Finding a Diabetes Mental Health Provider
11/28/16
WRITTEN BY: Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE
FacebookTwitterEmail

This article is part of our library of Mental Health resources. Type 1 isn’t just about counting carbs, checking BGLs and administering insulin. The disease takes an emotional and psychological toll as well. Check out other clinical information and personal stories about Mental Health.


Even though diabetes is a physical condition, it’s no secret that sometimes the biggest challenges in living with diabetes are mental. From feeling overwhelmed and burned out by the never-ending task of managing diabetes, to experiencing difficult diabetes-related emotions like guilt, shame or depression, to eating disorders and fear of hypoglycemia, most people with diabetes experience some degree of emotional challenges during their life. Sometimes these difficulties are too much to manage on your own and you might benefit from some professional help. How do you find the help you need?

Determine what kind of expertise you need

Finding the right mental health provider for you is important. This person should be someone that you feel comfortable with and someone who has the expertise to help address your specific concerns. One thing you need to ask yourself is how important is it that your therapist understands diabetes. Consider the following:

  • If you are struggling with an issue that is directly related to having diabetes, then seeing someone who has experience working with people with diabetes will be really helpful.
  • If you think you would be dealing with this issue whether or not you have diabetes, then finding a provider who has expertise in diabetes may be less important.

If you decide you need to see a therapist who has expertise in diabetes and mental health, you may be asking how you find this person? In a perfect world, it would be easy. But unfortunately, in some areas of the country, finding a specialized provider can be difficult, but not necessarily impossible. Here are some things you can try to find a mental health provider who can meet your needs.

Ask your endocrinologist

Your diabetes doctor is the best place to start when looking for a provider to help you with diabetes-specific mental health concerns. They should be familiar with the resources in your area and hopefully they can refer you to a provider that they trust. When dealing with diabetes-specific mental health challenges, it’s important that your therapist and endocrinologist work closely together in your treatment. Asking your endocrinologist for a referral can make this treatment coordination a lot easier.

Check diabetes organizations

Most of the large or national diabetes organization, like the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in the US or the Canadian Diabetes Association for example, have regional chapters. These chapters usually keep a list of local resources, which hopefully include mental health professionals. Contact one of the diabetes organizations in your community to see if they can provide a referral.

Ask people with diabetes (both in real life and online)

Other people with diabetes can be some of the best resources for finding help in your community. If you know others with diabetes, ask around to see if anyone knows of a provider in your community they recommend. There is also a very active diabetes online community (DOC) on Twitter, Facebook and the Beyond Type 1 app where you can ask others for resources. If you do use online forums to find a mental health provider, just be careful about sharing too much about your private concerns in a public forum.

Even if there isn’t a mental health provider that specializes in diabetes in your local area, you may still be able to get the treatment that you need. Some therapists are able to offer therapy online with a secure video connection. If you are open to online therapy, it may expand your access to the specialized services you need. If you are interested in this option, it’s important to know that state licensure laws do not allow therapists to provide services for people who are not physically located in a state where they do not hold a license. While online therapy can increase your access to specialized treatment, it still comes with some geographic restrictions.

Sometimes people with diabetes need specialized mental health treatment, and this treatment is not always easy to find, but there are resources available to help. If you know of a great provider who understands the mental health needs of people with diabetes, please don’t keep them a secret. Submit their name for the Beyond Type 1 directory, let your endocrinologist, local diabetes organizations and people with diabetes in your community know, so that everybody with diabetes who needs help has access to providers who can help them.


Read the T1D Guide for Mental Health Care Providers and Stress — Why and How You Should Reduce It.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE

Mark is the Director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH) in Solana Beach, CA. Mark received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University and completed his clinical training at UCSD School of Medicine. He enjoys spending time with his wife Gayle, cooking and performing with his improv comedy team. He has had Type 1 diabetes for 16 years. You can check out Mark's website at www.cdmh.org, follow him on Twitter @DiabeticPsych and reach him by email at mark@cdmh.org.