July – Diagnosis, finding the right therapist, lack of resources

July – Diagnosis, finding the right therapist, lack of resources

July Mental Health Discussion

Diagnosis Process, Finding the Right Therapist, and Lack of Resources in The Healthcare System


Welcome to our July mental health discussion! Today we’ll be chatting about our healthcare system. While lots of this will be city specific (Edmonton, AB), we will also be discussing the lack of resources in the health care system, which is a widespread issue. I got the idea for speaking about this thanks to my friend Emily and one of my cousins.

The first part of this discussion will be about the diagnosis process. It can be time consuming and frustrating to no end. Luckily, I had a great set of available resources to make the process smooth sailing. One of the first things I would recommend when going through mental health issues is to talk to your family doctor. They may have certain resources available to them that will be low cost and cut down on wait times. The current wait time for an appointment for a psychiatric evaluation is 6 months. But, this is only if you are paying privately. In Alberta, we have an AMAZING resource called the Primary Care Network. This is a government funded program with access to dieticians, counselors, psychiatrists, etc. The list goes on and on! The catch is that not all family physicians are able to refer their patients to this program, as they have to be accredited with them. If your family doctor is not one of the physicians in association with the primary care network, you can ask to be referred to another doctor specifically for this resource. I only had to wait one month to see a psychiatrist for an evaluation, and I didn’t have to pay a single dime for it.

The evaluation is about an hour long, and they ask you general questions such as your age and the issues you have been dealing with. They ask about family histories and addiction questions. Some mixed reviews have been given about psychiatrists in Edmonton, some people saying that they did not have a good experience. Luckily for me, I had a great experience with my evaluation. The doctor was very thorough and polite, and once he diagnosed me, he was very good at explaining things to me. I think one of the reasons there is an issue with people and their evaluations, is that it is very to the point and concise. Some people go to the psychiatrist before seeking therapy and have a misconception that this will be a similar experience and they will try to get to the root of the issue. This is not part of their job unless you are seeing them continuously after the evaluation, which isn’t generally the case unless you have very severe issues and need to seek more help on finding medication recommendations that fit for you. When you go through the primary care network, the psychiatrists are unavailable for follow up appointments and are only there as a resource for getting answers. After my evaluation, I continued to see my regular psychologist.

The next part of our discussion is about finding the right therapist for you. This can be a daunting task and can take some time to do. Not everyone is the right fit for you and your specific needs so sometimes you have to see a few before you find someone you click with. I remember the first time I ever went to a counselor. It was after my parents separated, and I was starting to show signs of suicidal thoughts and bipolar disorder. It was extremely nerve wracking. I remember filling out the questionnaires and freaking out the whole time wondering what it was going to be like and what she was going to ask me. It ended up being a good experience for me and I attended therapy for a few months. As an adult, I was not so lucky. My needs changed as my disorder became more aggressive. I went to see a counselor in Edmonton and found that he and I just didn’t click. I was confused on the reasoning of his questions and why he was focusing on certain things that were not a priority for me. I left feeling extremely frustrated and defeated. I never went back and struggled again for a few months. Once I talked to my family doctor about this, he suggested I might benefit more from a certified psychologist as opposed to a standard counselor, as my issues were a bit more complicated and intense. He referred me to a psychology service in Edmonton called Equinox Therapeutic. The downside? Not everyone can afford counseling and psychology services. I personally pay $180 an hour for my psychologist. I am lucky enough to be able to manage this financially, but not many people are able to do so.

One of the questions I would recommend asking yourself when trying to find a therapist is what your budget is. The average cost for a counselor in Edmonton is $120 an hour. For a psychologist, it’s about $160 an hour. I would recommend doing your research on different companies, as some of them will take into account your yearly income and decrease their prices accordingly. They will also ask questions such as how many dependants you have and decrease the price further. Another resource is again, the primary care network. Their services are free as it is a government program. They offer counselling services, but again, you must have a referral from a doctor in association with them. Another catch is that you sometimes wait longer between appointments to see them again, as lots of people take advantage of their program.

Another thing to consider is what I went through. Ask yourself if you need general counseling, or a more specific set of skills that a psychologist can offer. I find that psychologists are better suited for people who either suffer from specific mental disorders (bipolar, schizophrenia, ADD, etc.) whereas general counseling is well suited for people dealing with general depression, anxiety, or relationship issues.

Lastly, the most important part of finding the right therapist is feeling that click. Feeling comfortable and feeling like they just get you and know what you need and how to speak with you. Some people need a more aggressive therapist, or a soft hearted one, or one who will lighten the mood with laughter at times. You need someone who will know when to push you to go further, and who will now when we need to back off a little bit. My therapist once said to me, that if I ever left her office feeling suicidal from what we spoke about, she wasn’t doing her job right.

The last part of our discussion this month is the lack of resources available all across the country, even across the world. Mental health is STILL not considered an illness like cancer or other ailments. Which frankly, completely baffles me. Cancer research and treatment is so readily available in so many countries and in Canada, we don’t even have to worry about paying for treatment. Why do we still have to pay privately for mental health medication and therapy? We didn’t get to choose our illness. We were born with it. We didn’t just wake up one day and decide we were feeling off. Why on earth should we be restricted on how we can help ourselves based on our financial circumstances? Until we end the stigma and start taking mental illness more seriously, people will continue to suffer. Whether they suffer in silence due to shame, suffer because they cannot afford their medication or the therapy they need, or suffer because they do not qualify for the free resources out there. I sincerely hope that on day, governments everywhere will realise that they need to pay for mental health treatment. This will lower suicide rates, lower crime rates such as mass shootings in the US, and lower addiction rates as lots of people with addictions have mental health issues.

That’s all for this month lovelies, thank you so much for reading this month’s discussion. I hope it has even helped some of you realize what different resources they can take advantage of in Edmonton and understand the process a little bit better. Stay tuned for next month and comment below.

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