How Often Should I Check In With My Mental Health Professional?

Question: How often should I check in with my mental health professional?

Answer: Well, that really depends on the type of anxiety disorder that you have and the severity of the illness, and where you are in diagnosis and treatment. In the very beginning, it's important that you spend enough time to get an accurate diagnosis and really get the treatment that we know will help. For example, at the beginning, you may need at least one or two hour-long sessions with a mental health provider to make a really good diagnosis. And then most of our treatments that we know are effective take several weeks.

For example, if you have panic disorder with frequent panic attacks and with agoraphobia -- which means that you're avoiding going out -- it's going to take at least one good hour-long session to make the diagnosis. And the best treatment is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. And it takes almost three to four weeks for all of our medications to produce a full complete response in the best of circumstances. And the most effective psychotherapy in combination with the medications is cognitive behavioral therapy. And a patient should count on at least 10 to 12 weeks, weekly sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, to get a good result. So that's weekly therapy.

Once you've completed that initial treatment and you feel like your symptoms are in remission, then you definitely want to see your mental health provider for maintenance on a regular basis -- perhaps once a month. If you're doing really well, maybe once every three months.

Next: How Can I Tell When Thoughts Of Harming Myself Or Others Are Serious Enough To Get Professional Help?

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