with my provider?
  6. Is my provider available when needed?
  7. Do I understand my illness and the treatment plan?
  8. Does my provider seem genuine with me, so that I may be genuine with them?

Those are some starter questions. Treatment relationships are vital and complex. It’s important that open communication is possible, trust can be built, and you can gain more insight into your own illness and treatment so that you can advocate for yourself!

I was blessed with the most amazing Psychiatrist during college: Dr. Colleen Slipka Tennyson at James Madison University, and now I have another pretty great one: Dr. David Hartman. These two psychiatrists went far beyond prescribing me medication. They advocated for me and taught me how to advocate for myself. That is what makes a doctor wonderful. They were my voice when I didn’t have one, then helped me find my voice so I could use it. That is what you want with treatment providers.

Sometimes it takes time to find the right fit, especially since often times multiple people are needed on a treatment team, but don’t lose hope. There is help out there.

My name is Erin and this is Where I Stand.

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