Before we get to what we’re about, we cover some basic things that a person should know if they are considering getting help for mental health issues. The topics are:
- Myths (false beliefs) about mental health professionals
- Which mental health professional should you go to for your issue?
- What can you do before getting help from a mental health professional?
- What distinguishes a good mental health professional from a bad one?
Let’s get started
Myths (false beliefs) about mental health professionals
Myth 1 – They will read your mind
People think their deepest, darkest secrets will float magically in front of a mental health professional, as soon as they get in a room with them. These professionals are not mind readers. They are attentive listeners. So, they learn about you as you tell them. But they can only work based on what you tell them. They cannot “read” what you don’t tell them. It is true that body language does reveal a few small things, like whether you are scared or comfortable, but it does not reveal the whole story. “Psychics who can read every detail in your mind just by looking at you” only exist in fiction.
Myth 2 – They will control you
You’ve probably heard stories about “hypnosis”. Well, what hypnosis does is it puts you in a state where you are more open to suggestions. For example, if you hate a man and someone suggests “Please forgive him” then you may not be open to it. At that point, if someone performed hypnosis on you, you MAY become a bit more open to that suggestion. That’s all it does. It does not “control” your will. It cannot “force you” to do anything that you DO NOT want to do. “Perfect hypnosis,” where the person enters a state where he/she can be controlled like a robot happens only in fiction. If you’re still not convinced, it might comfort you to know that hypnosis is now banned. So, no mental health professional could even try to hypnotize you without serious legal consequences.
Myth 3 – Strong people can get out of severe psychological problems.
Severe psychological problems are just like severe physical problems. Can a person get out of a heart problem by being strong? No, he/she has to take medication and implement certain lifestyle techniques recommended by the doctor. Just like that, a person cannot get out of severe depression or anxiety by being strong. That person also has to take medication and implement certain lifestyle techniques recommended by the mental health professional.
Myth 4 – Mental health issues happen to “psychos”
First of all, there are no “psychos”. There are only mentally healthy and mentally ill people, just like there are physically healthy and physically ill people. Having a mental illness does not make someone a “psycho” any more than having a heart or lung illness does.
Myth 5 – Your friends and family can be your psychologist
A friend or a close relative is a great source of support. No professional will deny the importance of having supportive friends and family. But if your heart starts racing out of fear, or if you are so depressed that you don’t even want to live or get out of bed, then there is no support or advice in the world that can help. For such things, you need mental health techniques and possibly medication, and only professionals can give you that.
There is another reason why your friends and family cannot be your psychologist. Your closest friends and family have made up their minds about what they think they know about you. For example, suppose I think that my best friend is non-violent. Now, if someone presents evidence to the contrary, then I probably won’t even consider it. Instead, I will say something like: “I know my friend. He would never do something so violent.” See where the problem is? A big part of a psychologist’s job is to construct the meaning of a situation based on the facts. The stubborn biases that your friends and family would have about you would interfere with their ability to focus on the facts. So, it is always advisable to go to someone who is NOT close to you to gain a clear and unbiased understanding of your psychological issues, and the best people for that job are the professionals.
Myth 6 – They are fooling you for money
Have you ever felt like some doctors are just “fooling” you for money? If you have, it’s because the quality of doctors is not universally the same. Some doctors are good, and some, not so good. The mental health field is the same. Some are good, and some, not so good. It is entirely possible that you end up going to a not so good mental health doctor, just like it’s possible that you end up going to a not so good heart doctor. But that doesn’t mean that he/she is “fooling you for money.” It just means that he/she is one of the not so good ones.
Which mental health professional should you go to for your issue?
Psychiatrist – You should go to a psychiatrist only after you’ve gone to either a clinical psychologist or a counseling psychologist. Psychiatrists ask you questions to “confirm” the suspected diagnosis of the clinical or counseling psychologist, and accordingly prescribe medication for it.
Clinical psychologist – You should go to a clinical psychologist, if you want some understanding regarding the nature and treatment of severe and/or unexplained symptoms
Severe symptoms include:
- A feeling of a voice or person that isn’t really there
- A thought that something happened that didn’t really happen
- Frequent suicidal plans or attempts
- Extreme antisocial behavior
- Extreme isolation
- No response or a confused response to concern
- Addicted to something – porn, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes etc
- Nervous/worried/scared for no obvious reason.
- Obsessing about something to the point that it blocks general attention and concentration.
- Staring into space for hours together
- Repeatedly damaging oneself or others, despite persistent concern.
- Intense difficulty in letting better sense prevail.
Unexplained means that there is no incident, situation or physical health reason that can completely explain the symptoms.
Counseling psychologist – You should go to a counseling psychologist, if you want some understanding regarding the nature and treatment of moderately alarming and explainable symptoms.
