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Mental health centre

Mental health specialists

Choosing the right doctor and/or therapist for your mental health needs may seem like a daunting task. But, finding the right doctor is an important step towards getting proper treatment. A number of different types of doctors can treat mental illness, including the following:

  • GP: In many cases, your GP may diagnose and treat your mental health illness. When necessary, your doctor will refer you to a specialist
  • Cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT): The therapist helps to change people's attitudes and their behaviour through focusing on our thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes and how these relate to the way we behave as a way of dealing with emotional problems. CBT is available on the NHS in some areas.
  • Holistic and alternative medicine doctors: These doctors are specialists in complementary and alternative medicines, holistic medicine, nutritional medicine, and herbal medicine treatments. These doctors may be able to prescribe standard medications but often choose different approaches that may combine natural medicines with mental health therapies.  After these doctors determine appropriate wellness plans or treatments, they may recommend other mental health therapists such as life coaches, psychologists, or psychoanalysts
  • Psychologists: psychologists are trained to provide professional counselling on psychological and emotional issues. They can specialise in areas such as marital counselling, relaxation therapy, stress management, or sex therapy. Psychologists are not allowed to prescribe medications
  • Psychotherapists and psychoanalysts: psychoanalysts follow Sigmund Freud's theories that painful childhood memories contained in the subconscious are the cause of emotional disturbances. Psychoanalysts are similar to psychologists because they usually deal with emotional issues and may prescribe medication (although they generally do not). Psychoanalytic therapy relies on the principle of transference, that is, a pattern of both conscious and unconscious feelings and thoughts about the analyst that reflect similar feelings and thoughts about other important figures in the patient's life (for example, parents). The goal of the treatment is to make the unconscious conscious so that the patient can begin to recognise maladaptive patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that are no longer relevant to their current life circumstances. While psychotherapy is usually performed on a weekly to monthly schedule, psychoanalytic sessions may be conducted several times a week long term.
  • Psychiatrists: these professionals specialise in the treatment of mental, emotional, or behavioural problems. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications and may establish therapy sessions to treat the patient.

The following are some suggestions to help you find the right specialist for you:

  • Talk to trusted friends or family about professionals they may have seen or know.
  • Ask another doctor for a recommendation.
  • If you have private medical insurance, ask your health insurance company for an approved provider list.
  • Use a referral service from a national professional organisation for therapists or doctors.
  • Call a local or national medical society or mental health charity or organisation, such as Mind.
  • Look in the phone book under categories including social service organisations and counsellors.
  • Prior to booking your first appointment, think about the things you would like to know about your potential new doctor and/or therapist. Questions you may want to ask about include:
    • His or her education and years in practice
    • Fees and health insurance coverage (if a private patient), lengths of sessions and clinic hours
    • His or her availability in case of an emergency
    • His or her treatment approach and philosophy
    • His or her specialisation by age group or particular disorder

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 19, 2012

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