To get better, you need expert help. Many people with depression have a team working with them. This might include your regular health care provider, a psychologist or therapist, and a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse.
But getting the right people may seem intimidating. Here are some answers to common questions about finding a doctor and psychologist or therapist. Below these questions, you’ll find a list of tips for how to prepare for your first appointment.
Depression can be like an old blanket -- a smothering, sometimes comforting cloak between you and the world. Unfortunately, getting free of its symptoms is not as simple as crawling out from under the blanket. Most people experience ups and downs in the journey from depression. The fluctuations are normal, and professionals have ways of dealing with them.
What kind of expert do I need to see? People with depression often see a few different experts. You might see a therapist as well as a doctor or nurse for medicine. You might contact your health insurer first to see what types of care they cover. If you are not covered for psychological therapy, you can look for a therapist or clinic that offers a sliding scale based on income.
Why can't I just see one doctor? Your primary care doctor can prescribe antidepressants, but those doctors usually are not trained to practice psychotherapy. So you may turn to a psychologist or social worker for therapy. Psychiatrists are doctors who can prescribe antidepressants and offer therapy, but they are often more expensive. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist if the first or second antidepressant you try does not help.
How do I find a therapist or a psychiatrist? Ask your regular doctor for a recommendation. You can also get in touch with organizations such as NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which can suggest experts in your area. Keep in mind that anyone can call himself or herself a "therapist." Your therapist should be a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, or counselor.
What should I look for? Therapists and psychiatrists use many different approaches. Some focus on practical, here-and-now issues. Others go deeper, probing events from your past that might have played a role in your depression. Many use a mix of styles. Shop around. When you first talk to a potential therapist or psychiatrist, ask about his or her approach. See if it's a good fit. If it’s not, find someone else. If you don't click with a person, therapy is less likely to help. You may also want to look for someone who specializes in your particular problem. For instance, if you have a substance abuse problem, find a knowledgeable doctor and/or nonmedical therapist who specializes in treating people struggling with addiction.
What if treatment doesn't help? Once you've settled on a therapist and doctor, you need to give therapy and medication a chance to work. Getting better takes time, often several months. Treatment for depression can be hard at first. Opening up to someone about very personal things in your life isn't easy. But most people do get better with treatment.