Moderately alarming symptoms include:
- Negative response to concern (Ex – “Sure I can to take care of myself, but it’s not that easy”)
- Behavior or conduct problems (Ex – “I don’t care. He/she deserves it.” or “I don’t need to do well at school”)
- Generally unenthusiastic response
- Noticeably nervous/worried/scared in certain situations
- Disinterest in constructive thinking
- Tendency to avoid people, despite some attachment to loved ones
- Infrequent suicidal contemplation
- Relationship problems
- Some difficulty in letting better sense prevail
Explainable means that there is some incident, situation or physical health reason that can possibly explain the symptoms
Social worker – You should get a social worker, if social functioning is too hard for you. Things like making your voice heard, speaking up when you need something, speaking up when someone’s bothering you, assertive communication etc.
Life coach – A life coach can help you develop life skills. If you ever think that “life is just impossible for me” then you desperately need a life coach. They will teach you techniques to adapt to your life circumstances and rise to a challenge. Life coaches are typically extensively trained in cognitive behavioral therapy – managing thoughts and the resulting behaviors, and exposure therapy – desensitizing you to your fears through gradual exposure. If you ever feel like it’s “too hard,” then life coaches can help you build hope, and even excitement towards more positive and productive outcomes in all areas of your life.
What can you do before getting help from a mental health professional?
1. Figure out a clear and detailed description for any observed issue
Psychologists often get vague descriptions like “I don’t know. Just felt odd.”
It’s not easy to think when it’s hard. But, the smallest bit of clarity like “It felt like I didn’t belong there” can really help the psychologist to enable quicker results. You can even research your issue on the internet a bit, to see what descriptions other people use to report a similar issue.
2. Do not go to the internet for answers regarding your issue
The internet has a lot of information, these days.
Only problem is that there is nobody to tell you which information is supported by majority-tested evidence, and which information is just one person’s experience or opinion. It can certainly help to figure out a clear description for your issue. But, please do not rely on the internet for answers regarding your issue. Mental health professionals have spent their whole life studying actual research evidence and hundreds of cases. Let them give you the answers.
3. Think about how much you’re willing to pay
Mental health professionals provide a service that they’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy perfecting. So, it’s not unreasonable for them to charge a fee for their service. The ones who practice for a long time are likely to charge a higher fee for their vast experience and conditioned expertise, but they are also more likely to give you results. Government run institutions usually try to provide quality service for an affordable price.
4. Be prepared to work for results
Mental health professionals cannot cure mental issues without cooperation and work from the patient. They understand how hard it is and they will NOT say things like “Your mother is dead. She’s not coming back. Move on.” They won’t do that. Instead, they will start with a small and gentle first step, before moving to bigger steps. But every step involves just that little bit of effort, which the patient has to be willing to give.
What distinguishes a good mental health professional from a bad one?
1. A good one listens patiently
If you find that your psychologist jumps in to give advice, before hearing your whole story, then you are not in good hands. Listening is a skill that is emphasized very highly all throughout any education in psychology, and, yet, it requires practice. It’s okay if your psychologist occasionally jumps in to offer advice or suggestions, but if they do it too frequently, then they need more practice with listening, and you are better off going to another psychologist.
2. A good one does not judge
“You are too stubborn.”
“You are stuck in the past.”
These are examples of judgment. A good psychologist will not give such judgments. He/she will take the time to understand your motives, and then only deal with those outcomes that YOU wish to address.
3. A good one does not argue logic without processing emotions
Suppose you tell a psychologist, “I lost my girlfriend and I don’t know what to do.” If the psychologist’s immediate response to that is “That’s over. She’s gone. So why not try to move forward?” then, he/she is arguing logic without first processing your emotions, which means you need to find a better psychologist.
4. A good one will not minimize your concerns
“Look, you lost your girlfriend after staying together for 3 years. I lost mine after staying together for 7 years. So you should feel lucky.”
“You hate your job? So what? Most people hate their jobs.”
These kinds of minimizing comments should not come from a professional. If that happens, you need to look somewhere else.
5. A good one doesn’t impose his/her view or solution
“If you do what I tell you, you will be alright.” That kind of directive statement should not come from a professional. Rather, it can be something like “Based on what you’ve told me, I’ve thought of some options that might work for you. Whichever option you choose, I can give you techniques to make it easier for you to work through it.”
6. A good one makes you self-sufficient
“If you have a problem, come to me and I will solve it for you.” No. A good psychologist will empower the client to solve their own problems without necessarily requiring help from someone else.
To sum up…
Mental health is a vast and complex subject. In this article, we’ve covered some basic things that a person needs to know if they’re considering getting help for mental health concerns. Knowing these things can help you choose the right path for your mental health recovery.
Finally, let’s talk about what we do at bythepeepaltree
At bythepeepaltree, our team of psychiatrists, life coaches and psychologists can train you to:
- Evaluate your thoughts and obtain the facts
- Condition helpful behavior
- Uncondition unhelpful behavior
- Communicate assertively
- Manage time effectively
- Handle negotiations effectively
- Cope with stress and emotions, and many other things…
We also do therapies and workshops for relationship management, sex education, sex problems, LGBT issues, caregiver support, mood disorders and minor mental disorders.
For contact, call 8123238452 or email email@example.com