There is one thing that many people don’t think about when it comes to utilizing mental health services: communication. Communication is key for patients, families, and service providers. When not done effectively and honestly, it can delay and lessen services that patients need.
There are three types of relationships where communication is important when providing proper mental health services: patient and mental health service provider, patient’s family and mental health service providers, and mental health service provider and patient’s other medical care providers (i.e. regular physician, dentists, specialists, etc.).
Patient and Mental Health Service Provider
It is important that patients (children or adults) feel comfortable with their mental health service provider. When patients feel comfortable, they are more likely to be open and honest with providers. Mental health service providers (i.e. psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, etc.) appreciate knowing what patients are experiencing and how they are feeling. It’s also important for patients to feel comfortable asking questions.
Three of my four children have had experience with seeing a therapist. With my youngest son, I could tell he did not feel comfortable opening up with his first therapist, and therefore, we changed to a different therapist. He is starting to open up about his anxiety and anger and learning new “tools” as well as how to use them.
Patient’s Family and Mental Health Service Provider
It is just as important for patients to have an open and honest relationship with their mental health service provides as it is important for the patients’ families to have an open and honest relationship with providers. From my experience, regardless of the type of mental health service provider (i.e. psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist), when patients are minors, providers frequently speak with the patients’ parents or guardians first.
This allows providers to have a better understanding and learn more about children’s (or dependent adults’) behaviors, situations, and environment that patients may not disclose. Additionally, mental health service providers can often share information, tools, and techniques with the children’s parents or guardians at the end of the appointment.
Patient’s Mental Health Service Provider and Additional Medical Providers
Many patients and their families forget that patients’ mental health service providers and his/her additional medical providers (regular physician, specialist, dentist, etc.) may need to be able to communicate. In order to do this, patients (if 15 years and older) or patients’ parents or guardians (under the age of 15 years old or labeled as a dependent adult) may need to sign a release of information. In this way, everyone is on the same page and understands what patients need and how their mental health may or may not affect their physical health.
Communication truly is the key to providing patients with proper mental health services. It is important to have patients, patients’ parents or guardians, mental health therapists, and additional medical providers to be able to communicate with one another. This allows everyone to be on the same page.
One final note to consider is that if children are receiving mental health services and their mental health may affect their academic and social performances at school, it may be important to sign a release of information to share with necessary school personnel (i.e. teachers, guidance counselors, principals, school nurses, etc.). The important thing is that everyone that is involved in patients’ lives communicate with one another to provide wrap-around care.