Mental Health Resources
Central’s Melanie Bliss is a clinical psychologist and co-owner of Thrive Center for Psychological Health in Decatur. Here is a list of suggestions, tips and resources.
Melanie: We all struggle with mental health at times, just as we all struggle with physical health at times. Here are some suggestions that you may find useful.
CONSIDERATIONS IN FINDING A THERAPIST:
What day and time of day is the best time for me to go to therapy? Some therapists have evening and weekend hours, some have only day time hours. Make sure that your therapist has hours that will work with your schedule before you start therapy.
Do I need or want to use my insurance? If so, you might consider going straight to your insurance company (online or via telephone) to find out who is in your network. Many therapists in metropolitan Atlanta are “out of network,” meaning you pay their full fee and may be able to get some reimbursement from your insurance company if you have out of network mental health benefits. Some therapists are in-network for some insurance companies. Unlike medical doctors, most therapists are not “in network” for a large number of insurance companies. Some therapists offer a “sliding scale” based on your financial ability to pay, but in these cases, you cannot legally use your insurance.
Do I have an HSA (Health Savings Account) card? If so, you may want to see how much is on it and use that for your sessions – you can charge the full amount of therapy, copay, coinsurance, the balance due, etc.
Where is the therapist located? At the time of this writing, most, but not all, therapists are virtual-only. It is expected that many will retain this form of therapy as an option. There is tremendous value in in-person therapy, however, when it is safe to do so. Consider location and the commute time. Many people find it most helpful to find a therapist within a few miles of their home or office to provide a stress-free commute and ease in scheduling. Otherwise, consider your work schedule and whether you have time to travel to and from the therapist’s office.
What form of therapy to do I need? Are you looking for individual therapy for you, couple’s therapy for you and your partner, or family therapy? Are you looking for therapy for your child? Insure that the therapists you contact provide the type of therapy you need by reviewing their website.
Can I see the same therapist as someone else I know? Ethically, most of the time therapists cannot provide therapy for more than one family member – it is important each person has their own therapist unless they have a working agreement that seeing the same therapist is acceptable and beneficial. Additionally, therapists cannot provide therapy for people they already know in some way; so, for example, your close friend who is a therapist typically cannot provide therapy for your child.
How long does therapy take? Some people successfully see a therapist for three to six sessions. In this case, it is important that you are direct about your goals and that the therapist is effective in meeting your needs quickly. Some people see a therapist for two to six months. Others see therapists off and on for a long period of time, which may be many years. If you know that you only have a brief amount of time for therapy, perhaps due to finances or because you will be moving soon, make sure the therapist you choose is comfortable treating you with “brief therapy.” Be cautioned, though, that many clinical issues take time to treat and therapy may be multiple months at a minimum.
What type of therapy will be helpful for my particular concerns? See “types of therapy”. Consider choosing a therapist who has some expertise in the area in which you would like counseling and who uses empirically validated treatments – that is, treatments that have been demonstrated to be effective in scientific research studies. For example, most therapist can (and do) treat challenges with relationships, depression, and anxiety but you may be particularly interested in a form of therapy, such as skills-based, mindfulness-based, or traditional talk-therapy. To treat a specific issue such as an eating disorder, substance use, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, trauma, psychosis, or more serious mental health, (to name a few), choose a therapist who lists this as a specialty.
HOW SHOULD I FIND A THERAPIST?
You might ask your insurance company, your physician, your school or university’s counseling center, or someone else in your personal network for a referral. Consider asking friends who they see – many therapy clients are referred simply on word of mouth.
If that is not effective or possible, try a referral-based service such as
Most referral services allow you to “filter” your search by criteria such as:
- Zip code
- Gender of therapist
- Presenting issue
- Types of therapy
For low-cost therapy or Medicaid/Medicare options, try the following:
Georgia Department of Public Health and Developmental Disabilities
Emory University Outpatient Psychotherapy Program (OPTP), Atlanta
*also provides psychiatric treatment
Emory University Psychology Center, Atlanta
Georgia State University Psychology Clinic, downtown Atlanta
Heartwork Counseling Center, Inman Park, Atlanta
Jewish Family and Career Services, Dunwoody
*serves people of all faiths
Karuna Counseling, Decatur
The Link Counseling Center, Sandy Springs and Cobb County
Mercer Family Therapy Center, Atlanta
Metropolitan Counseling Center, Atlanta
Odyssey Family Counseling Center, College Park
Open Path Collective – online program, pay a membership fee and receive steeply discounted therapy
Pathways Transition Programs, Decatur https://www.pathwaystransitionprograms.com/services.html
Samaritan Counseling Center of Atlanta
Training and Counseling Center at St. Luke’s, Atlanta
**If you are are a student, try your school counseling program. If you work for a company with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) ask about benefits through this service.**
In choosing a therapist, view their website and/or consider calling them for a quick consultation. Most will spend a few minutes on the phone with you. You will get a sense for what they are like and whether you would feel comfortable with them. You can ask them basic questions about their availability, the type of therapy they do, and whether or not they would be a good match for your needs. If the therapist does not return your email or phone call after a couple of attempts over about a week, well, that’s useful information for you to have – you probably don’t want to keep chasing down someone who is not respectful enough to return your call/email. Some therapists are not accepting new clients but may have a waiting list.
