Additional Information

Every year, millions of Americans seek professional help in dealing with emotional problems. Yet there are many others who could benefit from help but do not seek it. Some may not be certain that their problems warrant professional assistance. Others may feel intimidated by the idea of therapy or overwhelmed by the task of choosing a therapist. Many individuals who are looking for help for themselves or a loved one ask the same questions. This page presents some of the most commonly asked questions and their answers.

When I need help, where can I go?

Where would I get the money to pay for the service I may need?

Are there other places to go for help?

Wouldn't it be better to work things out by myself?

What goes on in mental health centers?

I can talk to a friend for free - why pay someone?

How can talking make problems disappear?

Are psychiatrists the only ones who can help?

Are centers open at night or on weekends?

Do therapists in private practice see patients after working hours?

How do I talk my spouse into going to a mental health center?

What kind of treatment would I get in a mental health center?

Does therapy always work?

What if I don't feel comfortable with the therapist?

What if I think the medication is not helping?

Does a mental health center provide services for children?

Are there services for the elderly?

Should one worry about professionals not keeping information confidential?

Should people with severe mental health problems be in a hospital?

Do emergency cases wind up as long-term patients in mental hospitals?

What is "involuntary commitment"?

Whom can I call if I feel that my rights have been violated?

When I need help, where can I go?

For information about resources available in your community, contact your local mental health center or one of the local affiliates of national self-help organizations. These agencies can provide you with information on services designed to meet the needs of those suffering from mental health disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, panic disorder, and other anxiety conditions. In addition, they will have information regarding services designed for specific cultural groups, children, the elderly, HIV-infected individuals, and refugees. 

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I don't have adequate personal finances, medical insurance, or hospitalization coverage - where would I get the money to pay for the service I may need?

In publicly funded mental health centers, such as those funded by state, city or county governments, the cost of many services is calculated according to what you can afford to pay. So, if you have no money, or very little, services are still provided. This is called a sliding-scale or sliding-fee basis of payment. Many employers make assistance programs available to their employees, often without charge. These programs - usually called Employee Assistance Programs - are designed to provide mental health services, including individual psychotherapy, family counseling, and assistance with problems of drug and alcohol abuse. 

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Are there other places to go for help?

Yes, there are alternatives. Many mental health programs operate independently. These include local clinics, family service agencies, mental health self-help groups, private psychiatric hospitals, private clinics, and private practitioners. If you go to a private clinic or practitioner, you will pay the full cost of the services, less the amount paid by your insurer or some other payment source. There are also many self-help organizations that operate drop-in centers and sponsor gatherings for group discussions to deal with problems associated with bereavement, suicide, depression, anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia nervosa, obesity), spouse and child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, and coping with the problems of aging parents - to name a few. In addition, there are private practitioners who specialize in treating one or more of these problems. Our Provider Directory lists many local practitioners with information about their services and specialties. You may also contact local chapters of self-help organizations to learn about various services available in your community. 

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I don't like to bother other people with my problems. Wouldn't it be better just to wait and work things out by myself?

That's like having a toothache and not going to the dentist. The results are the same - you keep on hurting and the problem will probably get worse. 

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Suppose I decide to go ahead and visit a mental health center. What goes on in one of those places?

A specially trained staff member will talk with you about the things that are worrying you. 

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Talk? I can talk to a friend for free - why pay someone?

You're quite right. If you have a wise and understanding friend who is willing to listen to your problems, you may not need professional help at all. But often that's not enough. You may need a professionally trained person to help you uncover what's really bothering you. Your friend probably does not have the skills to do this. 

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How can just talking make problems disappear?

When you're talking to someone who has professional training and has helped many others with problems similar to yours, that person is able to see the patterns in your life that have led to your unhappiness. In therapy, the job is to help you recognize those patterns - and you may try to change them. There may be times, however, when you will need a combination of "talk" therapy and medication. 

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Are psychiatrists the only ones who can help?

No. A therapist does not have to be a psychiatrist. A number of psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, mental health counselors, and others have been specially trained and licensed to work effectively with people's mental and emotional difficulties. However, only psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners (in most states) are qualified to prescribe medication. Click here to learn more about the different types of therapists who can help. 

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Since I work all day, it would be hard to go to a center during regular working hours. Are centers open at night or on weekends?

Often centers offer night or weekend appointments. Just contact the center for an appointment, which may be set up for a time that is convenient for both you and the center. 

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And how about therapists in private practice - do they sometimes see their patients after working hours?

Many therapists have evening hours to accommodate their patients. Some even see patients very early in the morning before they go to work. 

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I feel that I would be helped by going to a mental health center. Actually, I think my spouse could be helped too. But the idea of going to a "mental health center" would seem threatening to my spouse. Could I just pretend that it's something else?

No indeed. It's better to talk your spouse into it than to lie. Don't je