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Thinking About Professional Help? Here’s Where to Start

Life can be challenging at times. Everyone experiences feelings like anxiety, sadness and stress now and then. While these feelings are common, it’s important to recognize when they may be interfering with your daily life. If you feel overwhelmed by emotions or experiences, know that you are not alone. Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental health or substance use challenge each year.

If you or someone you know is impacted by a mental health or substance use challenge, consider seeking professional help. The right treatment can help you manage your day-to-day life and make mental wellbeing – including recovery from substance use – a reality.

If you are in crisis or are having suicidal thoughts, contact someone immediately!

  • • If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, call 911.
  • • Suicide Prevention Hotline: Dial 988
  • • Access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 800-273-8255 (TALK).
  • • Use the Crisis Text Line by texting “MHFA” to 741-741.
  • • Contact a friend or family member and let them know you need help right away.

We know from the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum that there are more treatments, services and community support systems than ever before, and they work. However, the process of finding a provider can be overwhelming, especially when you’re dealing with symptoms of a mental health or substance use challenge. Many offices are dealing with staffing shortages, and many providers may have longer wait times or be unable to take on new patients. Leaning on your loved ones and those close to you for support and focusing on self-care during the process can help make things easier.

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s 2022 Access to Care Survey, almost 50% of Americans who say they needed substance use or mental health care in the past 12 months did not receive it. One of the main reasons people do not get help is not knowing where to get it from. If you or someone you know does not know where to begin seeking professional help, start here:

  1. Call your primary care physician. Your primary care physician can be a great resource for mental health treatment. They can recognize developing symptoms and work with you to determine a treatment plan, refer you to a specialist and identify any underlying physical issues.
  2. Ask people you know for recommendations for a mental health or substance use professional. You can also find a mental health or substance use professional, like a licensed therapist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, clinical social worker or psychologist, by asking friends and family members or looking online. There are many online tools you can use to find professional services, like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA), Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, or Psychology Today’sFind a Therapist” tool, which allows you to search for providers by ZIP code and filter by criteria including types of insurance accepted and areas of expertise.

SAMHSA also offers their National Helpline 800-662-4357 (HELP). The helpline is a confidential, free, 24/7/365 information service, available in in English and Spanish, that provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations.

  1. If you have health insurance, search your insurance provider’s website. Most insurance companies have an online directory of in-network providers that allows you to filter and search for specific services, including mental health care. They can also often tell you whether the practice is currently accepting new patients or not.
  2. Find a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) are specialized clinics that are required to serve anyone who requests care for mental health or substance use, regardless of their ability to pay or place of residence. These clinics have 24/7/365 crisis services and offer same-day access or reduced wait times, so you can have quick access to quality treatment. They also provide tailored treatment for specific groups like children, teens, veterans and more. CCBHCs will also assist you in navigating complicated care systems to ensure you get access to the timely treatment you need. To find a CCBHC near you, you can use the National Council’s CCBHC list by state. If you cannot find a CCBHC near you, consider looking for a the National Council member in your state. National Council members provide a range of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services and some may offer a sliding scale for those with financial concerns.

You can help too.

You might want to help a friend who is experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge, but you may not know the best way to support them. Take a MHFA course to become a resource to your loved ones and whole community. MHFA provides information about common mental health and substance use challenges, treatment options and resources available as well as guidance on how to help those around you. Choose to #BeTheDifference.

For more information on seeking professional treatment, read these related articles.

  1. Mental Health, Substance Use Recovery In – and With – the Community
  2. Where to Get Help: Effective Treatments for Depression
  3. Three Ways to Get Mental Health Help Anonymously
  4. Five Mental Health Resources That Can #BeTheDifference
  5. You Can Support Someone’s Journey to Recovery



Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2022, June). Mental health by the numbers. National Alliance on Mental Illness.

National Council for Mental Wellbeing and The Harris Poll. (2022, May 11). 2022 Access to care survey results. National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Psychology Today. (n.d.). Find a therapist. Psychology Today.

Sapien Labs. (2021). Mental Health Has Bigger Challenges Than Stigma. Mental Health Million Project.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2022, March 24). Certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (n.d.). Behavioral health treatment services locator. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

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