Making the decision to seek help is often the hardest part of beginning therapy. However, it can also be an overwhelming process to know where to look to find nearby therapists, how to find providers that take your insurance, AND find a provider who fits your schedule and price range! Not to mention, demand for high quality mental health care is at an all-time high, and many therapists are at their client capacity. This post offers strategies to guide your search and get your treatment up and running as soon as possible.
Before you start the search process, you'll want to determine whether you are going to use health insurance for therapy and what your mental health benefits are. To do this, you can either call your insurance company and ask what your coverage is, or you can log into your health insurance account online and get the same information. The perk of calling is that you can ask follow-up questions if there is anything unclear about your coverage (and let's be honest, pretty much everything is unclear when it comes to health insurance). However, calling can be time consuming and frustrating to get a live person on the other end. Either way, you'll want to have this information before calling therapists.
Thanks to the internet, there are many easy ways to locate providers in your area. Before you immediately pull up Google Maps, I'd first check out Psychology Today, which has a massive directory of therapists. You can even sort the listings by location, specialty area, gender, and, most helpfully, which insurance the provider accepts. This is often your best first stop for finding a therapist who matches what you are looking for. However, not every provider has a listing on Psychology Today, especially if they are a part of a larger group practice or clinic. Another strategy to find a therapist would be to log into your health insurance account (if you are using it) and find in-network providers through the provider search option. This is a fail-safe option to ensure that the therapist is in-network so you can use your healthcare benefits.
Google can also come in handy for finding any practices that are not listed in Psychology Today or if confirming health insurance coverage is not your top priority. Additionally, be sure to consider any alternative sources of mental health care you may be able to access. College students, check your school website to see if you have a counseling center on campus - this can be a great way to get short-term *free* therapy. Employees, you may have an Employee Assistance Program which often provides a few free sessions with a local provider to aid in clarifying your needs and setting you up with services.
Depending on where you live and what the demand is like, it may take some time to find an available therapist who fits your needs, so prepare for a bit of a process to get there. When you do call, if you are using health insurance, be sure to have your card in front of you so the provider can verify your benefits. Additionally, your availability makes a big difference in getting in the door -- challenge yourself to prioritize your mental health and make space for therapy in your week.
Have any strategies that have worked for you? Share them below!
Dr. Bethany Detwiler is a psychologist practicing in Allentown, PA. She specializes in mood and relationship struggles. She also is an adjunct professor of counseling at Lehigh University.