Insight Into The 7 Stages a Mental Health Patient Experiences

A common and BIG misconception in the world of mental health is that you cannot recover from mental illness, addiction or other mental health issues.
For decades people have believed that you must be crazy if you need to see a Psychiatrist and this is simply just not true.

Mental health is something we all have and need to take care of. Just like if you had a back injury; you’d seek the appropriate doctors, you would experiment with new ways of treating your back pain, you would heal your back pain and then you’d take certain measures to prevent that back pain or injury from reoccurring. Mental health, in many ways, is the same.

This article is meant to help you understand the stages that mental health patients experience.

The First Stage is Pre-Conception: In this stage you are vaguely aware that something seems off and may be in denial. Some may notice and even make comments that something feels off and continue to go about their life without taking any further action for help or change.

The Second Stage is Contemplation: In this stage the person’s symptoms have started to interfere with daily functioning. They have acknowledged there is a problem, or their loved ones may have said it is time to seek professional help. However, most people have mixed feelings about seeking help. They worry about the stigma of treatment and are scared that something is wrong with them or they are afraid that they may be ‘crazy’.

The Third Stage is Crisis: Typically, this stage can be avoided if you recognize you need help in stages one or two. However, if you do not recognize you need help once you reach this stage, you may experience feelings similar to having a nervous breakdown. These feelings of being in crisis mode, or sensing an impending crisis will most likely leave you struggling to function at home and at work. In response, family members typically display an array of responses from fear, to worry, and even anger.

The Fourth Stage is Seeking Help: Ideally this stage occurs before the crisis, however, in most cases, the crisis is what prompts the call for help. Unfortunately the mental health care system can be slow, confusing and scary. That is why at Cognitive Psychiatry, we always have urgent, same day appointments, or next day care available as well as no wait times. You are seen on time, so there is no need to spend hours in the waiting room before you see your doctor. As a Psychiatrist, I’ve worked in many hospitals, ER’s, and other offices. I’ve seen how difficult it can be for patients when they are in this stage of crisis and it can mean unnecessary and expensive visits to the ER or even hospitalization. At this point it is vital that you find a provider that you trust, who can help you quickly.

The Fifth Stage is Engagement: This is the stage where you start to actively work with a health provider. Because the relationship is still new, trust can be challenging at this point. For some, this may be the very first time they are allowing their emotions to surface, and feeling and expressing them can be very painful. At this stage, it is very important to begin the process of developing trust and a sense of partnership with your health provider.

The Sixth Stage is Recovery: This is typically a longer phase where the person works with the provider to find long-term solutions to their problems. They begin addressing disempowering patterns or habits of behavior that no longer serve as coping mechanisms. This is also where your doctor will help to find new ways of empowering yourself to live a meaningful, healthier and happier life. Again, this can be a painful process when difficult feelings rise to the surface and are explored. This stage also means working on relationships with others – friends, family, and co-workers. Your doctor will help you strategize setting boundaries and learning new ways to approach the people in your life so you feel empowered and happier.

The Seventh Stage is Maintenance: This phase is often ignored, but very important. You need to plan to “check-in” with your health provider even though the problem or problems have been addressed because if you do not check-in regularly, an unexpected crisis can arise that could derail your progress.

Are you or someone you know going through some of these first stages of the patient experience? Have you hit a point where you know you want to seek help, but are unsure of how to, or are nervous about taking that first step? Give our dedicated team at Cognitive Psychiatry a call. We work hard to help patients through these uncomfortable and scary first steps, while building a rapport with you so that you feel confident about your decision to seek help. You can call us at 919.636.5240, or email us here:

To Your Mental Wellness,

Dr. Jennie Bryne

Dr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhD.

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