As part of the key challenges for people/families navigating schizophrenia and other serious mental health conditions, in this article we’ll talk about the challenge of finding the right professionals.
Once you realise that you need help from mental health professionals, be it for yourself or for your loves one(s), you might wonder who really is a professional and how to find them. On a broader level, a mental health professional could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, nursing staff or any other mental health service provider. To find them, one may search over the internet, ask friends, family, colleagues, etc. or simply visit a hospital with a psychiatry department.
Let’s learn in detail what these professionals are and where to find them.
A psychologist is often the first point of professional contact for any mental health questions one may have. Most countries have dedicated courses only after completing which you are granted a degree and a license to practice clinical psychology.
In India, clinical psychologist get this license by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). These professionals usually have a masters degree in psychology and an M.Phil. in clinical psychology from a recognised institute. The institute must be recognised by the RCI and registered in the Central Rehabilitation Register.
At least in India, a psychologist cannot prescribe medicines, but their area of expertise lies in providing psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or other talk-based therapies.
Counselling from a good psychologist could be instrumental for anyone going through a mental illness and their families or primary caregivers. To begin with, they help you understand the reason behind all the experiences you or your loved one(s) have owing to the mental health condition, and then provide psychotherapies depending on the concerned person’s cognitive capabilities.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose the mental health condition and prescribe medicines.
In India: They are the ones with an MBBS degree and a post graduate level education in psychiatry. Only psychiatrists are authorised to prescribe psychiatric medications.
In case of serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia, medication is super important, especially to manage the more debilitating symptoms such as hearing voices, seeing unreal things or acting upon them. For these medications, one must visit a psychiatrist. It’s important to note that psychiatrists often don’t spend a lot of time with the concerned person or their family members to understand the history of their condition, instead they focus on understanding the symptoms that the person experiences in order to make a diagnosis and prescribe medication according to the diagnosis.
While medication is important, in most cases, psychological counselling is also required both for the persons with mental health conditions and their loved ones who are living with them. In this sense, psychologists and psychiatrists work hand in hand.
Factors to consider before taking a psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s services
Check credentials and experience:
Verify that the professional has the necessary credentials.
In India: As mentioned above, this should be clinical psychologist license from RCI, in case of psychologists. And a master’s degree in psychiatry along with an MBBS in case of psychiatrists.
Also important is to know how experienced they are in helping people with schizophrenia (or any other condition for which you are seeking their help). If you are part of a community, it’s helpful to get the reviews about your psychologist and psychiatrist from your own community members.
Look for a good fit:
Apart from verifying credentials, this is the most important aspect in selecting a psychologist. Every psychologist has his/her own way of dealing with things and so does every family. It’s important that you find yourselves comfortable with the psychologist you choose- both for the family and the concerned person with mental illness. It’s good to have a common language, belief system, and matching personalities between the psychologist and the person living with mental illness. You may need to meet with multiple professionals before finding the right one; or have multiple sessions to decide whether they are the right one for you and your family. While this aspect is more important in selecting psychologists, it’s also not trivial when selecting your psychiatrist. Building a trustworthy relation with the psychiatrist for you and your loved one(s) is very important so that you can trust the medications prescribed by them.
Consider insurance coverage:
An important point to consider in most western countries is to check with your insurance provider to see if the professional’s services are covered. If not, depending upon your financial situation, you can consider other options as well, such as community clinics or sliding-scale payment options. In India, however, this might be a little tricky. Most health insurances might not cover the cost of consultations or medication for your mental health condition. However, mental health laws have been passed recently and all insurance providers are expected to take mental health into account. Keep following us, we’ll cover this topic in more detail in future articles.
How and where to find psychologists or psychiatrists:
Ask for referrals:
Ask your family doctor, check at mental health clinics, or community health centers for referrals. You can also ask for recommendations from mental health support/community groups or advocacy organisations that you may be part for.
Another way is to take a leap of faith, search them online and book a session.
In India: There are many online portals to search for psychologists and psychiatrists, some of them include yourdost, practo, manastha, etc.
Please note: mentioning these online portals above does not mean that Swanlok approves all professionals on these portals. You are requested to check for the professional’s credentials and verify their fit with your family.
Nurses trained in dealing with mental health conditions
Trained nursing staff could help in day to day activities ensuring that the concerned person takes medicines regularly and provide for any supportive care required.
In India, there are different kinds of courses that people can take to get trained on this topic, often provided by the institutions who employ them. There are some institutes recognised by the RCI as well, such as the National Institute for Mental Health, Sehore, Madhya Pradesh providing trainings to nursing staff for caring mental health patients.
Once trained, these nurses should be able to help families deal with difficult situations or episodes of mental illness. Regular visits by the nurses could be a facility that helps many people and families in managing day to day activities and medication adherence.
Sometimes people take their services to assist at home, other times to assist in a government hospitals when the concerned person is admitted there for some days/months.
How and where to find trained nurses:
Finding these nurses specialised in helping mental health conditions is not an easy task in India. However, there are many organisation that provide such services for geriatric patients or other physical health patients. One should consider reaching out to them to find if they can provide a trained nurse for mental health patients. These could be organisations such as Portea, Care24, etc. Here’s an article by YourStory about such organisations.
If you are in Bangalore, there’s a recent service launched by NIMHANS called Assisted Home Care for people living with mental illnesses. To avail this service, one may call +91 9480829399 between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Over time, such services may be made available pan-India.
Mental health social workers are people who work towards helping families suffering from mental illnesses. There are specific courses and degrees that some social workers take. Sometimes people take social work as a job purely out of personal interest and don’t necessarily go through university education in the specific field. They usually help in sensitising society about mental health by spreading awareness and reducing stigma towards it. They also help in finding useful resources after listening to your specific situation. For example, you may go to a psychiatric hospital, get some treatment from the psychiatrist doctor there and have some unresolved questions about living conditions or something else – a social worker could help you by providing information about the relevant places to live including rehabilitation centres in your locality.
You’ll often find them in mental health establishments in your locality, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, mental health related foundations, etc.
In a way, we at Swanlok are similar to social workers. Along with being a community, we are committed to helping you in your difficult times through online support. Should you need anything that we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!