How to Find an In-Network Therapist

How to Find an In-Network Therapist

Access Issues to Mental Health: Part 2

Access to quality mental healthcare can come with many barriers. Cost and availability being the main issues. Mental healthcare is also different from physical healthcare because it can be subjective and does not promise results. The alliance between the client and the provider is an integral part of progress. In fact, it is the most reliable factor in predicting outcome and thus the reason for the ubiquitous mention of “best fit” (1). Mental health services can range from short term to long term depending on many factors such as diagnosis, severity, frequency of visits, financial constraints, client emotional investment, medical necessity, etc.

In the best case scenario, a client overcomes two major barrier such as finding someone who accepts their insurance and also has availability that fit with their schedule. However, the client may come to conclusion, after a few sessions, that the therapist is not a great match for them. The client is then faced with the option to stay with a provider they can afford but may not make much progress, or start back at step one and try to find another provider. Another possible scenario is if the client’s employer switches insurance and client have to decide to either stay with their current therapist who may now be out-of-network, or start the process all over again and find an in-network provider. These are very difficult decisions to make, not to mention the mental stress, time and financial investment it requires.

If this experience feels familiar, know that you are not alone. This is a common issue that many have expressed in accessing their mental health benefits. According to the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008, insurance companies are required to provide mental health benefits. However, how they provide these benefits are up to them. Carve outs and multi-payer plans cause great confusion for both providers and clients. Below are a few suggestions to help you gain access to an in-network therapist.

Tips on finding an in-network therapist:

  • Contact your insurance representative to understand your mental health benefits (See Part 3: Understanding Benefits)
  • Search online directories such as Psychology Today, Good Therapy, etc. Refine your search by insurance plans
  • Use the network’s directory (usually found on their website)
  • Contact at least 3 therapists
  • Take advantage of free consultations to get a sense of the therapist. Try not to focus on specific techniques/credentials but focus on asking yourself questions like:
    • Do I feel safe with this person?
    • Do they seem to understand my struggles?
    • Do they have experience with my issue?
    • Do they appear genuine and authentic?
  • If you’ve tried your best and still unable to find a therapist, call your network representative and ask them to search for you. This is a right you are provided as a policyholder

Difficulty accessing mental healthcare is a multifaceted issue and not one that is easily resolved within the near future. I hope this series will expand your knowledge and help you make informed decisions. Future topics on this series will include more in depth discussion of  the cost of access, understanding your benefits, and in-network vs out-of-network benefits.



Why My Practice Accepts Insurance

Why My Practice Accepts Insurance

Access Issues to Mental Health: Part 1

With the uncertain future of affordable healthcare, I will begin four part informational conversation on accessing managed mental healthcare. To keep things relevant, this series will focus primarily on the outpatient (aka office setting) private practice model of care. This series is not intended to sway clients or providers to be pro-insurance or anti-insurance. My intention is to provide factual information about this issue, a few of my personal thoughts, and to help clients make informed decisions.

Using insurance to cover mental health services has gotten easier since the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act of 2008. This law had made mental health treatment be treated in the same manner as physical health services. Without this act, mental health benefits are much harder to access both logistically for providers and financially for clients.

Due to the current political climate, this act is now in limbo as the Senate decide how healthcare will be manage and how insurance companies will play a role in the decision making process. 

Being a mental health provider who accepts insurance remains increasingly rare, especially in one of the most expensive cities in the nation. It is easy to understand why most therapists do not accept insurance, it is simply not viable to have a purely insurance based practice that is going to cover the cost of living and doing business in San Francisco. Being in-network is a lot more work for much less pay. 

However, I went into this field to help people, and in my opinion, only accepting cash pay would mean that I am neglecting a significant population in this city who cannot or will not seek mental health services they cannot afford. From a social justice standpoint, I feel that accepting insurance aligns with my philosophy of providing support where there is a need. The need for mental health services at a reduced cost will always be present. Thus, for as long as I can sustain my practice by accepting insurance, I will continue to do so.