How to find a therapist. Having a therapist is key to better mental health.
When you have a mental health disorder, it can feel very isolating at times. Finding a good therapist can be key to learning coping skills and moving forward towards healing.
If you have been following my blog for long, you probably know that I have been diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety and Depression.
Having a supportive therapist has been very helpful in my healing journey. Talking things through with someone objective has helped me to learn coping skills to become more calm and peaceful.
I believe that finding a good therapist can be helpful to anyone coping with a mental health condition, including chronic stress.
My struggle to find a therapist.
Before I found my current therapist, I went through a difficult journey to find some help. I had been having panic attacks at work, and I went to the Employee Assistance Program. However, the therapist there couldn't sign off on the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) that she had advised me to request. I was told that I needed a signature from a Psychiatrist.
Unfortunately, finding a Psychiatrist is much more difficult than finding a therapist. I went to intakes at several different crisis centers, but I was not admitted at any of them because I wasn't a danger to myself or others. I was provided with a list of Psychiatrists in my local area that take my insurance, so that I could call to get an appointment.
When I got home, my partner and I both called every provider on the list to try to obtain an appointment. The soonest appointment that we could find was three months away.
So, I kept trying to find a mental health provider. I never did find a sooner Psychiatrist appointment, however I was able to get an appointment with a therapist and begin treatment for my PTSD.
The sheer amount of calls I had to make was sometimes overwhelming, and I was very lucky to have a supportive partner who made many of those calls for me. It was so helpful to have him take over. If you have someone in your life you can rely on, that can make a big difference in your recovery too.
Going to a crisis center or Emergency Room.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, it is important to get help right away! You can do this by calling a crisis line, such as the National Suicide Hotline (800-273-8255) or a local crisis line. When you call the crisis line, they will be able to direct you to the nearest local crisis center.
Or, you can walk into any Emergency Room, and let them know that you are experiencing a mental health crisis. When you go into the Emergency Room, they will be able to provide you with immediate care. They may admit you into the hospital, or refer you to intensive outpatient treatment.
Get a referral from your doctor.
In the American medical system, finding a therapist can sometimes prove to be very difficult, and often we will have to advocate strongly for our own mental health needs.
If you have a relationship with a primary care doctor, this can be a good place to start. It is often easier to get a prompt appointment with a primary care doctor, and if you already have a longstanding relationship with your doctor, they will be familiar with your medical history as well. When you go to the doctor, you can tell them your mental health symptoms, and they may be able to provide a prescription right away and refer you to a therapist.
Once you have a referral from your primary care doctor, it will be much quicker to get an appointment with a mental health provider. A referral from your doctor may also mean that you will get a therapist who works closely with your doctor, which can be helpful as well.
Get a referral from your insurance company.
If you don't have a primary care doctor, or if they are unable to give you a referral to a therapist, then it is a good idea to check with your insurance company. This will ensure that when you find a therapist, your visits will be covered by your insurance plan.
Often, your insurance provider will have a website that lists providers who are covered under your plan. On their website, you may be able to search by your area, as well as the specialty of the provider. For example, if you have Anxiety, you can find a provider specializing in anxiety.
Some insurance providers will actually let you book appointments straight from their website. If this isn't the case, you may need to call several different providers to find one that is accepting new patients.
Get a referral from a community agency.
If you don't have insurance, you may be able to get a referral from a community agency. Currently, I attend therapy at what is called a Community Mental Health Center. There are centers like this located in many different states.
When I found my current therapist, I got a referral from the TANF program at my local city office. At the city Human Services office, I was able to apply for other programs like Medicaid, Food Assistance and Job Assistance. Services like this are very helpful if you have become unemployed due to your mental health, or other reasons.
Medicaid is a program that provides free medical insurance to low-income Americans. You can qualify for Medicaid if you are unemployed, or if you are in a certain income range.
Community Mental Health Centers will often accept Medicaid, or operate on a sliding fee scale. This is very helpful if you are unemployed, or otherwise low income. Often, a Community Mental Health Center will be much more accessible to many people than a therapist that is in a private practice.
If going to a therapist in a traditional office is difficult for you, there are many fully online therapists available today as well.
During the pandemic, I was able to do therapy through Zoom calls in order to continue my treatment without interruption. Online therapy can be available through your insurance, or through fully online providers.
According to Healthline, here are the top 10 online therapy providers:
Best overall: Talkspace
Largest network of licensed counselors: BetterHelp
Best online therapy for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Online-Therapy.com
Best online therapy for mental and physical health: Amwell
Best for online psychiatry: MDLive
Best online therapy for your budget: 7 Cups
Best online therapy for couples: ReGain
Best online therapy for teens: Teen Counseling
Best online therapy for LGBTQ: Pride Counseling
Best online therapy for single video sessions: Doctor on Demand
Often, it is easier to get an appointment with an online therapist, and these appointments may be cheaper than traditional therapy as well.
Finding a therapist or other mental health professional in the United States can be a daunting task. However, once you understand the steps that you have to follow to navigate the medical system, it can become more manageable.
If you are low income, you can get assistance and referrals from Medicaid. otherwise, you can get assistance from your primary care doctor, or insurance company.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about getting help for your mental health, or any additional topics that you would like me to cover in the future.