Most therapists do not need to know many details about your personal life – save that for the first session. If you decide that you are not a good match for your therapist, let them know and choose someone else, even if you have already started therapy. It is important that you feel comfortable and feel as if your needs are being met.
TYPES OF THERAPISTS:
Psychologist: To call oneself a psychologist, one must be licensed and have a doctoral degree- a Ph.D. or PsyD. They have the most training – typically 4-6 years in graduate school, then a one- year internship, and about a year getting licensed which may be in a formal post-doctoral program. Ph.D. levels psychologists in particular (over PsyD) are also intensively trained in research. Psychologists can do assessments, such as neuropsychological assessments, or those for ADHD, learning disabilities, intelligence, etc.
Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists have an M.D. (Medical Degree). They went to Medical School for 4 years and did at least a 4-year residency. They may or may not offer therapy, and they prescribe medication for emotional or behavioral reasons. Many clients work with both a psychiatrist and a therapist.
Counselors and Social Workers have a Master’s degree, many hours of supervision, certification, and licensing, and may hold jobs as a traditional “social worker” in the community as well as serve as therapists or be in private practice. Examples of these types of therapists include the following:
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW):
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Masters in Social Work (MSW)
TYPES OF THERAPY:
There are dozens of therapeutic interventions used in therapy. Here are a few of the basics:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is the “gold standard” of empirically validated treatments in that it has been around for decades now. This form of treatment focuses on noticing and altering one’s thoughts (cognitions) and changing one’s behavior.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): A more recently developed form of therapy and one that has quickly risen to the top as one of the most efficacious, this is a derivative of CBT but instead of focusing on changing thoughts, it supports people in using mindfulness-based principles to accept thoughts and make commitments toward change.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Also, an outcome of CBT, this form of therapy was originally designed for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, but was quickly deemed to be effective for people with a myriad of presenting issues. In the way that it is designed, it includes a skills-based group therapy along with individual therapy, but many therapists use abbreviated versions of this without the group component. This form of therapy encourages the development of skills in four modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation.
Psychodynamic Therapy: This is the more “classic” “talk therapy” that may elicit visions of sitting on the coach in a Freudian way. However, most therapists naturally integrate components of this type of therapy. Those who primarily or only use this form of therapy will have a strong emphasis on the subconscious, making meaning of thoughts, and talking through life experiences and memories.
Trauma focused therapy may use forms of treatment such as exposure therapy (exposing the client to the traumatic memories through talk or writing), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) (thinking about traumatic memories while moving one’s eyes bilaterally at the therapist’s direction), cognitive processing therapy (writing about the affect the trauma had on the person), and more. Many therapists will integrate approaches. It is very important that people who have experienced trauma see a therapist who is well-versed in trauma-based treatment, including the mind-body connection.
HELPFUL ONLINE RESOURCES
Choose a reputable source to get additional information about specific challenges you or a loved one may be experiencing.
American Psychological Association (www.apa.org)
American Psychiatric Association (https://www.psychiatry.org)
American Counseling Association (https://www.counseling.org)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Mental Health (https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/index.htm)
WebMD Mental health (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/default.htm)
National Center for PTSD (https://www.ptsd.va.gov)
In addition to or instead of therapy, consider these healthy habits as ways to support your mind and body:
- Yoga – one of the most recommended addendums to therapy, with ample research supporting the psychological benefits
- Journaling – don’t worry about journaling daily or writing down everything – make lists, scribble, be creative, write when you feel like it
- Healthy eating habits
- Healthy, regular, and moderate exercise
- Limit substance use, including (gasp!) caffeine
- See your physician for annual check ups
- Set a reasonable bedtime for yourself and aim to get sufficient sleep
- Meditate or practice mindfulness daily – even five minutes a day!
- Learn deep breathing and practice regularly at times of non-stress