By SHUMI RAWLINS, O2X Mental Performance & Resilience Specialist (Psy.D)
Mental Health Care is incredibly important for our military and first responders. As a frame of reference, an estimated 30 percent of first responders develop behavioral health conditions, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as compared with 20 percent of the general population (Abbot et al., 2015).
The good news is there are plenty of resources available – you just have to know where to look and what you’re looking for. The first step in getting help is finding a provider that fits your needs. Below, we’ve broken down some of the options available to you in your provider search.
If you are on Active Duty, you can use a number of options to find a provider:
- Military OneSource – This website allows you to do an intake online, or you can call and they will assign you a provider. They will see military members with their spouse, as long as the military member does not have a record of seeking care for behavioral health issues at a military treatment facility.
- Within Your Unit – You can always use providers attached/embedded at your unit, if applicable.
- Military Treatment Facility – Make an appointment at the nearest military treatment facility. Look for the Directorate of Mental Health or Behavioral Health.
- Through Tricare Benefits – This may be as simple as going to Google and looking up “find psychotherapist near me.” Then, when you call to schedule your appointment, just make sure they accept Tricare. In some cases, service members will need to be seen by their PCM at the nearest branch clinic in order to get a referral to see a provider out in town.
FIRE SERVICE/ POLICE SERVICE
If you work for a fire or police department, you have resources available to you, as well. Here’s a quick way to start the process:
- Personal Referral – After talking with trusted colleagues or peer support, you may be able to get names of providers who have done good work with your coworkers. Some departments maintain a list of providers who have been vetted by other members of the department. In the case where you may not have a good referral as a starting point, you’ll need to determine what type of provider you’re looking for.
- Verify Your Coverage – You’ll also need to verify your insurance coverage. If you have a strictly managed care type insurance, you will probably need to see your physician for a referral. This is not altogether bad, because if you are having symptoms, your own provider may be able to give you support or or make other referrals, as appropriate. If you are on a a private preferred provider option, you can research providers that accept your insurance in order to make that appointment.
- Search the Web – When you’re ready to find your provider, one of the best ways to dig around and find providers in your area is through Google and doing a simple web search. One good website is psychologytoday.com, which has a provider look up tool. You can look up different providers in your area, their expertise, and, in most cases, providers include the types of insurance they accept.
WHAT TYPE OF PROVIDER ARE YOU SEEKING?
It’s important to pinpoint the type of provider you’re looking for to narrow down your search, and there are a few things to know to make your search easier. Here are three types of providers you may want to consider, and key characteristics you may want to think about as you make your decision:
- Psychiatrists are physicians first – This means they can order labs and medication therapy, but they don’t typically do psychotherapy.
- Clinicians – Depending on your state, you will have access to Masters-level clinicians. These could be licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, or licensed marriage family therapists. Their expertise typically is in supportive counseling and therapy. They should have the credentials to do evidence-based treatments for trauma, as well as marriage counseling. Again, providers will have areas that they are experts in.
- Psychologists –A psychologist holds a doctorate degree in the field of psychology or in research based in psychology. Their credentials allow them to treat and assess by using testing, as well as treat more serious psychiatric conditions.
In the end, the credentials matter less at the outset, and being able to trust and build a good relationship with the provider is more important.
A FEW MORE WORDS OF WISDOM:
As overwhelming as it is to be trying psychotherapy or counseling for the first time, you should know that sometimes it takes a couple tries to find somebody that you are a good fit with. It’s important that you feel like you can talk to this person easily and that they understand you, but also that the relationship supports you getting the help you need. Sometimes people want somebody who is more supportive and just there to listen, and other times somebody needs feedback on how to fix a very specific problem.
Whatever it is that you are looking to get support for, it’s good to consider what your needs are in advance.
- Would you prefer to work with a female or a male, or does this matter to you?
- Do you want to work with somebody who understands your community?
- Do you have a preference for working with an older clinician or a newer clinician?
- Does in person therapy or tele-therapy work better for you? Since the onset of the pandemic, most providers are doing tele-therapy. There are a lot of benefits to this, in that you can be seen with very limited time away from work and with a lot more privacy, however some may struggle with not being in the same room with their provider. That will be something to think about in advance as you go about looking for an appointment.
- What’s your timeframe? Some locations in the U.S. unfortunately have a shortage of providers. Sometimes wait times can be 6 to 8 weeks depending on where you live. There are avenues for seeking support more quickly, including online programs and apps like Talkspace, Betterhelp, Bright Side, etc., that offer mental health support and therapy over the phone, through emails, or texting.
Once you find a provider, I like to encourage people to give the idea of therapy two or three sessions with the provider and work on establishing a relationship that’s beneficial. Feeling overwhelmed after the first session is super common. Some people know right away that they don’t have the right chemistry to make it work with the person they’re sitting with, and if that’s the case, that’s OK. I’d encourage that person to keep looking. The most important thing is that if you need help you get it.
Abbot, C., Barber, E., Burke, B., Harvey, J., Newland, C., Rose, M., & Young, A. (2015). What’s killing our medics? Ambulance Service Manager Program. Conifer, CO: Reviving Responders. Retrieved from http://www. revivingresponders.com/originalpaper via https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/dtac/supplementalresearchbulletin-firstresponders-may2018.pdf