• Consumer Health: Finding a mental health care professional to fit your needs

a young man holding his head in his hands looking sad, hurt, depressed

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn about finding a mental health care professional.

Mental health is the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings and behave. A mental disorder may be present when patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaving cause distress or disrupt a person's ability to function.

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

Treatment depends on the type of mental illness and its severity. In many cases, a combination of treatments works best. If you have a mild mental illness with well-controlled symptoms, treatment from your primary care provider may be sufficient. However, a team approach is often appropriate to make sure all your psychiatric, medical and social needs are met.

If you've never seen a mental health care professional before, you may not know how to find one who suits your specific needs. Some specialize in certain areas, such as depression, substance misuse or family therapy. They may work in different settings, such as private practice, hospitals, community agencies or other facilities.

Common types of mental health care professionals include:

  • Psychiatrists.
  • Psychologists.
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurses.
  • Physician assistants.
  • Licensed clinical social workers.
  • Licensed professional counselors.

The best choice for your care will depend on your concern or condition; whether you need medications, counseling or both; and your health insurance coverage. Finding the right match is crucial to establishing a good relationship and getting the most out of your treatment.

Connect with others talking about mental health and finding a care provider in the Mental Health support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.

Related articles