If you find yourself looking for mental health care, the good news is that you have a lot of options for where to find it. The existence of all kinds of mental health providers in many different settings amounts to a lot of options for you to consider and choose from. But if you don’t already have a preferred mental health provider in mind, this sort of a search can easily feel overwhelming - and if you’re not feeling your best, this can be even harder. The multitude of choices can sometimes leave you feeling like you aren’t even sure how to start.
If you’re not sure how to begin your search for a mental health provider, a good place to start is with your regular healthcare provider. This might mean the person who oversaw your pregnancy care, or the primary care provider you see when you’re not pregnant. You can even ask the healthcare providers at the hospital or birthing center where you delivered your baby for guidance.
If your road to improved mental health starts here, this provider may be able to provide you with a little or a lot of help right away. They will certainly be able to start a conversation with you about mental health - how you’re feeling, any struggles or concerns you’re dealing with - and some providers may also screen you for certain mood disorders or provide you with medication. With any provider, it’s important to speak with them honestly about how you’ve been feeling so that they can be as helpful as possible. Your regular provider will also be able to provide you with guidance on next steps for care, and they may even be able to provide you with a referral to a mental health provider who can help you going forward.
They may refer you to any number of mental health specialists, from psychiatrists, to psychologists, to counselors. All of these specialists have different areas of focus, so who you decide to work with may be different based on your needs and desires. You may even find it best to work with more than one specialist if that would be most helpful for your unique care. But no matter who you decide to see, it's important that you move beyond your regular care provider and see a mental health specialist who can provide you with specialized mental health care.
You can find these mental health providers in a number of places, from large organizations to small practices. This includes hospitals, community health centers or clinics, or private practices. All of these settings will provide you with different types of care so, again, where you go might depend on what’s best for you. Still, with so many options it can be hard to know where to go or who to see. So how can you narrow down your options?
A big factor in where you decide to decide to see a mental health provider might be the healthcare coverage you have.
If you have insurance, your mental health coverage might be different from one location or provider to the next. It can be helpful to look into your coverage and see if, for example, the private practice psychologist you’d like to see is covered by your insurance, or if a health clinic nearby will be an especially affordable option. Your insurance provider and health care providers should be able to help you work through these specifics.
Many insurers have an online directory that you can search through to be provided with a list of healthcare providers in your area who are covered by your insurance. Because there are so many different types of providers you could see, but you may not be sure just what sort of a specialist would be best for you, you can also call your insurer directly for help with this. Many insurers have a special mental or behavioral health phone line that you can call for screening that will help connect you with a provider in your insurance network who could be a good fit.
If you already have a preferred specialist in mind, you can always call the mental health provider’s office directly to ask about insurance coverage and cost.
If you don’t have insurance, don’t fear. Many providers - including teaching hospitals and training institutes or government funded community health centers - offer low-fee or sliding scale services that can still make getting treatment possible, so this doesn’t need to stop you from getting the help you need.
The National Institute of Mental Health also provides a number of links to resources with health care provider directories that allow you to search online for providers. Similarly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a searchable behavioral health provider directory. The American Psychiatric Association also has a "psychiatrist finder" on their website. And for postpartum support specifically, postpartum support international - found at postpartum.net - has database that is searchable by geographic area. And you can visit your state or county’s government website and search for the health services department. You can also stay on the lookout for a behavioral health provider directory in your search for providers in your area.
There are also a wealth of less formal tools that may be helpful. Depending on what kind of mental health care you’re looking for, there’s a good chance there’s an app, website, or online support group centered around that disorder or concern. These resources can be helpful in and of themselves, or they can be great for connecting you to any local resources available in your area. Studies suggest that talk therapy through telemedical channels - like video chat - are as effective as talk therapy in person. Since therapy is known to be one to be one of the most effective treatments for many mental health concerns, this can be both a great place to start and a great possibility for a longer-term solution in areas that don’t have easy physical access to a range of mental healthcare providers.
For more short-term or emergency situations, helplines and emergency phone lines, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the U.S. (1-800-273-8255) or the equivalent in your area, are available any time of day or night. Depending on what you’re dealing with, there may be other helplines specifically staffed by people familiar with that disorder or concern as well.