Many of my friends often ask me, “How should I go about finding a therapist?” Or, sadly, many people also tell me, “I’ve been wanting to try therapy but I can’t find someone who is available/affordable/takes my insurance.” So I decided to write a Q&A about how to find a therapist.
Q: What type of clinician should I see?
A: It depends on what services you are looking for. Are you looking for someone to talk to? Someone to prescribe medication? Someone to provide a formal evaluation? A psychiatrist, for example, can prescribe medication, but psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors (in some areas these professionals are called licensed professional counselors) cannot prescribe. If you need a formal evaluation or diagnostic testing done, then a psychologist can provide you with that. Licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors all provide psychotherapy and can diagnose for insurance purposes, as well as assist you in finding a prescriber should you need medication.
Q: Do Marriage and Family Therapists only work with couples and families?
A: Not at all! MFTs often see individual clients for a range of issues, including mental health problems. Because of their training, they approach these issues keeping relationships and systemic context in mind.
Q: What type of training should the clinician have?
A: There are several different types of degrees in the field of counseling that prepare clinicians to all do very similar work, so the most important thing is to find a clinician who works with your particular needs. Sometimes clinicians will specialize in a particular area or population, such as working with infidelity within a couple, parents of teens struggling with addiction, etc. If you aren’t sure based on someone’s bio, you can always reach out to them to ask if they work in a particular area. Clinicians also have different theoretical orientations and styles, and some might fit you better than others. You can always ask about the therapist’s approach and what their therapeutic style is. Many therapists offer a free phone consultation to determine if they would be a good fit for you- it can be super helpful to take advantage of this!
Q: Where can I find a list of therapists in my area?
A: Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” page is a very popular directory in which therapists list their services. You can search by location, type of therapy, and your presenting complaint. Most therapists list on their profile whether or not they take insurance, what types of clients they see, what their training is, and what their fee range is. The profiles will also list contact info so that you can reach out to clinicians to inquire about their availability.
Q: What if I want to use my insurance benefits for therapy?
A: If you are looking to use your insurance benefits, start by contacting your insurance company to see what they cover for you. If you are able to see a therapist in your network, oftentimes you will have to pay your therapist a copay, and then the therapist will bill the rest of their fee to the insurance company directly. Sometimes your plan may require you to reach a deductible first before they will cover therapy. The more you know about your exact plan, the easier it will be to navigate finding a therapist.
Q: What if my insurance doesn't cover therapy or my deductible is high?
A: If your insurance does not cover therapy, your deductible is high, or you found a therapist you like who is not in-network with your insurance company, there are other options. Many therapists offer out-of-network services, which means they can give you a detailed receipt for your sessions that you can then submit to your insurance company to see if they will reimburse you. If a therapist’s fee is too high for you to pay out of pocket, they may also offer a sliding scale, which means they may adjust the fee according to your income. You can always ask if therapists offer something like this.
Q: Are there benefits to seeing a private-pay therapist?
A: There are some benefits to private-pay therapy, as the therapist is not required by insurance companies to stick to a specific treatment method or number of sessions. This allows them to be more flexible and tailor the therapy to your needs.
Q: Are there other low-cost options for therapy?
A: If you are looking for low-cost therapy, Open Path Collective is another great resource. It lists therapists who see individual clients in the $30-$50 range, and couples in the $50-$80 range. Many universities also offer low fees to work with student therapists, so contacting training programs for therapists is another option.
Q: What if I found a therapist I like but they aren’t taking new clients?
A: Therapists generally know lots of other therapists, especially others who have the same specialty or work in the same area. You can always ask if the therapist will refer you to any other clinicians. Or, therapists may have a waitlist that you can get on while you continue your search.
While finding the right therapist can feel daunting, remember that your mental health is worth investing in. Do not give up hope!
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