It’s a new year and our mental health should not be taken for granted in the new year. Indeed, mental health and the treatment of the illness is a vast field that is constantly being harangued by those who genuinely want to help others get well, those who see it as an opportunity to make some cash and those who find it interesting to dabble in whether they know what it is all about or not. The groups mentioned can be trained professionals or quakes. It’s possible that a person has a degree and still be a quake in his field when s/he has no training in what he professes to be doing while other individuals might not be trained but know their limitations and make appropriate referrals (in this case, no degree but actually a professional).
With this background – mental health treatment requires different professionals due to its etiology which is many times multifaceted (BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL). The number of sufferers also makes it so hard to effectively cater for the sufferers within a small group of professionals. We believe mental illness had been a pandemic that is not taken care of overtime, i.e. one in every four of us struggles with mental illness every year. “if we tackle this menace together, our best times together are ahead” however, this is when we do this rightly.
Indeed, many had proffered solutions in terms of research into mental health, funding into mental health, training more people in early care, increasing core competencies for core professionals etc. All these are good but we won’t get there without the knowledge and ethics of doing things we can and letting people know what we are good at or not! Its only through this that we can help create the kind of world we all want for ourselves and people struggling with their mental health for generations to come.
There are several misconceptions even among supposed professionals about who a mental health professional is. What should be the expectations in seeing each one or what an encounter holds for those struggling with mental health. On the part of patients, questions such as – what questions I should ask my mental health professional and how do I know my mental health professional can do what he says he can do arise.
Who needs to see a mental health expert? If we all have brain, then we all can need the services of mental health experts. From doing anything such as how to take care of my children to having desire to doing nothing which causes distress to self and others.
Do they need the title ‘Dr’ at the back of their names to help? No! Most times only two of the many in the field of mental health profession often holds the title of a Dr (Psychiatrists and some Clinical Psychologists further explanations will be given about this later).
Do I have to have mental illness to see a mental health expert? No! Many of the things MHEs see are every day difficulties such as problems in relations (marriages, friendships, parents/children), understanding purpose, improving emotional intelligence etc., then anxieties, improving self-esteem, assertiveness etc. to the other well-known issues such as depression, anxieties, neurodevelopmental disorders etc.
What are the basic differences in people commonly parading themselves around mental health?
Psychiatrists: These are medical doctors who had undergone basic training in medicine and further gone ahead to have postgraduate specialization in the field of Psychiatry. They are basically Physicians with extensive training in mental health and usage of drugs to treat the illness – indeed there are some with knowledge of psychotherapeutic trainings. They do have fellowships and certifications. The emphasis is biological treatment modalities. (All have the title ‘Dr’ at the back of their names, licenses, certifications, etc.). As a client, you can demand to know the training of your psychiatrist
Clinical Psychologists: These are Psychologists with basic training in general psychology who had undergone special training in Clinical Psychology. They are well trained in the assessment and treatment of mental health; they have knowledge of the usage of drugs but are not licensed to give biological treatments to people with mental health problems. The emphasis of their treatment is Psychotherapeutic and psychometric assessment. (Not all carry the title ‘Dr’ at the back of their names as you can be a Clinical Psychologist in Nigeria with MSc) They have licenses, certification to practice, etc. As a client, you can demand to know the specific training of your Clinical Psychologist
Therapists: A therapist is anyone (encompasses a lot of professions including the aforementioned) who have training(s) in specific areas of providing support. They are different from Clinical Psychologist because they are usually trained a specific treatment i.e. Psychoanalysis to treat (something) not like the previous (two) above who had general trainings first.
While many provide guidance and support, a mental health expert functions and leanings will be based on training, expertise and level of educational qualifications. Things to do before you commit yourself or loved ones into any therapy engagement in the new year.
Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about training and certifications. As a person can have degree and still no specific training in CBT, Drug treatment, etc.
Ask your prospective provider about the history of clientele and preferred treatment modality and see certifications if possible. i.e. if he says I do family therapy you can see certifications and understand treatment plans and details of what the treatment generally entails – then you can decide if you’re in the right place.
Are they certified to do what they are doing? When a doctor, psychologist or (generally a therapist is qualified to do what they are doing they have licenses and certifications and are willing to show it). Your mental health is as important as your physical health.
It can take a lot of research and time to plan and to see an appropriate person to help in your mental health, especially as we often have people who claim to do what they have no expertise in even when they have degrees to back it up. However, if you decide to see anyone in this new year please look out for their education, experience, interests, specialties, licenses and certifications. At DiamondMoor all our therapists are accredited Clinical Psychologist and with diverse professional certifications in all they do. They all possess at least three years of supervised training in helping those with mental health problems.
This year even while looking for help; getting appropriate help is important!