Big Feels Monday: How to Consult a Doctor about Your Mental Health Concerns

Big Feels Monday: How to Consult a Doctor about Your Mental Health Concerns

a doctor holds the hand of a person in a supportive way listening and making direct eye contact

Welcome back to Big Feels Monday, a weekly series by The Big Silence where we talk about how we’re feeling, and bring up tools and inspiration to help start the week off.

How to Consult a Doctor About Your Mental Health Concerns

Mental health is as vital as physical health, yet seeking help for mental health concerns can feel daunting. Karena and James sit down to talk about how and when to consult a doctor to discuss your mental health concerns. Watch the video and then read below for tips in this week's mental health toolkit that can help you better understand the process and the expectations when seeking to consult with your doctor about your mental health concerns. 


Why Seeking Help for Mental Health is Essential

In a world where physical ailments often take precedence, the significance of mental health can sometimes be overlooked. However, just as our bodies require care and attention, so do our minds. Despite the stigma that may still surround mental health discussions, seeking help from a doctor is not only commendable but also crucial for one's overall well-being. Let's delve into the reasons why someone might consider reaching out to a doctor to speak about their mental health.

  • Persistent Feelings of Distress: One of the most common reasons individuals seek help for their mental health is persistent feelings of distress. This could manifest as overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or a sense of hopelessness that lingers despite attempts to alleviate it. Such feelings may indicate underlying mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders, which can benefit from professional intervention.
  • Changes in Behavior or Mood: Significant changes in behavior or mood can also signal the need for professional support. These changes might include sudden anger outbursts, withdrawal from social activities, or a noticeable decline in performance at work or school. Seeking help early on can prevent these changes from escalating and aid in addressing any underlying issues causing them.
  • Difficulty Coping with Life Events: Life is filled with ups and downs, but sometimes certain events can be particularly challenging to cope with. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a major life transition, or a traumatic experience, seeking support from a doctor can provide valuable guidance and coping strategies to navigate through these difficult times.
  • Strained Relationships: Mental health struggles can take a toll on relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. If conflicts and misunderstandings become a recurring pattern or if communication breakdowns persist, seeking professional help can offer insights into managing emotions and improving relationship dynamics.
  • Physical Symptoms with No Clear Cause: It's essential to recognize that mental health and physical health are interconnected. Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, or unexplained aches and pains can sometimes be manifestations of underlying mental health concerns. Consulting a doctor can help determine whether these symptoms are linked to mental health issues and provide appropriate treatment.
  • Thoughts of Self-Harm or Suicide: Perhaps the most urgent reason to seek help for mental health is if you're experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These thoughts should never be ignored or brushed aside. Speaking to a doctor immediately can be a lifesaving step, as they can offer immediate support and connect you with resources to ensure your safety.

Magic Mike: Spreading Smiles& a Magical Mental Health Message, Mike Webb discusses his own process of understanding the severity of his depression. He wasn't seeking help because of the stigma, until a co-worker pointed out to him that he seemed to be struggling. He was showing up late for work, leaving early, lacking energy. The psychologist he saw was able to provide an assessment that helped Mike to understand he was suffering from a severe depression, and he go the help he needed!

“At that point I couldn't even say the word. It was a weird stigma to that word, and I couldn't even I couldn't say this, the words, I have depression. That just did not work,  like that's impossible. It wasn't until I ended up going to a doctor, and we did this other test, and he gave me a score, and he walked me through it, so I could see it. He's like, ‘All right, so you clearly have severe depression.’ I was like, ‘Wait, what? I have depression?’” - Michael Webb aka Magic Mike

What to Expect When Speaking with Your Doctor About Your Mental Health Concerns

Doctors are trained to listen non-judgmentally and are bound by confidentiality, so you can feel comfortable sharing your concerns. The goal of the conversation is to provide you with support, guidance, and appropriate interventions to help you manage your mental health concerns and improve your overall well-being. It's important to be open and honest during your discussion with the doctor so they can provide you with the best possible care. 

