What to Know When Looking for Mental Health Help?

Woman Under Water

“Recovery is not one and done. It is a lifelong journey that takes place one day, one step at a time.” ~ Anonymous

Something has happened in your life or maybe you feel it is in your brain. You want to get help and are not sure where to turn. I know, and I get it. Not only is there a myriad of options in front of you, you may not even understand which one to use? Do you turn to a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist, a Counselor, a Therapist or even a Social Worker? How can there be so many choices and then, what therapy do they even offer?

As this is the first decision that you, in the state you are in at the time, will be making, hopefully, this article will help shed some light. According to WebMD (Goldberg, 2017), here are the main difference, depending on what you are looking for.

  1. Psychiatrist – A medical doctor who works in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness. Because they are a doctor, they can write prescriptions, in case you need one for your mental health improvement. In many cases, though, medicine alone is not enough to bring you back to mental health. That is where the other roles come in.
  2. Psychologist – A person with a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in psychology, completes a clinical and internship rotation and is capable of treating you in different treatment methods, psychological and behavioral theory needs. They are not medical doctors, so do not prescribe medicine, but typically work with Psychiatrists that can.
  3. Licensed Mental Health Counselor – A person with a master’s degree (MA) in psychology, counseling, or a related field. A counselor must also do an internship and two-year residency under supervision. A mental health counselor can evaluate and treat mental health problems and wellness issues through counseling or psychotherapy.
  4. Clinical Social Worker – A person with a master’s degree (MA) in social work and is trained to evaluate and treat mental illness. Social workers also provide case management and hospital discharge planning as well as act as an advocate for patients and families.

So, that’s great, but what does it mean and what kind of therapy will work for you? That is where this experience becomes harder for you, but not impossible. Just like psychiatric medications, some therapies will work for you and some don’t. Let’s take a look at the most common therapies that these professionals use (Goldberg, 2017).

  • Psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies – These therapies work under the idea that we are affected by issues that are unconscious to us. This might be painful past issues that we are blocking from our conscious thought. Therapy goals include working to bring these unconscious items to your conscious thought to understand and solve them.
  • Behavioral therapies – This is a school of thought where learned behavior has lead to your unhealthy behavior patterns. The goal is to change your behavior to replace the unhealthy one and work to reward that behavior. This might also include exposure to unreasonable fear triggers to work on that change.
  • Cognitive therapies – These therapies are popular right now as they have been effective. In many cases, it is dysfunctional thinking or as Dr. Burns (2012) wrote, twisted thinking styles that are causing dysfunctional emotions and/or behavior. Help is found in recognizing the unhealthy thinking patterns and beliefs and then finding healthy ones to replace them and practice. It all sounds simple, but if you’ve been doing unhealthy thinking for a long time, it will take time.
  • Humanistic Therapies – Most, including me, believe it is the person seeking help that must discover the solution for them. Under this therapy, that belief is further expanded by pushing you to make the capable rational choices to develop your full potential. It puts you, as the client, in the center of changing your life to get better as you know you better than any mental health expert can. You can be at the water, but you must drink it. That is the heart of these theories.
  • Integrative/Holistic therapies – Instead of looking at only one therapy, this technique uses many of the above therapy approaches that are based on what you need to get better. This works well when there are many conflicting issues for you and you have struggled with them for a long time.

As you can see, there is no magic eight ball and is no quick and easy answer. You might want medicine, or you might not. But medicine alone won’t cure you. Unfortunately, a lot of people think there is one magic pill or one magic therapy that will fix them. Instead, it is a process of discovery and working with professionals that will make you better. But the truth is, you must want to get better and want to work hard to get, be, and stay better. There are so many people working that want to help you. So first, find the right person and seek the helper and therapy that will work for you.

Be honest with your mental health provider and be honest with yourself. It’s really all in front of you.


Burns, D. D. (2012). Feeling good: The new mood therapy.

Goldberg, J. (2017, December 4). Psychiatry, Psychology, Counseling, and Therapy: What to Expect. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/guide-to-psychiatry-and-counseling#1

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

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About Alan Eisenberg

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach, Bullying Recovery activist and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance" and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe. He is currently working toward his Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling.
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One Comment

  1. That gives better clarity now.

    It is confusing to understand and decide, particulary when you are in a confused state.

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