Login
Connecting for Kids logo: You're not alone. Save

How to Choose a Mental Health Provider

The mental health field is as diverse as the people who access these providers and services are often tailored to meet individual needs. But how do you get started with finding a provider? This guide outlines basic steps to help you get started.

Step 1: Identify your Role and Goals

Before beginning your search for a mental health provider, it's important to understand your role and goals for the experience. Thinking critically about desired outcomes can help you focus on the best person to help you get there.

Step 2: Identify Patient Preferences
Working with a mental health provider can be an intimate process, so it's important that you find someone you are comfortable with. Identifying your preferences up front can help you to begin treatment successfully.
Step 3: Compare with Provider Specialties

Your provider's background and training often define the services they are capable of providing. Once you understand what you are looking for, it is helpful to compare your needs with provider specialties.

Step 4: Understand Treatment Options

Providers will offer different treatment options based on their skills, specialization and personal philosophies. Comparing these options to your goals and preferences can improve your outcome.

Once you've worked through the steps above, you're ready to begin your search. Learn how to find local providers and cover the cost here.


Step 1: Identify your Role and Goals

Understanding your role and goals for working with a mental health provider are a critical component to a successful outcome. In families, there are often three levels of participation:

  • Child
  • Parents/caregivers
  • Entire family (including siblings and others interacting with the child on a regular basis)

Ask Yourself: Who will be meeting with the mental health provider? Just the child? The child and one parent? The entire family?

The decision of who will be meeting with the provider is interconnected with your family's overall goals. For example, if the overall goal is for the child to develop self-help skills, the entire family may only need limited involvement. The following is a general list of the types of goals families may have for working with a mental health provider:

  • Evaluation/diagnosis
  • Counseling/coaching
  • Talking about feelings
  • Developing/implementing action plans
  • Prescribing/monitoring medication
  • Guiding holistic or homeopathic treatments

Ask Yourself: What outcome are you hoping to achieve with this experience? Do you need a diagnosis? Do you already have a diagnosis and need an action plan to support your child? Are you looking for a combination approach?

Key Takeaways

  • Who is meeting with the mental health provider?
  • What outcome are you looking for?

TIP: Be realistic about the patient's willingness/ability to participate. You may need to work with the provider to move toward your ideal level of participation.


Step 2: Identify Patient Preferences

The key to forming a good relationship with a mental health provider is starting with someone who makes you feel comfortable. It's a good idea to make a short list of your preferences to help you with your search. Preferences may include:

  • Male/female
  • Non-English proficiency
  • Travel distance
  • Availability (for example, night/weekend hours?)
  • Ages served
  • Faith-based?
  • Setting (for example, in-office, in-home?)
  • Specialty/credentials
  • Special interests
  • Ability to coordinate with another provider (for example, school, pediatrician, ABA therapist, etc.)
  • Multiple specialties in the same office (for example, psychiatrist, counselor, social skills, etc.)
Ask Yourself: Which of these are most important to the patient (or to you, as the parent/caregiver)? Which preferences are "must-haves?"


Save

Key Takeaways

  • Identify the patient's preferences for a mental health provider.
  • Rank must-have preferences.

Remember: Preferences should be driven primarily by the patient who is seeing the provider (although parent/caregiver concerns may override).


Step 3: Compare with Provider Specialties

Connecting for Kids has identified eight core specialties in mental health providers:

  • ADHD Coach
  • Behavior Intervention Specialist
  • Early Intervention Specialist
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT or LIMFT)
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC, LPCC, LPCC-S)
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW or LISW)
  • Psychiatrist (including Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist)
  • Psychologist

For detailed descriptions of these specialties, see our Mental Health Specialties Side-by-side Comparison.

Ask Yourself: What kind of provider does my family need? Does the provider I'm considering have the right skills? Is there a lower-cost or a higher-availability provider that could also fill our needs?

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the different specialties and how they can meet your family's needs.

Step 4: Understand Treatment Options

Each case is unique, so it only makes sense that there are a number of treatment options available to families, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychotherapy ("Talk Therapy")
  • Marital or Family Therapy
  • Group Therapy

For detailed descriptions of these therapies, see our Treatment Options Side-by-side Comparison.

Ask Yourself: What kind of treatment is the patient most comfortable with? Does the provider I'm considering offer the treatments I think will work best for my family?

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the different treatment options.

Call or email:

Phone: 1-440-250-5563
Email: info@connectingforkids.org

Address:

P.O. Box 45372
Westlake, Ohio 44145

Copyright 2015-2016, Connecting for Kids of Westlake

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software