You have made the first step to emotional and mental wellness by deciding to meet with a Mental Health Professional. Now that you are ready to move forward, you have no idea on where to find a Therapist in your area, not to mention the cost. I get it! Navigating the medical system can be challenging.
The goal of this blog is to provide you with information on how to secure a Mental Health Clinician, highlight options to paying for mental health services, and prepare you for your first visit. Throughout this blog, I will use Mental Health Professional, Therapist, or Psychotherapist interchangeably. The services that mental health professionals are licensed to provide depends on the state in which they reside in.
How to get started
If you plan to utilize your medical insurance; you may have a mental health component. Which means you can see a therapist by using your insurance plan. If you have Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) insurance, you may have to request a referral from your primary doctor.
Some HMO’s allow you to self-refer (meaning you can contact a therapist within your network to schedule your appointment without a referral). You may also have the option to seek out a therapist outside your network. You must speak with your insurance company to confirm this option. If your insurance gives you the okay and you decide to move forward. You will be responsible for the bill. Your therapist will provide you with a receipt/superbill for you to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. You may also be able to self-refer with the following plans: Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Medicare, or Medicaid.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)- this program is offered through your employer. Psychotherapists provide therapy to assist employees with personal problems or work-related issues. The services provided are free and confidential. EAP services usually have a cap on the number of sessions allowed.
Health Saving or Flexible Spending Accounts– Your Employer will issue you a card annually to use for dental, medical, optical, prescription, medical equipment, or mental health services. The card will have a pre-determined amount of funds loaded to the card. You will need to ask your therapist if they accept this option.
If you will be paying by cash, figure out your budget. How much can you comfortably commit to paying weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly? The frequency of your visits will be dependent on your needs and the recommendation of your therapist. Now that you have worked out your finances; the next step is searching for a Psychotherapist.
Searching for a Therapist:
Here are a few resources:
Psychology Today, Open Path Collective, Therapy for Black Girls, Physician referral, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Insurance Network Referral, and community referrals.
What are you looking for?
Gender, religion, ethnicity, experience, education, location, therapeutic model, office hours (weekends/after-five appointments), or if the Therapist offers teletherapy.
Make the call!
Some Therapists offer a free 15-minute phone consultation. This is your time to share your concerns and ask key questions.
- Make sure that you are in an environment where you can speak freely and openly.
- Share any concerns you may have about moving forward with therapy
- Ask about availability, experience working with your particular situation, cost, and any other questions you may have in mind.
- Write your questions down prior to the call
What to expect at your first visit?
- The first session will involve the therapist getting to know you
- Your appointment will include reviewing the consent forms and office policies
- You will be asked about your concerns, issues, and experiences
Warning signs that it may not be a good fit!
- The therapist looks put-off by your issue
- The therapist talks more than you (shares too much)
- The therapist is not prepared for your session
- The therapist falls asleep during the session
Disclaimer: How a Clinician runs their office, charges fees, and sets their policies is completely up to them.