Your meeting with your doctor is completely confidential; it is safe to be open and honest about your symptoms, the feelings you are having, your experiences and concerns that have led you to seek help. Make the most of your time with the doctor by preparing in advance. Take time to create a detailed list of your concerns and questions, and include changes in mood, sleep patterns, appetite, energy levels, or any other relevant symptoms. It could also be helpful to provide your doctor with some context about what might be contributing to your mental health concerns; this could include recent life events, stressors, changes in medication, or family history of mental illness. In your notes, be sure to include any preferences you have regarding treatment, such as whether you prefer therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of approaches, and any questions you have about the various types of treatment. 

Based on the information you provide, the doctor may offer a preliminary diagnosis or suggest further evaluation to better understand your condition. Depending on your needs, your doctor may refer you to a specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. It's important to remember that mental health diagnoses are made based on a combination of symptoms, duration, and severity, and may evolve over time. 

Understanding your condition and treatment plan can help you feel more empowered and engaged in your own care. Potential treatment options may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of these approaches. Ask the doctor to explain the benefits and potential risks of each option and work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that aligns with your goals and preferences. The doctor may offer recommendations for self-help strategies, support groups, or educational materials that can help you to be better informed, as well.

Find Your Support System

Alessandra Torresani on Living (and Thriving) with Bipolar 1 Disorder shares with The Big Silence the importance of finding your support system when you live with a diagnosis. You can still have a life with a diagnosis. Make sure that there is someone you check in with that can notice if you need help or if you are going through something.

"Those of us who live with mental illness can't see when it's bad, when we spiral. And having someone be that person that helps, I highly recommend you find that person, whether it be a therapist, a professional or someone personal. Someone that can hold you accountable, where they can maybe see: 'Oh, you're spiraling. You know, this is a sickness, it's not your fault.'" - Alessandra Torresani



Understanding the Types of Mental Healthcare Providers

Understanding the different types of doctors and healthcare workers who specialize in mental health can be confusing. We've put together this guide to help make sense of the different types of care available and also included reasons why you might seek out the care of that specialist. 


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses. They are trained to understand both the biological and psychological components of mental disorders. 

Reasons to see a psychiatrist:

  • Diagnosis and medication management for severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
  • Treatment of psychiatric disorders that may require medication in addition to therapy.
  • Management of medication side effects and adjustments to medication dosage. 
  • If you need medication management for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
  • If you require a comprehensive evaluation to determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.


Psychologists are trained professionals who study human behavior and mental processes. Psychologists hold advanced degrees in psychology (typically a Ph.D. or Psy.D.). They are trained in psychological testing, assessment, and various therapeutic techniques. Psychologists may specialize in different areas such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or neuropsychology. They provide therapy for individuals, couples, families, and groups and typically have expertise in psychotherapy and psychological testing.

Reasons to see a psychologist:

  • If you need therapy to address various mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, trauma, or relationship issues.
  • If you require psychological assessments for diagnostic clarification or treatment planning.
  • Psychotherapy to address underlying issues, improve coping skills, and promote personal growth.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists focus on assessing and treating mental illnesses and emotional disorders. They often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, or private practices, providing therapy for conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and personality disorders.

Reasons to see a clinical psychologist:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD.
  • Individual therapy to address emotional distress, relationship problems, or traumatic experiences.
  • Collaboration with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive mental health care.

Counseling Psychologists

Counseling psychologists help individuals cope with challenges, improve their mental health, and enhance their overall well-being. They often work in educational settings, community centers, or private practice, providing counseling for issues like relationship problems, career transitions, or stress management.

Reasons to see a Counseling Psychologist

  • Counseling for individuals dealing with life transitions, stress, grief, or career-related challenges. 
  • Support for improving interpersonal relationships, communication skills, and self-esteem. 
  • Guidance for personal development, goal-setting, and enhancing overall well-being.

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical social workers are licensed professionals who provide mental health services in various settings. They focus on helping individuals cope with life challenges, improve relationships, and access community resources.

Reasons to see a clinical social worker:

  • If you need counseling or therapy for managing stress, grief, addiction, or other emotional difficulties.
  • If you require assistance in navigating social services, financial resources, or support networks.Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners:

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Psychiatric nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses with specialized training in mental health care. They can diagnose mental health disorders, prescribe medications, and provide therapy.

