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Finding Help For Your Mental Health

We all face difficult times. Millions of people are affected by mental illness each year. If you or someone you love is struggling with persistent unease, significant mood fluctuations, or difficulty with everyday activities or relationships, remember that you are not alone. You deserve to find the help you need. But how do you find a qualified mental health provider, one who can help you and your loved ones when help is needed the most? Finding care can often be a confusing process, and most people don't know where to start. 

“I can hear the desperation in their voice. It’s thick with emotion and vulnerability,” says David Eldredge, LCSW,  senior director of clinical operations at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) at University of Utah Health. Eldredge often hears from people who are eager to find help for themselves or a loved one.

HMHI David Eldredge, LCSW portrait
"There’s a critical window of time when someone expresses a need for help. They need hope and they deserve help as quickly as possible. But it can be difficult to find a qualified provider, especially when you’re not sure what kind of help you need."
David Eldredge, LCSW Senior Director of Clinical Operations, Huntsman Mental Health Institute

Who can you turn to for help?

The first step is your primary care provider.  “If you have an established provider, they can help schedule you to discuss mental health concerns," Eldredge says. "A primary care provider can prescribe short-term medication and will refer you to a qualified specialist. Plus, any stigma we might feel about asking for help is lessened with a trusted doctor.”

Most commercial insurance plans offer a network of credentialed providers to members. Check your plan’s website for more information.

What if I'm experiencing a crisis, or someone I love is in a crisis?

“The value of crisis services is that the caller defines the crisis. It can be: ‘I’m feeling really sad today,’ or ‘I’m not sure where to turn for help,’” said Eldredge, who spent the early years of his career working in crisis services. Services include: 

  • 988 national suicide hotline provides 24-hour assessment, screening, triage, preliminary counseling, information and referrals to individuals in crisis or their loved one.

  • Walk-in crisis services, such as clinics, psychiatric urgent care centers and mental health receiving centers offer immediate attention. They offer a safe and effective alternative to a hospital emergency room.

  • Mobile crisis teams intervene whenever the crisis is occurring. Mobile teams on university campuses work alongside campus emergency personnel and provide students with immediate support.

  • State Department of Health office of Mental Health

What do all the letters mean?

Being licensed as a mental health counselor in Utah is an official designation. The path to licensure requires the completion of a master’s or doctoral degree in clinical mental health counseling or counselor education, as well as supervision from a program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. While the acronyms might seem mysterious, they can help you understand if someone has been professionally certified.

Here's a quick overview of what those designations mean:  

  • LCSW: licensed clinical social worker

  • LCMHC: licensed clinical mental health counselor

  • CMHC: clinical mental health counselor

  • MSW: master’s degree in social work

  • MD: medical doctor

  • Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Psychiatrists must complete medical school plus an additional four years of residency training in psychiatry. Their medical degree allows them to prescribe medication.

  • Psychologist: Licensure as a psychologist is based on education, examination, and supervised professional experience. Utah psychologists are licensed by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

How can you find a provider on your own?

Each state provides an online resource for professional licensing, which allows residents to check the legitimacy of a provider. Consumers can search a provider’s credentials and licensure and to see if any citations have been filed against them.

Here are a few questions that Eldredge suggests for a prospective mental health provider: 

  • What mental health conditions do you specialize in?

  • Do you use evidence-based treatments*?

  • What outcomes have you seen for other people with my symptoms?

  • What happens if I need to talk to you outside of our scheduled appointments?

*Evidence-based practice is the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preferences.

HMHI has partnered with the Ad Council to build public awareness about the stigma that keeps many from seeking help for mental health needs. Visit to learn more about different mental health concerns and find local resources.

Trust your instincts

At the end of your search, trust your instincts when making a decision.

“As clinicians, we take an oath,” Eldredge says. “First and foremost—‘do no harm’. Seek out the most qualified provider and then follow your instincts. If you’re seeing or sensing red flags—such as upfront cash billing, an odd clinic setting, or a lack of credentials—pay attention to that.”

Choosing a nonjudgmental, culturally sensitive provider with whom you can build a good rapport, mutual trust, and respect is an essential foundation for the relationship.

"I encourage people to give a licensed therapist at least three sessions to see how it’s working. Finding a therapist can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to settle. You deserve to feel safe and supported on your journey."
Danielle Valdez, LCSW Senior Specialist for Outreach and Network Development, Huntsman Mental Health Institute