Healthy Living: Mental Health Month, differences in therapy

SEATTLE — We are all experiencing added stress right now, and a lot of us are paying some extra attention to our physical health, but it is vital to prioritize your mental health just as much.

“Getting professional help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength,” Dr. Jim Polo, the Behavioral Health Medical Director with Regence, says. “It means you have identified a problem and that you’re willing to get help to make it better.”

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May is Mental Health Month so we wanted to talk about access to mental health providers and the differences in treatment.

Dr. Polo says finding help can be a tall task for some.

“Once you make that decision it can be overwhelming. It can be a daunting experience. There are two things you have to think about. What kind of support do you need, and then how do you find that support?”

There are different types of behavioral health providers. Counselors and therapists are those providers that Dr. Polo says can help you with problems that are generally new or current and will likely meet with you on a weekly basis, many of them are seeing people virtually.

“They will help you with how you are thinking and feeling about a situation and also maybe sometimes with some of your behavior in relationship to that situation.”

For more complex issues, Dr. Polo says you may seek out a psychologist. A psychologist can do the same things as a counselor or therapist but psychologists are going to dig a little deeper. In addition to how you are feeling about the situation, they are likely going to help you with how you feel about yourself.

Dr. Polo says some people might need to take it a step further and see a psychiatrist.

Now that you know what kind of support you need, next is figuring out where to go, and a lot of us know that can be a daunting task.

“I would recommend that you first consider talking with family and friends," Dr. Polo says. "For one, you will realize many other folks are struggling and have already reached out to get help. And there’s nothing better than getting a recommendation from somebody who is already a trusted counselor.”

Dr. Polo says you can also talk with your primary care doctor as they often know who is available. Your health plan can also give you resources that are available in your area.

“Getting professional help with a behavioral health provider is a little bit like dating. It doesn’t always work out the first time. It is all about that fit. Certainly you want to make sure that the person has the experience and skills to handle your particular problem, but you want to feel comfortable with this person. You want to feel like you can trust them with some of your personal details.”

Dr. Polo reminds us when you are reaching out for behavioral health, one size doesn’t fit all.

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