Reasons to see a psychiatric nurse practitioner:

  • If you prefer a holistic approach to mental health care, combining medication management with therapy.
  • If you face barriers accessing psychiatrists or prefer a more accessible option for ongoing care.

Primary Care Physicians

Primary care physicians (PCPs) are often the first point of contact for individuals seeking medical care, including mental health concerns. While they may not specialize in mental health, they can diagnose and treat common mental health conditions.

Reasons to see a primary care physician:

  • If you have mild to moderate mental health symptoms and prefer a familiar healthcare provider for initial evaluation and treatment. 
  • If you need referrals to mental health specialists or community resources.

Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) or Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs)

LPCs or LMHCs have master's degrees in counseling or a related field and are licensed to provide therapy. They work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to address a wide range of mental health concerns, including substance abuse, grief, trauma, and self-esteem issues.

Reasons to see a counselor:

  • Therapy for individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, trauma, or substance abuse issues. 
  • Counseling for couples seeking to improve their relationship, resolve conflicts, or navigate major life changes. 
  • Support for families dealing with parenting challenges, communication breakdowns, or conflict resolution.

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs)

MFTs specialize in helping couples and families resolve conflicts, improve communication, and strengthen relationships. They address issues such as marital problems, parent-child conflicts, and family dynamics. MFTs typically have master's degrees in marriage and family therapy or a related field.

Reasons to see a therapist:

  • Couples therapy to address communication problems, intimacy issues, or conflicts in marriage or partnerships. 
  • Family therapy to improve family dynamics, resolve conflicts, and strengthen relationships. 
  • Counseling for individuals and families coping with divorce, blended family issues, or parenting challenges.

Social Workers (LCSWs)

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) have master's degrees in social work and are trained to provide therapy and support services to individuals, families, and communities. They work in various settings, including mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, and social service agencies, addressing issues like poverty, addiction, abuse, and mental illness.

Reasons to see a social worker: 

  • Therapy and support services for individuals experiencing poverty, homelessness, or social isolation. 
  • Case management and advocacy for individuals navigating complex systems such as healthcare, housing, or social services. 
  • Counseling for individuals dealing with trauma, abuse, addiction, or mental illness.

Art Therapists, Music Therapists, Dance/Movement Therapists, Drama Therapists

These therapists use creative arts (such as visual arts, music, dance, or drama) as therapeutic tools to help individuals explore emotions, express themselves, and improve their mental well-being. They often work with children, adolescents, and adults dealing with trauma, developmental disorders, or other mental health challenges.

Reasons to see a creative arts therapist:

  • Creative arts therapy for individuals with developmental disorders, trauma-related issues, or mental health concerns. 
  • Expressive therapy to explore emotions, reduce stress, and improve communication skills. 
  • Integration of creative arts techniques into traditional therapy approaches to enhance self-awareness and emotional healing.

These are just a few examples of the many types of counselors and therapists available. Each profession has its unique approach, training, and focus areas, allowing individuals to find the most suitable support for their specific needs. It's essential to choose a counselor or therapist who aligns with your goals, preferences, and comfort level. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, and there are resources available to help you navigate your mental health concerns with compassion and expertise.


How are you really feeling? We'd love to hear about your week, or share your favorite tools for the week in the comments!


The Big Silence Foundation, Inc is a U.S. tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to changing the culture of mental health. Consistent with IRS guidelines, all gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. Donate to bring change with us!


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The information provided is for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Users are advised to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if they're seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

**Please note that if your thoughts start becoming hopeless or suicidal, contact emergency at 988 or 911 andcrisis services immediately. You can find more resourceshere. Text HELLO to 741741 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor.




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The mental health foundation was founded in 2021 by Karena Dawn, a wellness entrepreneur and leading mental health advocate, based on her experiences growing up in a family impacted by mental illness (shared in her memoir, The Big Silence). It’s our goal to support people’s mental health journey from childhood to adult and to create a more joyful and loving place. 



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Founder Karena Dawn shares her personal story in The Big Silence: A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness and Healing, shining a light on the eternal struggle we all share—how to move past the pain and suffering of our personal battles to experience life’s joys.