Dr. Juliann Mitchell is a licensed psychologist who practices onlinc counseling and psychotherapy via phone, email, or chat.  She can be reached at: http://www.drjuliannmitchell.com

Choosing a mental health professional can be confusing and challenging. Usually by the time people contact one, they have exhausted all their other avenues of symptom relief and emotional support. Before buying a new product or a new car, many consumers try to read as much as they can before making the purchase. The same is true for mental health services. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best choice.

Trust your gut instincts. If during your interactions with the professional, you are uncomfortable, pay attention to your feelings. Know that you can discuss this fact with the professional if you choose to do so. It is important to find someone you can trust, someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your challenges. Being non-judgmental is an important trait in a therapist; you must know you will be accepted and respected. It is appropriate to interview the mental health professional before choosing him or her to be your therapist.

Know that you have the right to know any and all diagnoses the mental health professional will potentially be giving you on your insurance forms.

You have the right to refuse to answer any questions.

You have the right to know how long the mental health professional expects the treatment to last.

You have the right to be treated with respect, never belittled or made fun of. The two of you can laugh together about something, but it is inappropriate for you to be laughed at.

You have the right to ask any questions related to your treatment.

Your mental health professional should never touch you in a sexual manner: no fondling, sitting on the therapist’s lap, kissing, or sex of any type.

Only seek care from a professional who is licensed. This can be a psychologist (PhD), psychiatrist (MD), licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed social worker (LCSW), or licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). Licensed professionals are required to take a test and have a specific number of hours of supervision providing therapy before they qualify to sit for their licensing exams.

You have the right to look at your records kept by the mental health professional. It is your right to ask for a copy; however there may be a fee involved for copying the records.

Know that when you don’t want to go to the therapy session is when you need to go the most. Often this takes place when you are avoiding confronting or dealing with a painful issue. Therapy is work.

In the beginning sessions, please know you may feel worse before you feel better. Think of it as ripping off a scab or a cut that has become infected: it hurts, until the infection is treated and resolved. Therapy works the same way.

Know that it takes great strength and courage to share your thoughts, concerns, challenges, and issues with a stranger, even a professional.

The more honest you are with yourself and the mental health professional, the easier it is to move forward.

You are not required to tell the professional everything, because no one ever does.

It is inappropriate for the mental health professional to fall asleep, pay bills, talk on the phone unless it’s an emergency call, or do paperwork not related to you during the session. The focus needs to be on you.

Ask for clarification if you are confused about anything that the mental health professional asks of you.

You have the right to have a phone number to contact the professional in case of an emergency.

You have a right to know about the mental health professional’s training and credentials.

It is important to know that if you are suicidal or homicidal, the mental health professional is bound by law to break confidentiality. This is called “The Duty To Warn.” If you are ever suicidal or homicidal, please call 911 or 800-784-2433 which is a suicide hotline; teens can call 800-999-9999. You can also email the Samaritans and they will respond within 24 hours. If you are outside the USA, contact Befrienders for help and support.

A mental health professional is also bound to break confidentiality if a child or elderly person is being abused.

Most important, know there is hope and healing.

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