May 29, 2015
Navigating mental health services in the CSRA can be a little tricky, especially if you have never used a counselor or psychiatrist before. Most likely you are already sad and nervous because you are the one struggling, or you are calling on behalf of a loved one.
For most people, seeking mental health care can be a lonely venture because we typically don’t share the names of our therapists or “shrinks” with each other like we do our eye doctors or veterinarians. This article is written to assist you when and if you find yourself in need of mental health services.
Most folks that end up in my counseling office begin their search with the help of their family doctor. That’s not a bad place to start. Patients will typically ask their doctor for a “pill” and forego the talk therapy recommendation. This is certainly an option, but one I don’t recommend if this is the first time you have sought mental health assistance.
Once your physician has ruled out any physical cause for your mood swings, anxiety or depression, talking with a licensed, master’s level counselor is usually the next step prior to medications.
Prescribing psychiatric medication before you have taken some time (it’s really not that long of a process) to explore the personal issues underlying the mental symptoms is kind of getting the cart before the horse. Most doctors have some ideas on counselors for that are right for you. If not, then where do you go?
The magazine called Psychology Today also hosts a website under the same name, PsychologyToday.com. This website has a link called “Find A Therapist.” It’s a pretty handy little tool and provides a fairly comprehensive list of counselors in the CSRA.
Not only does the link provide you with names of local therapists, but it will also show you a picture of the counselor and provide a write-up about their counseling philosophy and specialty areas. If you do find someone on this website you feel might be a good fit for you, the website gives you a phone number and an email address for that therapist so you can continue your inquiry.
Another valuable resource in this area is Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services located next to and affiliated with Aiken Regional Medical Center. I know that some people in this area hear the name “Aurora” and associate it with inpatient hospitalization. Subsequently, they stay as far away as possible.
I understand some of the fear the name invokes, but it is rather misplaced. Aurora Pavilion offers a free, in-person mental health assessment 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the facility. You can make an appointment, but it’s not necessary. The assessment counselors at Aurora will work with you and your family to locate local services that best fit the symptoms you present with at the time of your assessment.
Do they sometimes recommend inpatient hospitalization? Yes, they do. However, a good portion of their time is spent locating outpatient programming that fit your readiness for help and your budget. These counselors can really put you at ease if you will let them. You may find that you had more options to deal with mental health problems than what you thought.
Aurora Pavilion also offers outpatient counseling in the form of partial hospitalization programming (PHP) and intensive outpatient programming (IOP). The assessment counselors at Aurora can talk with you more about these services.
These group counseling sessions are fantastic vehicles for getting people back on their feet psychologically and in a relatively short amount of time. It is intensive therapy, but you can typically knock out some real troubling symptoms in a short amount of time as compared to individual counseling. This may be an interesting path to healing you had not thought about before, so check it out.
For women struggling with depression, anxiety and the like, your OB/GYN can be a great mental health resource. Mood management issues often go hand-in-hand with some of the hormonal changes we go through. However, it is important to add that not all of our mood swings are because of PMS or menopause.
The female brain is wired to multitask, which increases our chances of experiencing depression and anxiety. So, with that in mind, your OB/GYN is typically more familiar with the mental health challenges women can experience just by virtue of our gender. They are more apt to know which direction to guide you for mental health support.
If you are embarrassed to talk with your OB/GYN about your psychological state, I encourage you not to be. There is no shame in hurting mentally, and I guarantee you your physicians have heard similar problems many, many times from other patients.
Let me say again – there is no shame in letting someone know you are hurting on the inside. Talk with your physicians, your pastors, trusted friends or family, or your human resources representative at work. Ask for licensed, master’s level therapists who are credentialed as professional counselors (LPC), social workers, (LCSW) or psychologists.
Use the resources I have listed up above if you want to keep your search private or to support what others have recommended. Chances are you will come away from the experience saying what most of my clients tell me after a counseling session – “I should have done this a long time ago.”
Dana Rideout is a mental health therapist in private practice with Aiken Counseling Group and Psychiatry. As a licensed professional counselor and a nationally certified counselor, she has 15 years of experience working with individuals and their families learning to manage depression, anxiety, addictions, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress, and the like.
Rideout received her master’s in counseling at Western Carolina University in 2001.