Tips for Finding a Therapist

Young woman sits in therapy session with a counselorAs a mental health professional, one of the questions I often receive from friends and family is, “Do you have any recommendations on how to find a therapist?”

Determining insurance coverage

First, you’ll want to find out who your insurance provider is and whether you have mental health benefit coverage. You can usually determine benefit coverage by calling the number located on the back of your insurance card.

In addition to coverage for outpatient therapy, ask…

  • Do I need a referral from my primary care physician or other medical professional?
  • Do I need preapproval before I start therapy?
  • Is there a list of therapy providers I have to choose from (in network) or am I free to choose any qualified professional?
  • Does the amount insurance pays vary if provider is in or out of network?
  • Is there a limit to how much insurance will pay and/or a co-payment amount?
  • Is there a limit to the number of visits per year?

Don’t have insurance?

  • Check with your local Community Mental Health (CMH) provider. For example, the community health provider for Kent County is network180. Your CMH will help you connect with a therapist.
  • Employee Assistance Plans often provide a number of free therapist visits to employees as well as members of an employee’s household.
  • If you’ll need to self-pay, look for providers who work for non-profits that may offer a sliding fee scale or have a patient assistance fund set up to help uninsured and underinsured individuals.

Finding a therapist in your area

You have many options to find a local provider. I’ve listed some ideas below and suggest you choose what feels most comfortable to you. I encourage you to make a list of providers you find noteworthy along the way and then follow-up with some research.

Ask for a direct referral from your primary care doctor, pastor, or other medical professional.

Word of mouth is often the most trusted form of referral source.

Some turn to social media in order to gain a recommendation. I’ve been surprised to see how many people respond gently and encouragingly to posts from those reaching out to seek help.

Use online search phrases like “Mental health therapist near me” or “therapist for depression near me”. These searches will generally provide the most comprehensive list of therapists.

Ask your insurance provider to provide a list of qualified professionals.

Some websites provide therapist listings. Make sure to note that many of these do not provide a complete listing of therapists in your area because they only include members or therapists who pay to have their listings on the site. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pine Rest Find A Clinician. Pine Rest Chritian Mental Health Services has over 250 clinicians at multiple locations in Michigan and offers teletherapy. You can use the search tool online or call 866.852.4001 for assistance in getting matched with a therapist.
  • Psychology Today – paid listings only
  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) provides a search for mental health and substance use facilities, but not specific therapists.

Call your local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter for a listing and/or recommendations.

Questions to ask the therapist’s office

We’ve made it to the last step before committing to an appointment! The hardest part can be making that phone call, but you are strong and can do it!  Hopefully you have a great list of providers and are feeling confident.

Here are some questions to ask when you call to find out more information before scheduling.

  • Does the therapist have experience working with someone your age?
  • Does the therapist have experience with the types of concerns and/or symptoms?
  • What is the therapist’s area of discipline and credentials? (i.e. psychology, social work, licensed therapist)
  • What types of therapy does the therapist use?
  • How long are the therapy sessions?
  • How much does each session cost? What portion is covered by your insurance? Are there any out-of-pocket costs? If so, how much?
  • How often does a therapist typically see clients (weekly, bi-weekly and monthly)?
  • How soon is the therapist’s next available appointment?
  • Is there a wait list?

The big question YOU should be prepared to answer

In some form or fashion, the first question a therapist will ask is, “What brings you to therapy?”

While it’s understandable that you may feel nervous or hesitant opening up to a stranger, it’s also important to recognize that your answer to this question sets the tone for identifying your most critical areas of need. So don’t hold back!

Answer by explaining recent emotions and symptoms you’re experiencing, and what your friends and/or family have noticed, is a great start. Knowing how you are feeling and that you want help is all that you need to get started!

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