From Linda M. Rio, M.A. – I woke this morning to find an email to me from a parent pleading for my help. This parent has an adult child who had a pituitary tumor removed years ago but described as since having emotional ups and downs that even today affect the whole family. Since I am thousands of miles away, I can be of little actual help to this family other than to give guidance on ways to find the proper professional.
Of course, the diagnosis of a pituitary tumor affects more than just the patient as any illness would. And patients can be so involved in their disease and symptoms that they can lose sight of the impact on family, friends, even co-workers. Severe or chronic illness, mental or physical, often becomes an unwanted member of the family, who like any family member, affects everyone else as part of that system. Even if patients try their best not to affect others, this cannot be helped because human actions, behaviors, and emotions do affect others. Human beings are relational, and most need others interactively.
The problem is, however, that although humans need to interact with others, it is hard to know best how to connect and communicate well on the best of days. Illness puts an even more significant challenge on humans’ abilities to be with one another effectively. And, some pituitary illnesses have the additional factor of having mental health issues as a part of the disease itself.
Such mental health issues as depression and anxiety can accompany and be an integral part of hormonal imbalances. The connection between the physical symptoms of pituitary disorders and the mental health symptoms is not often understood or even recognized by doctors or mental health professionals, but treatment for both is often just what is necessary!
The parent who contacted me asked how they can find a good therapist. This is a question I have been asked many times and written about previously but deserves repeating. So just as it is crucial for pituitary patients to get medical treatment only from physicians who genuinely specialize in pituitary disorders, it is also essential for anyone seeking mental health counseling to find the right, well-trained therapist. Unfortunately, I have found few mental health clinicians who have anything but cursory knowledge specifically about the pituitary. Because such disorders have been considered “rare,” little attention is paid to training those in the mental health fields. The good news is that I do not believe someone has to be an expert in pituitary disorders to be helpful. I do have some recommendations and guidance for finding the “right” therapist even if they are not very knowledgeable about the effects the pituitary can have on emotions and behavior.
1. If health insurance is accessed, there may be a website available to find a list of potential therapists and their specialties. If this is not available or not helpful, then the primary care physician or endocrinologist may be able to provide some names of local mental health professionals. A personal recommendation from a friend can also help since they might know you well and have an idea of the type of person who would be a good match.
2. One of the most critical factors in finding a good therapist is to find someone you feel comfortable with; this includes feeling physically and emotionally safe in their presence. Sometimes the initial phone call to the therapist can provide enough information to know this, but it may take meeting the person a few times to know.
3. It is very OK to ask questions about the therapist’s education, training, and expertise. I suggest asking if they know about pituitary disorders. If the answer is “no,” then I’d ask if they have expertise working with chronic and/or serious medical illnesses. Knowing how illnesses, in general, affect a person and their relationships can be a big help. If the professional does not know about pituitary disorders but is willing to learn that will be very important. I am even open to consulting with professionals who may want some guidance or resources for their learning advancement.
4. Knowing the various types of mental health professionals is important. A psychiatrist a physician with a medical degree. Often psychiatrists prescribe medications that can help with such things as depression and anxiety. Most psychiatrists do not, however, do “talk” therapy. Psychologists do work with individuals and sometimes couples or families and can have many sub-specialties such as giving psychological tests, teaching or working with particular populations. Marriage and Family Therapists specialize in helping people do their best within their relationships. MFT’s work with individuals, couples, and families. Some MFT’s have specialized training in Medical Family Therapy, which means they may work in a primary care setting or closely with a physician. Licensed Social Workers may also see individuals or families and are most familiar with social and community resources that may be excellent resources for patients.
5. The internet can be a place to begin the search for the right therapist. It is also essential to know that the “right” therapist is who feels right to the person seeking help so really trusting your instincts is important. A therapist’s website can provide a sense of who that person is by how they present themselves as a professional.
Mental health professional search sites exist and can be helpful especially in finding someone within a certain geographic area. Seeing a therapist who belongs to a professional association can help assure their training, expertise, and adherence to laws and ethical standards. Some examples of search sites in the U.S. include:
Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy https://www.aamft.org/Directories/Find_a_Therapist.aspx?hkey=014b5b26-bc27-43b0-beeb-c590352e8235. The American Psychological Association https://locator.apa.org/?_ga=2.260934985.514621266.1557192605-1308378359.1552329558
7. Once a therapist has been found and chosen, it is important to know that feeling OK to ask, question, even challenge the therapist anytime while in treatment. The therapist should be able to discuss with you the treatment plan and diagnosis.
8. Seeking mental health treatment should be no different than finding good medical care. The right treatment does make a difference, and the right professional is important.
Read Linda’s past articles on PWN and learn more about Linda’s work by going to her website www.lindamrio.com. Linda is available via telemedicine to those within California. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 619-0950. Her latest book “The Hormone Factor in Mental Health” is available through Amazon.com and other major booksellers.
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