How to get the most out of counseling during COVID-19.
By Jamie Aten, Ph.D. & Kent Annan, M.Div.
Quality mental health care is a team effort, one in which you play an important role. You can make sure you get the best possible care amidst COVID-19 by being an active member of your mental health care team.
Be Open and Honest
Your mental health depends, in part, on good communication. Asking questions and providing information to your mental health provider can improve your care. Being open and talking with your mental health provider builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Studies have shown that clients who ask questions and take an active role are happier with their care and see more improvement in their health than clients who do not.
Asking questions and providing information to your mental health provider can improve your care. Mental health providers know a lot about a lot of things, but they don’t always know everything about you or what is best for you. Your questions give your mental health provider important information about you, such as your most important mental health care concerns. This is why it’s important for you to speak up and inquire about topics that you are unclear about. Start by asking the ones that are most important to you. It is very important to understand the plan or the next steps that your mental health provider recommends. Ask questions to make sure you understand what your mental health provider wants you to do between sessions.
Know your family’s mental health history and be ready to share about any of your parents’ mental health and physical health conditions that you may be aware of. Because time is limited during mental health appointments, you will feel less rushed if you prepare your questions before your appointment. It can also be helpful to bring all your medicines with you or pictures of medications you may be using. It can also be helpful to ask a trusted friend or family member to go with you to your appointment, especially if they are connected to why you are seeking help, if you anticipate needing additional support or assistance, or if you think you may need help understanding or conveying certain information related to your care.
Manage Concerns and Conflict
The research in psychology and healthcare alike have shown that the relationship we have with our mental health providers matters—so don’t forget to talk to your mental health provider if you have a concern. Sometimes the struggles people have with a mental health provider are actually similar to those they may have with others in their life. Working out conflict you may have with a mental health provider is one of the ways counseling and psychotherapy sometimes helps.
At the same time, it sometimes means there is a bigger issue going on—such as a poor fit between you and your provider, lack of therapist experience with treating your particular struggle, or even possibly something unethical occurring. In those cases, you may need to switch mental health care providers.
Jamie Ate, Ph.D. is founder and co- director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College and Blanchard Professor of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership. Follow on Twitter at @drjamieaten or visit jamieaten.com. Kent Annan, M.Div. is co- director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute and Associate Lecturer of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College. Follow on Twitter at @kentannan or visit kentannan.com. They are also the co-founders of National COVID-19 Day.