Choosing a mental health care provider is a big decision. You want to be sure that the program will meet your needs and help you reach your goals, but it can be difficult to know this right off the bat. During your first appointment, don’t be afraid to ask questions to determine if a mental health provider is right for you — after all, it’s your health and your decision. To help ensure a productive and illuminating first visit, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 most important questions to ask so you can find treatment where you’ll thrive.

What Type of Licensing or Accreditation Do You Have?

First things first — it’s important to choose a mental health provider with proper accreditation and licensing to ensure that you receive the best care possible for your needs. Some mental health providers specialize in treating specific disorders, while others are licensed to provide a specific type of care. Licensure requirements vary by state, but you can ask your provider what type of license they have to determine the kind of care or services available. Similarly, you can also ask about accreditation. When a facility is accredited, it means it is held to a higher standard of care and committed to providing quality treatment. While not required, accreditation shows that your mental health provider has gone the extra mile and delivers top-quality programs and services.

What Kind of Treatments or Modalities Do You Use?

When it comes to your health, you want to know what type of treatments will be used and whether they’ve been proven effective. If you have asthma or break your arm, your doctor would inform you how they’re going to treat you. It should be no different with mental health. Ask your mental health care provider what type of care you’ll be receiving and whether it will involve evidence-based, holistic or alternative therapies, for example. Since you’ll likely be receiving ongoing therapy and medication to alleviate your mental health symptoms, your provider should give you a clear idea of what to expect going forward. Common therapeutic approaches in mental health treatment include:

  • Proven psychotherapies
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Mindfulness techniques
  • Prescription medication
  • Complementary therapies
  • Residential or outpatient treatment
  • 12-step programs

How do You Determine What Kind of Care I Need?

The first step in providing the best care for each person begins with identifying what type of care that would be. Your provider should be able to explain the process that will determine the level of care and treatment path that’s right for you, and what will be involved. At Alta Loma, for example, each client is thoroughly evaluated by a licensed mental health professional to assess their primary mental health needs and establish a proper diagnosis. The more your provider knows about you — including your symptoms, stressors, behavior, medical history and more — the better chance you’ll receive appropriate treatment based on your needs. So don’t be shy and ask what techniques your mental health provider uses to determine the right treatment for you.

Is the Program a Good Fit?

So you found a mental health provider that meets your needs, but is it a good fit? No treatment program or provider will be right for every person, and some cater to specific niches or patient bases. If you’d feel more comfortable in a faith-based or gender-specific program, for example, or one that is welcoming to LGBTQIA patients, a treatment provider that fits this role may be better for you than a generalized one.   

How Will You Help Me Reach My Goals?

Even if they have the same diagnosis, each patient is unique when it comes to their treatment goals. Some providers, however, utilize a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health and leave little room for personal growth. Ask your provider if treatment plans are individualized, and if therapeutic activities are based on your current needs, symptoms and challenges. You’ll also want to know how engaging or collaborative the process is, and if treatment goals are determined by a clinician or if you have a say in the matter. Research shows that clients respond better to treatment when it feels like a partnership, so this question can be a clue to how effective a program may be.

Can Families Participate in Treatment?

Family involvement can play a big role in mental health treatment, and for some people, it’s a crucial part of their recovery. Your family can help you stay engaged, provide valuable input and insight that can help your providers, and provide much-needed support during the treatment process. If family participation is important to you, ask your provider how your family will be involved in your treatment, what their expectations are and if family therapy, support or education will be available.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

When you begin treatment, you’ll want to know how long the program lasts and what kind of commitment you’ll have to make. This is especially important if you have previous obligations like work, school or family life to attend to and you want to be sure you have the time to focus on treatment. By asking your provider how long the average stay lasts, what happens after treatment and what kind of support you’ll need going forward, you can feel prepared for your recovery with clear, established guidelines for what to expect.

What is a Typical Day Like?

Each treatment program is unique in what kind of daily activities, therapies, and structure they provide. Ask if a daily or weekly schedule is available for you to look at and evaluate it while thinking of your needs and preferences. If you’re a free spirit, you might appreciate a more varied schedule with plenty of options, but others may prefer more structure in their treatment. You should also consider how much time you’ll spend in one-on-one therapy, what type of groups are offered and the number of physical activities or therapies. If applicable, your provider can also provide you with a list of evening, weekend or off-campus support groups and activities available to complement your treatment.

What Insurance Do You Take?

One of the biggest concerns most patients have when seeking mental health treatment is how to pay for it. Insurance and financing can get difficult fast, but your provider can help you understand your benefits and navigate the complexities of paying for treatment. You’ll want to know if your insurance is accepted and what options are available if you’re low-income. Some treatment providers will connect you with a financial advisor and help you determine what portion of your treatment will be covered. They can also help you make sure you have the resources available and plan for additional costs with financing options that could offset program fees. Many treatment programs even offer third-party services that can help you utilize out-of-network benefits so you can get the care you need.

Can I Tour the Facility?

Sometimes you need to see it to believe it. Virtual tours and photos on a provider’s website can sometimes be misleading, so ask if you can tour the facility. This will give you a better impression and a clearer perspective that can help you decide if a particular facility is a good fit. If it’s not clean, comfortable or welcoming, you may want to keep looking.

At Alta Loma, we want to offer the support and care you need for your mental health. Our team of dedicated mental health professionals will work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that works for you. If you’re interested in mental health treatment at Alta Loma, call us at (866) 457-3843 for a consultation.