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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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Comments

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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