Seeking the right mental health provider: How to weigh the pros and cons


When seeking out a mental health provider you have a lot of choices to weigh, such as:

  1. What kind of doctor do I want to see? Psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc. In a previous blog I addressed this issue in depth (May 11th, 2016 issue “What are the different types of mental health providers”).
  2. Am I willing to go out of network (i.e., see a professional who does not accept my insurance)? The Washington Anxiety Center of Capitol Hill, the practice at which I am Director is “out-of-network.” What does this mean? It means we are a specialized Cognitive-behavioral practice that does not accept insurance. However, it does not mean you do not already have out-of-network benefits, where you can submit a receipt on your own and get some coverage for your care. Bottom line: are you willing to pay out of network? How does this decision weigh in terms of your pros and cons?
  3. Seeking a specialized service requires a specialized doctor. Too many times have I heard patients who have been in treatment for 10+ years because they went to see a generalized mental health provider. Only after that didn’t work, did they seek out services with a specialized doctor. There are several studies that look at the overall cost-benefit analyses of this approach and find that those who do not initially seek out the appropriate services tend to spend significantly longer in treatment, an increased financial investment (compared to if they sought out more expensive treatment initially) and more emotional suffering.
  4. What are you hoping to get out of treatment? Exploration of yourself? Family system changes? Behavioral changes in your child? Alleviation of marriage/relationship distress? Reduction in anxiety and depression? Thinking about what you would like can help with your decision making as well.

Hope this helps those of you out there feeling a little lost in this process. It’s a complicated one, but one well worth traveling.