Depression, anxiety and other mood changes are more common in people with MS than in the general population—in part as a reaction to the challenges of a chronic illness, but also because of changes in the brain and in the immune system that are a part of MS. Depression and anxiety are different from stress, grief and adjustment to changes that MS can bring. Working with a skilled professional can help you manage your mood.
Typical providers found in the mental health resource category include psychologists, social workers, and counselors, including pastoral counselors. Generally providers licensed to provide clinical counseling have advanced degrees either at the masters or doctoral level. However licenses and the credentialing "letters" utilized may differ slightly from state to state. Not all the providers found in the mental health category show their credentials, so ask what degrees or licensure they hold. If you want additional information, they should be able to direct you to the office that describes the services any credential is licensed to provide in that state.
Questions and considerations when selecting a provider or a clinic:
- How long has the professional been in practice?
- Are they licensed by our state to provide mental health counseling?
- Do they have experience in working with people living with MS or other chronic illnesses?
- Do they have experience in working with the issues with which you are seeking help? (e.g., depression, anxiety, communication , career, child rearing, etc.)
- Do they offer the services you want? (e.g., individual counseling, couples or marriage counseling, family counseling, work with children or adolescents)
- Does the professional keep up to date in their knowledge of MS or other chronic illnesses?
- Does insurance cover these services and if so, does the professional take your insurance? If the professional does not take your insurance, do they have a sliding scale?
- If you need a referral for other services, for example for medication, can they refer you to others with the appropriate expertise and prescribing authority?
- Is the office accessible?
Things to pay attention to during your first session:
- Do you feel comfortable being open with this professional? Does the professional use any specific therapeutic methods (for example cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy)? Do they explain that method well and how they believe it will help you? Does their recommendation feel like a good fit for you?
- What is the professional’s cancellation policy?
- Will the professional have sessions on the telephone, videoconferencing or chat? Do they offer home visits? Under what circumstances?
Feelings of grief and loss are common among family members also, and depression is common among caregivers. Caregivers and other family members can often benefit from professional emotional support as well as connecting with resources specific to caregiver needs. Providers found in the caregiver and family support category help with a variety of needs, including physical, emotional, financial, housing, legal and other caregiver services.
Considerations for caregiver and family member:
- What type of services do I need to help me in caring for my loved one?
- What information do I need to understand my loved ones’ needs?
- Am I feeling stressed or burned out?
- Am I neglecting my own health and self-care?
- Would a professional counselor help support my own needs?
- What support groups or peer to peer connections are available for families and caregivers?
Other strategies to support emotional well-being include:
- Many people find personal meaning through spiritual practice and/or religious beliefs so you can become and stay centered and in touch with your inner self.
- Develop strategies to help manage stress, for example meditation, relaxation exercises, individual or team sports, journaling, hobbies, time with family and friends.
- Caregivers may want to consider support resources such as Adult Day Services, Home Care, and Respite to help reduce some of the burdens of care that can decrease both physical and emotional well being.
Find Support whether you live with MS or are a care partner, family member or friend, consider connecting with others. National MS Society self-help groups bring people together who share common life experiences for support, education, wellness, and mutual aid. Join a local support group.
Find Emotional Support Resources
Now that you’ve reviewed the guide, we encourage you to conduct a search for resources in your area by using the Find Doctors & Resources tool. Select the “Emotional Support” category and then the support subtype depending upon your need.