Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding Help

It can be hard to find help that suits you well.

Individuals seeking help sometimes ask me directly if I will see them. At this point, I am not able to see very many new patients; those new patients I do see have often been waiting a very long time, and because I work as part of the staff in a university clinic, I need to restrict new assessments or psychiatric follow-up to the university student population.

Here is some general advice about finding psychiatric care in the Vancouver area (maybe some of these suggestions could apply to other parts of the world too):

1) Find a primary care physician you are comfortable with. Many gp's (general practice physicians) are at least as capable as a great many psychiatrists, in terms of providing good, thorough, compassionate psychiatric care. A good gp should be a good listener, have a good knowledge of psychiatric conditions, be comfortable dealing with psychiatric problems, and be comfortable with some psychotherapy principles as well as with medications.

It can be hard to find a gp you are comfortable with. But it is probably a much easier task in most cases than finding a psychiatrist or other therapist.

2) Be familiar with other mental health resources in the community. In Vancouver this would include the community mental health teams and specialty clinics such as the Mood Disorders Clinic. Some of these resources may not offer follow-up but could at least offer some advice to help you and your gp move on with some new therapeutic ideas.

3) Be well-informed yourself, so that you can communicate your problems clearly to any new physician or therapist. If there is a past medical record, it can be helpful to have copies of this information yourself, which can speed up the process of a new person understanding your history.

4) Be open to alternative resources: other types of therapy or counseling outside of the medical or psychiatric system can sometimes be very helpful.

5) Be open to therapeutic ideas that might not necessarily be your first choice. For example, you might be referred to some kind of group therapy program, instead of to a 1-on-1 therapist (sometimes groups are more readily and immediately available). This kind of experience can sometimes be very helpful, and also help you become more connected with other resources. Many people are so insistent on wanting 1-on-1 therapy that they will not consider a group.

6) Be reminded that the hospital emergency rooms are always open, and help is available at any time. In most hospitals a psychiatrist would be available to see you for an urgent or life-threatening problem. Also, most hospitals would have other resources, such as social work, which could be useful to help with other circumstantial difficulties accompanying your symptoms. The emergency room experience can be chaotic and frustrating, though.

More links to some different Vancouver-area resources:

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