5 ways to make the most of mental health care

Many people seek help with a mental health issue at the family doctor's office. Here are some guidelines to ensure a positive experience:

  • Before your primary care doctor writes a prescription, ask about alternatives such as counseling. Sometimes drugs alone aren't enough; sometimes medications aren't needed at all.
  • If your family doctor refers you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor, ask yourself: Am I going to follow through? If the answer is no, ask if there's another option, such as a phone consult involving your doctor and a mental health professional.
  • Inquire about integrated primary care. Don't be deterred if your family doctor doesn't have a mental health professional on staff. Ask if they can schedule to have a mental health professional, such as a counselor, come into the office for a consultation.
  • Insist on good communication. If you've been seeing a mental health professional who is not under your primary care doctor's roof, make sure the two providers are in touch so everyone is on the same page regarding treatment.
  • Be honest with your doctor about your emotional well-being. Always be sure to mention any side effects from medications. If treatment isn't working, tell your doctor and don't be afraid to get a second opinion.

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Primary care providers and mental health professionals often operate independently. Experts and patients weigh in on the dangers of this this and how integrating care will help patients.


Reporting side effects, ensuring both clinicians have a release to speak to one another, and arranging for a mental health professional to meet for a consultation with you and your GP are very good suggestions. I would also encourage people to to advocate for themselves when selecting a psychologist by asking a few critical questions (below). Any provider should welcome the opportunity to quickly , but openly (not defensively) answer two questions: 1) What specific techniques (not just type of therapy) do you use for treating various kinds of disorders? 2) Do these have scientific support in general and are they better/comparable to other forms of therapy or medication? Best, Ryan J. Ryan Fuller, Ph.D. Clinical Director New York Behavioral Health 230 Park Avenue New York, NY 10169

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