How do I find a Therapist?
There are several ways to find therapists and some things that are helpful to know when you start looking. Initial things to consider are the providers license level and training, the cost of therapy and what your insurance covers, the likely focus of therapy based on what you know about yourself, convenience of location and schedule, and most importantly!! your comfort level in talking with the provider.
Regarding license and training: there are different types of therapists with different focus areas, the following is not comprehensive but hopefully helpful:
1. Psychiatrist- A psychiatrist has an MD and went to medical school. Generally their training is focused on the psychical body and chemistry as opposed to talk therapy. Often times in a session they will talk with you and it will seem kind of like a traditional therapy session, however, the goal is to form a diagnosis and know what exactly they are trying to medicate before they write you a prescription.
2. Psychologist- A psychologist has a doctoral degree. Usually you will see PhD, PsyD or EdD after their name. Psychologists are trained in diagnosis and treatment through talk therapy. They are also permitted to administer diagnostic testing such as the IQ or Rorschach/Inkblot test (yes we still use that). In many cases the signature of a psychologist is as good as that of an MD on employment and disability forms.
3. Licensed Professional Counselor- A Licensed Professional Counselor or LPC has a master’s degree in psychology. Not all states license at this level. An LPC is trained in talk therapy.
4. Licensed Clinical Social Worker- a Licensed Clinical Social Worker sometimes seen as LCSW or LISW generally has a master’s degree in social work and sometimes a doctorate. Someone with a LC or LI before the SW has done additional training in providing talk therapy as compared to an MSW who might provide case management services but not therapy.
5. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist- The Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or LMFT has a master’s degree. Generally their training is focused around family issues but many offer individual treatment as well.
6. Psychotherapist- this is not a professional designation. If someone’s card or website says that they are a psychotherapist, it just means that they provide talk therapy. Look more closely and find out what their degree and license level are.
Money matters: All insurance policies are not alike. Two people can have BCBS or UHC and have very different policies. Sometimes you get to choose your policy and sometimes your job chooses for you. With some policies you must see someone who is part of the company’s network, with some policies you can see anyone you want. Generally speaking, if your policy card has an HMO on it, you need to see someone in-network, and with a PPO you may see anyone but your insurance will cover less of the cost. With an in-network therapist, the therapist has an agreement with the company as to how much they will be paid per session, you as the client may have a copay and be required to pay the first $10-$30 of that session fee while the company pays the rest. With an out of network therapist, the therapist sets the fee based on demand for services, location, and experience. The fee the therapist charges is likely more than your policy allows and for out of network benefits, your policy will only reimburse a percentage of the “allowed fee.” You as the client would be responsible for paying the full fee to the therapist and your insurance company will reimburse you directly.
For example, a therapist may charge $200/hour session; insurance allows $150 per session. Your out of network benefits cover 70%, you will pay the therapist $200 and get reimbursed $105 making your out of pocket cost $95 until you hit your deductible.
When in doubt, call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask.
The right therapist: You are allowed and encouraged to shop around. Go ahead and book initial sessions with a few different therapists. First and foremost you must feel comfortable talking with the therapist you hire. There are some individuals who will feel uncomfortable in therapy initially no matter what, but I would still suggest that you pick someone who you feel less uncomfortable with.
There are several search platforms to help you find someone; you can also get the recommendations of friends and other health providers. Just because someone has a fantastic webpage or your PCM suggests someone or best friend totally swears by her shrink, doesn’t mean the therapist will be a good fit for you. And that’s okay. So shop around and go ahead and be honest with the therapists who you interview that you are meeting with others and hopefully this triggers a conversation about what you are looking for and the best ways to help you.
www.findapsychologist.org has a searchable list of psychologists with verified credentials and training.
www.psychologytoday.com has a searchable list of all types of providers including psychiatrists and master’s level therapists. Credentials and training are not verified.