Patient & Family Resource Center

Search for Help: Finding the most appropriate mental health professionals who are specially trained to address your mental health concerns

The Search For Help: Where to start?

Often the process of seeking mental health care begins with your primary care physician. Your primary care physician may recommend that you see a mental health professional, or may prescribe medications until you’re able to get an appointment with a mental health professional.

Mental health professionals are specially trained to address mental health concerns, but finding appropriate mental health care can be difficult. In many parts of the country, there is a shortage of trained mental health professionals, especially for treating children. Use the following tips to help you find a mental health professional that’s right for you.

  • Ask your primary care doctor for recommendations
  • Ask your friends or relatives for recommendations
  • Consider a referral service — an organization that provides telephone consultation to help locate a provider and/or a web site that contains a searchable database of providers
  • Use the Internet, but use it wisely. See “10 Things to Know About Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web” by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine or WebWatch guidelines by Consumer Reports
  • Understand your health insurance company’s policies regarding how many mental health visits are covered per year; whether your preferred treatment provider is covered by your insurance company; whether certain mental health diagnoses receive different levels of insurance coverage than other diagnoses; and whether inpatient mental health hospitalization is covered
  • Decide whether to use insurance benefits or pay out-of-pocket for treatment - consider whether you can afford to pay out–of-pocket and if so, whether you prefer to pay for treatment yourself for privacy reasons
  • If you do not have health insurance, consider free or reduced-fee care through Medicare, Medicaid, or a local community center or academic hospital, consider participating in a clinical research trial at a local university hospital – often you can receive free evaluation and care, fairly quickly, by participating in research


[This page is adapted from David Mischoulon, MD, PhD and Edward Messner, MD, “The 8 Habits of Effective Mental Health Consumers,” unpublished manuscript.]