The stress and hardship of the ongoing pandemic caused an increase in the number of adults, teens, and children who have sought mental health care recently. More than 23 million American adults received mental health care last year and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warned of a mental health crisis among children and adolescents.
Of course, the need for mental health care isn’t new. People with anxiety, depression, OCD, substance and alcohol use disorder, mood disorders, trauma-related conditions, and eating disorders have benefitted from the care of mental health providers long before the current situation. One key to successful treatment is a positive provider-patient relationship. But, like any relationship, your relationship with your mental health care provider may change over the course of treatment.
If you are seeing a mental health specialist, it’s wise to occasionally take stock of your treatment and your relationship with your provider. Are you benefitting from your treatment and is your mental health provider still a good fit? Your needs may change over time or you may find that your provider’s approach isn’t well-aligned with your treatment goals or your values.
Signs it may be time to change mental health care providers
These five signs may be an indication that it’s time to switch mental health providers:
1. Your treatment isn’t moving forward. Mental health treatment isn’t a quick fix. Making progress towards your goals takes time and effort. At the beginning of treatment, you and your provider should outline measurable short-term and long-term goals. If you feel you’re not making progress, the first step is to tell your provider and ask if there’s a different approach that may help you make better progress. If your provider insists on continuing with the original approach and you’re not making progress, consider changing providers.
2. Your provider doesn’t have adequate experience caring for patients with your issue. You may have come to your provider to find strategies to manage anxiety, but as treatment continued, you discovered that past trauma was the root cause of your symptoms and you’re living with PTSD. If your provider doesn’t have the experience and training required to treat patients like you, look for one who specializes in treating your condition. Ask your current provider if they can refer you to a colleague who has the expertise to effectively treat you.
3. You don’t feel your provider is committed to your care. Does your provider frequently cancel appointments or is he or she often late for appointments? Your mental health provider should respect the time and commitment you’re investing in treatment and should be fully present during sessions. Answering calls or texts and checking their phone or computer during your appointments is a sign they’re not focused. Another warning sign is a provider who frequently needs to be reminded what you talked about in your last session. As a first step, raise the issue and see if the behavior stops.
4. Your provider’s values or beliefs aren’t compatible with yours. You and your provider don’t have to have precisely the same values and beliefs to have a positive therapeutic relationship. However, if your provider doesn’t respect your values or pushes his or her values on you, seek a new provider. You should not feel judged based on your gender identity, race, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
5. Your provider is too impersonal or overly familiar. Professional detachment makes it possible for your provider to give you impartial, non-judgmental feedback and advice. Some providers, however, can be too clinical in their approach. There should be a sense of empathy in your relationship and you should feel comfortable talking about any issues, concerns, or experiences. The other end of the spectrum is a provider who’s too familiar and your sessions end up being more like chats than effective therapy.
If you decide it’s time to change providers, make sure the ones you’re considering are licensed to practice mental health care (in some states, anyone can call themselves a counselor), use an evidence-based approach to treatment, and have experience treating people with your condition.
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