Social Anxiety Disorder Resources and Guide
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Finding the Right Doctor

If you have realized that you may have a problem that neither you nor your support system of friends and family can fix, it may be time to turn to a professional for the help you need.

With so many types of problems and doctors, though, making a decision as to who is best qualified to help can seem overwhelming. Most people in this situation consider seeing their general practitioner or family doctor for answers to the problem. While these types of professionals have a good understanding of general health issues and can prescribe medication, they may not necessarily be best suited to approach specific problems related to mental health.

Selecting a healthcare provider that will work specifically with mental health issues will lead to more effective, precise treatment and will improve your chances for a successful long-term recovery. Learning more about the different types of mental health professionals can help you become more directed on your path toward complete emotional wellness.

The following is a list of mental health professionals. This will assist you in determining which type of provider is right for you.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can both prescribe medication and perform psychotherapy. They normally look more at the biological factors contributing to such problems as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. They may look at a patient’s medical and family histories, and will most likely utilize lab testing as part of the diagnosis process. If an individual needs to be admitted to a hospital for testing or observation, they may do this as well.

Counseling Psychologists are PhDs who assist people in recognizing their own strengths and resources for use in coping with their problems. They see people as individuals with differences that make up who they are, and they help their patients use their own gifts to their advantage in all situations, including occupational and personal relationships. As well, they study how these differences affect people’s psychological wellbeing.

Clinical Psychologists are PhDs who assess and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They handle both temporary crises arising from high-stress situations as well as more severe, chronic conditions including borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia. Since they are not medical doctors, clinical psychologists are not able to prescribe medication, but are able to perform psychotherapy. Some specialize in certain types of problems while others specialize in certain demographic groups such as children, members of the gay & lesbian community, and the elderly.

Licensed Professional Counselors generally have graduate degrees in counseling psychology, although they may have more education. LPCs help people deal with issues they have been unable to resolve on their own. Some issues they handle include stress management, suicidal feelings, issues of grief and loss, substance abuse, and family or marital problems. They address such issues, develop plans for how the patient is to deal with them, and guide the patient through recovery. Once the patient is feeling more on track, counselors also help support them through maintenance with continuing wellness plans.

Alternative Medical Practitioners utilize complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM), which covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. Generally, the treatment these professionals offer is defined as those treatments not taught widely in medical schools, such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, massage, and homeopathy. CAM therapies are used in a variety of ways, and many treatments are “holistic” meaning the practitioner considers the whole person and their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental aspects. As well, CAM practitioners often use “preventative” therapies, educating and treating the individual to prevent health problems from arising rather than treating symptoms after problems have occurred.

Once you decide which type of professional best will work in your situation, there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure the health care provider you choose is licensed by the state in which you live to provide the specific services you’re seeking. As well, remember that finding the right professional can be a trial and error process. Make sure the person chosen is someone you’re comfortable with, and whose style meshes with your own core beliefs, personality, and values.

If something doesn’t feel right to you, trust your feelings. Don’t push for a relationship with a professional who doesn’t seem to fit your unique needs just because you’re out of balance emotionally and may not trust your own decisions. If it doesn’t feel right, it won’t work. That’s not to say the process will be pleasant, but it should be comfortable.


Additional Resources:

Talking to your Doctor
Emotional Health Therapy
Options for Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety Self Test


National Center for Health and Wellness