Common Questions About Mental Health

If you have questions about mental health, you’re not alone. There’s a lot to figure out, and we know that can feel overwhelming. Here are some common questions people often ask about mental health.

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You can use the resources listed below or call the NAMI Chicago helpline at 833-626-4244 or 311 to find a therapist or counselor near you.

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What to expect in a therapy or counseling session depends on the type of therapy you’re seeking. You may have a specific issue or problem you want to discuss, or the therapist / counselor may ask you questions about your life to better understand what you need.

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You should feel comfortable with the person you choose to be your therapist. Ask them to tell you about their outlook on therapy, the way they conduct a therapy session and the kinds of issues they focus on in their practice. You should also feel free to talk about the kinds of things you hope your therapist or counselor will help you with. It is also okay to tell them that you have a sense that you need help but you aren’t entirely sure about the specifics of why that is—they can help you figure that out. When you have your first conversation with the therapist or counselor, don’t hesitate to say you’re new to the process – more likely than not, they’ll walk you through the steps to help you decide what you need. It can also be helpful to talk to them about what type of support is helpful or not helpful for you. If the first therapist or counselor you talk to isn’t the right fit, that’s okay. Research indicates that a strong relationship between the therapist and patient is essential to the therapeutic process so do not hesitate to meet with a few therapists before deciding on the one that feels right for you.

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When thinking of therapy or mental health support, you probably think of a one-on-one session where you talk to a therapist. While this is very common, there are many other kinds of therapy or support.

You could choose to go to a support group or group therapy that’s focused on one issue and may be led by a counselor. If you’re looking for support for a relationship or family issue, you may benefit from family or couples therapy where you and your spouse or family talk through an issue with a therapist together.

Therapists and counselors often support in determing if medication (anti-depressants, for example) may be a useful option and can either prescribe medication or connect you with a provider who can. Therapists and counselors may also have a different approach to therapy, which they’ll talk to you about in the first conversation or meeting you have with them.

To learn more about the different types of mental health support, go here. To talk to someone about what kind of therapy would be best for you, call NAMI Chicago at 833-626-4244.

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A number of mental health providers in Chicago provide free mental health services regardless of your insurance status, immigration status, or ability to pay. You can search for these providers here. In addition, if you have health insurance you can check with your insurance provider to find a therapist near you that takes your health insurance. Some therapists and counselors offer services based on a “sliding scale,” meaning they offer services or therapy sessions at discounted rates based on your financial situation. If you think you may qualify for this, talk to the therapist about the “sliding scale” pricing. You can contact NAMI or 311 for help finding a therapist that can work with you regardless of your ability to pay, health insurance status or immigration status.

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Speaking positively about mental health is one step that can signal to your friend or family member that you’re supportive of their mental health or mental wellbeing. If you think your friend or family member may be experiencing mental health issues, here are some signs that they may need help. Acknowledge that everyone may feel these things at one point or another. Tell them that you support them and that they’re not alone. When in doubt, think about what you’d want your loved one to say to make you feel comfortable to talk to them about your own mental health.

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Many mental health providers offer services for adults, including older adults. You can help your family member to call 311 or the NAMI hotline to discuss the various services available in Chicago. While a number of providers offer mental health services regardless of insurance status, you can also help your parent or family member determine whether their insurance covers mental health therapy.

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Many mental health agencies provide services for youth and families in their office, schools, communities, or other settings. Services vary by need, so it is important to get started with a provider who can help assess your child’s needs and provide you with a service plan. Call 311, the NAMI hotline, or search here for a provider.

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Psychologists – often specialize in a specific therapy technique or focus on a specific group of people (e.g., kids, teens, LGBTQA). Psychologists provide assistance for a wide range of mental health or life challenges such as relationship issues, learning difficulties, substance use, anxiety, depression and coping with stress. In Illinois, psychologists are able to prescribe medication and conduct tests that can evaluate memory, personality, learning challenges or other issues that can be addressed with the right support and services.

Psychiatrists – medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in mental health conditions and can prescribe medications. They can diagnose and treat conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners – similar to psychiatrists, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners have an advanced nursing degree focused on mental health conditions and can diagnose and prescribe medication.

Marital and family therapists – often treat individuals, couples, or families facing relationship or parental issues. These therapists have a degree called a Master of Family Therapy (MFT) that allows them to specialize in this area.

Licensed Clinical Practicing Counselors (LCPC) – trained to diagnose and treat a range of mental health conditions that may impact a person’s ability to function. They see people both individually and in groups.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) –Clinical social work is a specialty practice area of social work which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness.  Clinical social workers also operate from a “person-in-environment” perspective, considering not only their individual client, but also how access to community resources and supports might benefit the client.

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Talking about your own mental health issues can be difficult, even with close friends or family members. However, talking things out can be very helpful and a good reminder that you’re not alone in the feelings you may be experiencing. Talking with someone you trust and being open and honest about what you’re feeling can be liberating. Even if you don’t know the exact right way to talk about it, here are some ways to help put into words what you’re feeling and experiencing (link to signs/ symptoms).

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Find Mental Health Support In My Neighborhood

When you’re ready to get support, call or text
NAMI Chicago Helpline at 833-626-4244 or 311 to explore your options.