PMHCNS or PMHNP: Worth the money?

You have a lot of options when it comes to who to see about your mental health. I want to talk today about the category I fall into: Advanced Practiced Registered Nurses (APRNs), specifically PMHCNSs (Psychiatric-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialists) and PMHNPs (Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners). That’s a lot of letters. They designate professionals that have both a bachelor’s in nursing and either a master’s or doctorate degree in their specialty, along with hundreds of hours of clinical training in mental health.

If you are only looking for psychotherapy without other medical services, then a PMHNP or PMHCNS is probably not the way to go. There are many other less expensive personnel to fill that role. APRNs command a higher rate than other types of mental health practitioners. They tend to be in a different category than traditional therapists. However, it may save you time and money indirectly. Many APRNs have an all-in-one practice that combines evaluations, psychotherapy, medication management services, medical lab screening and genetic testing, all of which traditional therapists cannot do.  For many this is worth a lot. You don’t have to go to a prescriber and a therapist separately. No need to take extra time off work, which costs money!  Luckily, most insurances cover the extra cost of seeing an APRN. They recognize the value.

APRNs often have a different approach from other types of practitioners. They are typically body, mind and spirit oriented. They do different types of helping techniques. Their nursing background makes them interested in the whole person, so they may ask you about your cultural or spiritual background and explore that in session. In my practice, I respect all religions and cultural persuasions and never try to push my own spirituality on to someone else. We all have our own beliefs and journey that is unique. APRNs may also be more self-revealing than other therapists; that may assist with the therapeutic process with some people.

When looking for a mental health provider, probably most importantly, question them about their experience.  Personally, I would feel more comfortable with a provider who has 20+ years of experience than someone just out of school. However, it is also important to find one whom you “click” with. Not everyone will be able to meet that need and that should be perfectly understood by the provider you see and will not be offensive.

I hope that helps shed some light on choosing a professional to help you on your quest for mental health. Not everyone is looking for the same thing; luckily there are plenty of options!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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