What to Expect
have little or no idea what to expect
from a mental health professional. Just
remember, you’re not alone. Below,
we’ve listed the main steps that
someone seeking help will go through.
Seeking mental health care is very similar
to seeking other types of health care.
Making the First Call
- Once you make a phone call for an
initial assessment, you will make an appointment. Unfortunately,
some people experience a wait to get an appointment with
a mental health professional. The time it takes to be seen
varies depending on where you are seeking help, how many
mental health professionals are in your area, and other factors.
- If you do not feel that you can wait,
you should contact a crisis hotline immediately or dial 911.
They will direct you to immediate help.
- Usually, you will not be asked
to do anything to prepare for your appointment. You might
want to write down what medications you take if any to
share with the doctor or counselor you see. Otherwise,
the best thing to do to prepare is to relax as much as
possible. Just focus on the fact that the person you will
see wants to help you. It is that simple.
Arriving for Your Appointment
- When you arrive for the first
appointment, you can expect to be greeted by a receptionist
who will ask you fill out some information about yourself,
your issues and how you expect to pay for services.
- An arrangement for payment will be
made prior to seeing the mental health professional. This
may include payments, insurance, sliding scale payments based
on your income, or other financing options. Whatever your
current financial situation, you can receive services. Never
let a lack of money stop you from seeking the services you
- At your first appointment,
you will have an initial assessment. A Licensed Mental
Health Practitioner (LMHP), a Psychologist, an Advanced
Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), and a Psychiatrist can complete
an assessment. Many of these professionals are listed on
our Finding Help and Resources Page and others can be found
in the Yellow Pages under counselors, therapists or mental
Talking to the Mental
- Once the paperwork is completed,
expect your initial interview with a mental health professional
to last between 50 and 90 minutes. This will occur in an
office with a comfortable environment.
- There will be questions about your
feelings, the way you see yourself and your issues and some
questions about your history -- what types of treatment have
you may have tried in the past.
- There may be a referral for a physical
examination to determine if hormones or other bodily functions
may be causing your problem.
- Some times, though not always,
the mental health professional will ask to see someone
who knows you well, like a spouse, parent, sibling or co-worker
to get their point of view about your situation. This is
intended only to gather information that you may not be
aware of. The mental health professional cannot, by law,
share anything you have said to them with others, including
your family if you are over 19 years old. Your privacy
will be respected at all times.
Your Treatment Plan
- After this initial session, a written
treatment plan or case plan will be developed as part of
your clinical record. This will give you a road map for the
best steps you can take to receive treatment. You should
have opportunity to review that case record and to agree
to that treatment plan. If you have any questions about your
treatment plan, do not hesitate to ask for an explanation.
- At every point of the treatment process,
you have the right to review your case record. You may ask
to pay for a copy of parts of the record you wish to take
with you; however, the record is the property of your mental
health professional. The record is a document to help them
remain accountable for the services they provide you and
it helps them to document progress. This case record is kept
with the same respect of privacy as all of your medical records.
- After the initial session or
two and the treatment plan is established, you should know
the direction of the course of treatment, which may include
self-help groups, medications, out patient treatment and
counseling, and rarely, residential or inpatient care.
Your Rights and Responsibilities
- Please remember, you are the consumer
of services and therefore you should be in control of what
happens after listening carefully to what your mental health
professional suggests as the best course of treatment. Do
not follow treatment advice without full confidence in your
mental health professional.
- If you are not comfortable with your
mental health professional, you have the right to seek another
opinion or go through counseling or other treatments with
a different mental health professional.
- The most effective treatment is the
one that you participate in. Do not be afraid of opening
up to your mental health care professional. They need to
understand you and what you are feeling as much as possible
to be the most help to you.
- Ask questions whenever you
have them. Your treatment should be a team effort between
your mental health care professional and yourself.