When you’re struggling with postpartum depression, one of the best choices you can make for yourself is to get help and treatment. The good news is, there are a number of different types of healthcare providers who can help you get back to feeling more like yourself.
Where can you start to get help?
If you already have a good relationship with a mental health professional, then you’re ahead of the game, and returning to that care provider can be a good place to start. But if you don’t have any prior experience visiting mental health professionals and are not quite sure how or where to start looking for care, the healthcare provider who you saw during your pregnancy – perhaps a midwife, an OB/GYN, or a primary care provider – can be a great place to start.
Speak with a healthcare provider honestly about how you’ve been feeling – including any concerns you have about postpartum depression – and ask if they can recommend a mental health provider who can help you further. It’s important that you see someone who specializes in mental health care to get the best treatment and help. In the same way that you would go see a podiatrist if you had a problem with your foot, or an optometrist if you were having trouble seeing, so too you’ll want to see a mental health specialist when what you really need is mental health care.
Different providers offer different types of care
In the world of mental health, different healthcare providers have different specialties and areas of expertise, so each can provide you with different services – everything from talk therapy to prescription medications – and you’ll want to find the person who can best meet your needs. Some of the providers who can help treat postpartum depression include:
- Your regular provider: This might mean that if you first bring up how you’re feeling with the provider you normally see or saw during your pregnancy – such as an OB/GYN, a midwife, a primary care physician, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse practitioner – they may be able to begin a conversation with you about getting some help for postpartum depression. They may even be able to provide you with medication to help you start feeling better if they think that’s a good first step for care. They can also refer you to a mental health specialist who can give you more targeted mental health care. All mental health care providers have a different focus, and some of these mental health specialists might include…
- Psychiatrist: This is a medical doctor with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders who can also prescribe and monitor medication.
- Psychologist: A psychologist is a mental health professional with a doctorate who is trained to evaluate, assess, and diagnose mood disorders, and to also provide individual and group therapy. Some are trained in specific forms of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- Clinical social worker: This professional has a master’s degree in social work and has been trained to make diagnoses as well as to provide individual and group counseling. They can also provide case management and advocacy as needed, often at hospitals.
- Psychiatric mental health advanced nurse: These advanced-practice nurses have master’s or doctorate degrees in mental health and can diagnose and treat mood disorders – and, in some cases, prescribe medications.
- Counselor, clinician, or therapist: Many of these licensed professionals have master’s degrees in a mental health related field, and are trained to diagnose mood disorders and provide individual and group counseling. They may go by different names in different settings. They do not prescribe medications.
Finding the best provider for you
Don’t worry too much right now about finding the “perfect” provider. If the first provider you work with isn’t a great fit or you realize you’d like to see someone with a different sort of focus, you can always reassess your care and move on to work with someone new. This is often a normal part of the process – but the most important step is just to get started.
Many of these specialists also work in tandem with others, so you may find that having a relationship with more than one provider is best for your mental health care. You might, for example, find that what works best for you is to regularly visit a psychologist for ongoing talk therapy and to occasionally visit a psychiatrist who can prescribe you medication. You’ll want to figure out what’s most important to you and what works best for your needs.
If you already have some experience with or knowledge of mental health care, you might already have preferences for the kind of care you’re looking for. Maybe, for example, you are especially interested in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that helps people recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviors. If so, make sure you seek out someone who can provide you with this sort of care or ask questions of potential providers to learn more about their areas of expertise.
And if this whole mental health care thing is new to you, you might not have preferences yet. You just might know that you want to feel better – and that’s just as important. Reach out to one of your regular care providers so that they can help guide you on a path to finding a mental health care provider so that you can start feeling like yourself again. All parents deserve that, including you.
- What’s the difference between psychologist and psychiatrist?
- How do healthcare providers diagnose postpartum depression?
- J Grohol. “Types of mental health professionals.” Psych Central. Psych Central, July 17 2016. Retrieved June 18 2018. https://psychcentral.com/lib/types-of-mental-health-professionals/.
- “Types of mental health professionals.” Mental Health America. Mental Health America. Retrieved June 18 2018. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/types-mental-health-professionals.
- “Types of mental health professionals.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. National Alliance on Mental Illness, August 2017. Retrieved June 18 2018. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Types-of-Mental-Health-Professionals.