Professional support options for mental health

It can be hard to ask for help, let alone find the right kind. Whatever you’re experiencing, we’re here to help you navigate your care options.

How do I know if I need professional support?

If you’ve been struggling, please know that you are not alone. Mental health conditions are common: 30% of young adults and nearly 50% of teens experience diagnosable mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. All of us face emotionally trying times at some point, like stress, loneliness, grief, friendship troubles, heartbreak, or feeling withdrawn and uninterested in social activities. 

"I was struggling and started going to therapy. . . She helped me to find coping skills that worked for me, and over time we worked through some difficult stuff. Therapy has been integral in my journey to recovery. "

- Strong365 Community Member

Whatever it may be, professional support can help us better understand what we’re experiencing and learn how to cope with future challenges. Even if it isn’t a particularly challenging time, therapy is also great for wellness maintenance, personal development, and strengthening relationships, communication and coping skills. Check out a few common signs that indicate it may be time to seek professional support.

  • You’re having trouble with daily life activities, such as work or school

  • Your sleep is significantly disrupted (you might be sleeping a lot more than usual or a lot less)

  • You’ve tried other coping strategies such as exercise, meditation, and talking with someone you trust, and you’re not feeling better

  • Your friends and family are concerned 

Types of professional support

There’s a range of options for support, from working with a therapist or psychiatrist 1:1, to support groups, and comprehensive care programs. Often, the kind of support you choose depends on the degree to which your mental health is impacting your daily life. Here’s what you should know:

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy (derived from the term psychotherapy) is the most basic type of treatment, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you talk about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences for an hour or more each week. 

  • The goal of talk therapy: Talking through your experiences and challenges with a psychologist or psychiatrist (learn the difference below) can help you identify the stressors or unhelpful patterns that are impacting your life. Sometimes, talk therapy may also just be a safe place for you to express your feelings and fears. Either way, your therapist can help you learn skills and strategies to decrease severity of and better manage those day-to-day stressors and feelings. 

  • What to expect: Everything discussed in therapy is confidential, although a therapist can break confidentiality if they believe your life or another’s is at risk. Therapy can be short-term (a few sessions) or longer-term (a few months or even years) depending on your needs, goals, and preferences, which are typically discussed at the start of therapy. Sessions can be in-person or online, and can be organized as 1:1 with a therapist, or in group formats, such as family, couples, or groups with similar struggles (i.e. grieving or anxiety) or life stages (i.e. teen groups). 

  • Types of talk therapy: There are many forms of talk therapy, [which are covered in greater detail here]. A few of the most common types that have also been widely studied for their effectiveness for a range of mental health conditions are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, and Psychodynamic Therapy

  • How to find a therapist: Check out a few resources we love.

Comprehensive Care Programs

Comprehensive care programs integrate physical health, mental health, substance use, and social services into one program. 

  • The goal of comprehensive care programs: By addressing all facets of health, including where you live, learn, and work, for example, comprehensive care programs aim to restore well-being not only for the present moment but also set participants up with the skills to maintain their well-being on an ongoing basis. 

  • What to expect: In a comprehensive care program, each participant works with a multidisciplinary team  that is dedicated to supporting each individual’s needs and goals. A comprehensive care team typically includes a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, peer support specialist, case manager, and a person focused on supporting education/work and other life needs and goals. Incorporating a range of services together acknowledges that mental health problems are often experienced alongside other health conditions and risks, such as other illnesses, food or housing instability, and challenges at school or work.

  • Types of comprehensive care programs:  There are a variety of programs that provide comprehensive care. It is typical to encounter programs that are specialized in one type of mental health disorder, such as mood disorders, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, etc. Comprehensive care is most often offered in an outpatient setting (offered in-person at a community clinic, or online). Some programs provide intensive care, where a range of services are offered once or more per week, while others are more flexible, designed to respond to the degree of care an individual requires. Intensive care can also be delivered in a residential setting, where a person can focus on their recovery away from the demands of home and work/school. 

  • How to find a comprehensive care program: To find the right program for you, visit this SAMHSA behavioral health locator. Looking for a comprehensive care program for early psychosis? Visit our provider directory.

Types of Mental Health Professionals 

Understanding the difference between various types of mental health professionals can help ensure you find the care you need.

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) who treat mental health conditions using talk therapy and can also prescribe medication to support your recovery. As not everyone needs medication, it is most common to start with a therapist (psychologist or licensed counselor), and be referred to a medical doctor for prescription and management of medication, as needed. 

  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners (“Psychiatric NPs) have achieved masters or doctorate level training with a specialization in psychiatric care. They practice independently, and can do everything a psychiatrist can, including psychotherapy and prescribing medications. One potential benefit of psychiatric NPs is that wait times can be shorter than psychiatrists, who are often in high demand (and short supply).

  • Psychologists have completed specialized training in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, resulting in a doctorate degree in psychology such as a PsyD, PhD, or EdD. They treat mental health conditions using talk therapy. Psychologists do not prescribe medication. 

  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), also sometimes called Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), are professionals that hold a masters degree in counseling and are state certified to provide therapy services. They work in a wide range of settings, including private practice, comprehensive care programs, and hospitals. LMHC/LPCs can be specially trained in many different kinds of talk therapies, and many specialize in certain populations, mental illnesses, or concerns. They do not prescribe medications. 

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): Social workers have similar training to LMHCs/LPCs, with the addition of thousands of supervised hours of clinical care. LCSWs are often encountered in comprehensive care programs and more intensive forms of care, and many also have private practices where they offer talk therapy. 

  • Peer Support Specialists have personal experience with mental health conditions and have been trained and certified to provide support and encouragement to others. Peer Support Specialists often work alongside psychologists and psychiatrists in comprehensive care programs, offering either 1:1 or group support. Learn more about Peer Support and where to find it.

How do I find the right support for me?

Depending on the types of support you’re looking for, here are a few helpful resources.