It is important to find a behavioral health provider that you feel comfortable with.

Therapy isn’t an easy process and if you don’t feel comfortable or that you can trust your provider, you might choose to withhold information or even lie making it very difficult to achieve any real progress.

While their role is not to be your friend, you can certainly choose a one whom you feel respects your individuality, opinions, and self.

Here are a few steps that will make finding the right therapist or counselor easier to manage.

Ask questions to learn about their communication style and experience.

Don’t be shy and ask potential therapists about their experience and expertise when deciding if they are a good fit. How long have they been practicing? What are their interests or specialties? Listen to their answers and notice their communication style. This information can help you gauge your comfort level and decide if you want to work on emotional issues with them in the future.

After you’ve established care, at some point it’s also important to feel that the process is helping you. If you don’t feel relief from your emotional problems talk with your therapist about your goals and what you need to make progress.

What do the letters after their names mean?

The letters are identifiers to let you know what kind of education, (MA, Ph.D, Psy.D), licenses (LCSW, LPC, LMSW, etc.), and certifications they have. Below are common licenses you might see while choosing a therapist at SCHC:

LCSW or LPC:  Licensed Clinical Social Workers have completed Masters’s level of education in Social Work. Licensed Professional Counselors have completed Masters’s level education in Counseling or a related field.  Both have a minimum of two years of supervised clinical work and have passed an exam for independent licensure.  LCSWs are able to make behavioral health diagnoses and provide individual, group, and couples counseling.  They do not prescribe medications.

LMSW:  Licensed Master Social Workers have graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work and passed an exam for licensure at the Master’s level.  LMSWs are able to make behavioral health diagnoses and provide counseling under the direct clinical supervision of an LCSW.

PMHNP: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners are board-certified, advanced practice nurses that have completed 2-5 additional years of training to provide diagnostic assessment and prescribe medication for a wide range of mental health needs.  A PMHNP may also provide counseling interventions in addition to medication management.

What if I can’t afford a licensed behavioral health provider?

Check Your Insurance: The Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 is a federal law that requires all group insurance plans—including those under the Affordable Care Act — include mental health coverage, and it is usually the same co-pay as your medical appointments.

Ask About A Sliding Fee Scale: Another option, if you’re uninsured or limited financially, is to ask about a sliding scale. SCHC offers a sliding fee discount that allows patients to receive medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare at a discounted rate based on income and household size. There is an application process to qualify and the discount can be applied to all family members.

If you are unemployed or your income is temporarily reduced (i.e., seasonal worker), you may qualify for a “Declaration of No Income” discount that is effective for 90 days.

Sliding fee applications are available from the Patient Advocate or Front Desk Receptionist at each of our clinics.

What should I expect during my appointment with a therapist?

In your first session, behavioral health providers typically ask questions about you, your family, and your life. The information you share help them make an initial assessment of your situation. Topics they might ask about include:

  • Why you are seeking therapy/counseling
  • Who you live with
  • Family history
  • What symptoms are you experiencing (difficulty focusing, sadness, irritability, fear, insomnia, changes in eating habits)

Working with your behavioral health provider is a team effort so take an active role in each session. Here are a few things you can do to make your first session as successful as possible:

  • Be open – they are not mind-readers so answer questions as openly and honestly as you can. As you notice feelings or reactions in yourself, share them with your provider.
  • Prepare yourself – be ready to describe what you feel is wrong and how it is affecting your life. It can be emotional to share your inner thoughts and feelings and one option that can help is to write it down in advance.
  • Ask questions – during the session if there is any part of it that you don’t understand, ask your provider to explain. When you understand the process it is easier to feel more comfortable and open.
  • Have realistic expectations – Therapy is not usually a quick fix process. But, it can be a successful tool to resolve problems with effort on your part and a good relationship between you and your behavioral health provider.

If you have additional questions about therapy or counseling services at SCHC, contact our behavioral health department by phone at (907) 733-9263 or through the messaging feature in your patient portal account.

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