As with many aspects of life, there is no easy way to find a therapist when you need help. I wish there was an easy way to be guaranteed to find a good therapist but it often takes time and energy, two things in short supply when you’re struggling and particularly in the perinatal period.
The easiest way is often to enlist your support system – talk to friends and family members you trust and see if anyone has a recommendation. Word of mouth can be a great way to find someone that people you trust think highly of and who are skilled. Friends and family can often do some of the “weeding out” but recommending professionals they think would be a good fit for you.
Another option is to go through your insurance provider. Most insurance companies provide a list of professionals who are contracted or paneled with their company. Different insurance companies have different requirements and application processes for professionals but you will find people who are credentialed and saavy in navigating managed healthcare. If you use an insurance website to find someone, keep in mind that insurance companies do not always update their listing of providers; you should always confirm with the provider that your insurance is covered for the services they provide.
If you are using your insurance benefits, it is also worthwhile to call the insurance company and ask specifically about your Outpatient Mental Health benefits (following parity regulations, this sometimes will be under your general medical benefits). You want to ask several questions including:
- What are my outpatient mental health benefits?
- Is _________ a covered provider for my insurance (and if the representative tells you to talk to the provider, ask if they can confirm network status, which they are required to do to the best of their ability)? Some insurance plans offer out-of-network benefits or lower coverage for non-contracted providers.
- Whether the provider is in your network or outside your network, ask if there is a copay or coinsurance that I am responsible (copay is a flat fee for every appointment; coinsurance means splitting the cost of the appointment with your insurance company)?
- Are my outpatient mental health benefits subject to a deductible (if you have a deductible, often you will have to pay that amount out of pocket before switching to a copay or coinsurance)?
- Is there a visit limit on my plan (again, with new parity laws, the answer is typically no, visit coverage is determined by “medical necessity” but it can be an important question to ask)?
Based on the answers to these questions, you can find out about your financial responsibilities and in choosing a provider that fits your needs.
If you are choosing not to go through insurance or cannot afford the coverage your insurance provides, there are still options! Many private practice clinicians are not covered by insurance or offer reduced rate/sliding scale options for those who need help covering treatment. Some of the clinicians will want to verify qualifications but others may not require any documentation. If you are concerned about costs, it is always reasonable to ask about sliding scale options. Other people elect not to go through insurance coverage because of concerns about confidentiality and record keeping; while licensed clinicians take every step to protect your confidentiality and often limit dictated notes for exactly that reason, it is a personal decision for everyone. If you choose a provider who is not covered by your insurance company or elect not to use your insurance plan, you will be responsible for paying the clinician personally. Clinicians should be able to offer you a receipt or “superbill” with all the required codes and numbers if you would like to submit the information to your insurance plan for partial reimbursement.