Written by By Kelsey Wiles, for CNN
As the US president and his former lawyer continue to fester in their legal troubles, there’s no shortage of concern about the country’s mental health.
But why, when it comes to dealing with mental health issues, is getting help for the most serious afflictions like depression and anxiety so challenging?
This is the question that Jeewon Park, a psychiatrist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, digs into in her new book “Therapy For Dummies.”
“The most common area for confusion is how to get mental health services,” she told CNN Travel, adding that for the middle and low to moderate population, 45% find that mental health treatment is at least somewhat difficult or impossible to access.
When choosing a therapist, Park adds, “it’s important to look for someone who is of good character who has a competency level you can trust.”
And there are other sure-fire ways to choose a suitable therapist, she suggests.
For example, go for someone with a master’s degree who has at least 10 years’ experience and definitely not a healthcare assistant.
Speaking from experience, Park says that it takes approximately four sessions to feel like you’re getting support. It helps, too, if you’ve done your homework before scheduling an appointment.
“If a therapist is unable to help you, ask for another option and leave, especially if you’re that desperate to find help,” she warned.
Therapy remains a difficult habit to break. However, Park says she’s noticed that some people are beginning to feel more comfortable seeking care, perhaps spurred on by the growing popularity of online forums.
One of those online programs, a free digital tool called Happy Getwell, was launched earlier this year to help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Users can check in at Happy Getwell.com and unlock “panic buttons” for their chosen location or therapy session — and still get access to an online coaching app.
Hedy Fox, one of the program’s creators, explains that the app has already recorded a number of users who are reporting improvements.
“I was contacted by a person in Virginia who called me with an appointment and said, ‘you really saved my life. I was getting kind of lost without it, and it kind of helped me find my way,” Fox told CNN Travel.
“It gives you a constant anxiety signal to your brain that you want to check in with us on whether we’re going to be okay.”
As for therapy for other disorders, such as bipolar disorder, Fox advises seeking a therapist outside your family, with whom you feel an immediate bond.
One way to do this is through a patient-practitioner relationship.
“There’s a sense of continuity and in-person connection that you can’t really get online,” she explained.
There are other approaches to counseling you may not have heard of before, she adds.
For instance, Dojo is a network of private therapy centers that focus on enhancing the quality of life by engaging with a broad range of psychotherapy approaches. The centers have also launched an app that offers smartphone face-to-face therapy sessions.
Fox also offers a word of advice on how to avoid not getting what you want out of therapy.
“There’s an enormous temptation to avoid taking proactive steps,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for you to explore your own symptoms. Do that, instead of going around thinking that therapy is a given.”