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Navigating Mental Health Care

by Joseph B. Nelson, MA, LP

Taking the first step
When people are depressed or anxious, they often find it difficult to think about setting sail for any destination outside their comfort zone. Seeking therapy can be like venturing into uncharted waters, and fear of the voyage may be the greatest obstacle to making the call to seek help. Motivation may come from knowing that you are not available to your loved ones the way you want to be, or from having someone who cares about you notice that you are down. Still, for some people, the most difficult part of the process is just making the decision to ask for help. It requires not only courage, but energy, and those who are depressed often don’t have that energy. In some instances, a loved one might make the first call for you or help do the initial legwork involved in finding a therapist. Another option is to discuss your situation with your doctor or diabetes educator to see if one of them can help you get connected with a therapist. Most of the time, these options work well and can help you make that important initial contact.

Understanding the demands of living with diabetes requires that you care for yourself in so many ways. This is a challenging undertaking when you’re feeling well, but when you’re stressed, depressed, or anxious, the tasks can seem huge. To manage your diabetes you need good mental health the same way you need a good diet. When you are feeling positive about yourself and the world, going through life with diabetes can be much smoother sailing.

Planning the trip
Once you decide it is time to seek mental health care, check the following outline as a reminder:

Get the weather report. Get to know your insurance policy and its limits. Call a service representative for details, if necessary.

Find out who might make up the crew. Get the names of possible therapists and their credentials.

Hire a trustworthy crew. Interview the therapist to find out about him and how he works, and to get a sense of how you connect.

Understand how and when the crew will be paid. Have no surprises. Once you choose a therapist, discuss his fee structure and make sure that you understand what, when, and how much you are going to pay.

Get your maps. Discuss and develop the plan for therapy, including frequency of visits.

Set sail. Do your part. Show up, participate, and do the homework.

Dock and unload. If appropriate, have a plan for when to end therapy.

Sail regularly, to keep shipshape. Get a regular mental health checkup (once a year or when it’s needed) to head off problems before they occur.

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