How can you tell if it's time to ask for some help?

  • When you feel like you can't do it alone.
  • When you feel trapped, like there's nowhere to turn.
  • When you worry all the time, and never seem to find the answers.
  • When the way you feel is affecting your sleep, your eating habits, your job, your relationships, your everyday life.
  • When it's not getting any better.

When you need to talk to someone, there are many types of mental health providers you can choose from. What's important is that you select a provider with appropriate training and qualifications.

Psychologists spend an average of 7.2 years, in addition to their undergraduate college degree, in education and training. They possess a unique combination of scientific methods, along with substantial skills and experience in working with people who have real life problems. Psychologists study the science of human behavior, and then apply it, in a professional setting. Psychologists are licensed by the state in which they practice.

A psychologist can help you identify your problems, and then figure out ways to best cope with them; to change contributing behaviors or habits; or to find constructive ways to deal with a situation that is beyond your control.

How does "therapy" work?

Therapy works by helping you objectively look at behaviors, feelings and thoughts in situations, which you find problematic. It helps you to learn more effective ways in dealing with those situations.

Therapy is a collaborative effort. You and your psychologist will identify your goals -- what you want to have happen, and agree on how you'll know when you're making progress. Your psychologist will talk to you about the length of time it may take to help you see changes.

Progress, and change, can happen. Nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said that psychotherapy had helped them. And in another recent major national study, half of the patients studied were making improvement after eight sessions of therapy, 75 percent after six months of therapy.

What about confidentiality?

Your privacy is important to you and will be important to your mental health provider. All members of the American Psychological Association subscribe to a Code of Conduct that requires strict efforts to maintain patient confidentiality.

How do I choose a psychologist who's right for me?

Once you have the name or names of several psychologists, there are several questions you'll want to ask, including:

  • Are you a licensed psychologist? How long have you been practicing?
  • What areas do you specialize in (i.e., family therapy, marriage counseling, etc.)?
  • What kind of treatment do you usually use, and why do you feel this would be effective for my situation? How long would you expect my treatment to last?
  • What are your fees? Will you accept my insurance or HMO coverage? Will you directly bill my insurance company? Do you have a sliding fee scale, or will you set up a payment plan?

Once you've established the credentials, it's important that you feel comfortable with the psychologist, since your treatment will involve working together as a team. Choose a psychologist with whom you feel comfortable and at ease.

Adopted from the American Psychological Association