How to Find a Therapist
Saying “I’m ready” for professional mental health support for yourself or your child is a big turning point. These steps can help as you look to find the right therapist.
You’re never alone when seeking professional support. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults, on average, experience mental health challenges each year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has doubled, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that 40 percent of American adults struggle with mental health or substance use.
Explore Care Options
There are many types of therapy and specialists available depending on your specific mental health needs. Therapists – including psychologists, licensed mental health counselors or marriage and family therapists – and clinical social workers are trained professionals who can evaluate a person’s mental health in a safe and confidential environment. Talking to a therapist is a great start. For more serious clinical diagnoses, psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who can prescribe and monitor medications as well as diagnose mental health conditions and provide some therapy. Read more about identifying the right professional for you.
If you have a primary care provider (PCP), they can be a good resource to help you get started, but it’s not a mandatory step when seeking support. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (Blue Cross) plans don’t require a PCP referral to visit a covered mental health professional. As a reminder, you should always check to see if a provider is in-network to avoid out-of-network costs.
Begin Your Search
You can contact Blue Cross directly to find an in-network mental health professional for a consultation or ongoing therapy. Additionally, your PCP may be able to recommend a professional who could be a good fit. If you’re comfortable, ask friends or family members who may have had a positive experience with a therapist or know of therapists in your area. You can also ask the therapist directly which insurance plans they accept.
To help verify if a provider is in-network, Blue Cross also provides members with access to online tools like Find A Doctor, which will show you mental health professionals in-network when you’re logged in to your account. Blue Cross recommends that you make a short list of three-to-five professionals to call and see if they can talk over the phone about whether they might be a good fit for you.
Identifying the Right Therapist
The next step is critical: identifying the right fit for you. This process can include some trial and error, but that’s okay. As you consider options, conduct research by visiting therapists’ websites and reading their bios, or calling to learn about their practice:
- Do they conduct telehealth visits?
- Is their location accessible to you? While most appointments today are virtual, you may want to consider if in-person appointments would be conveniently located in the future.
- Does their approach to client care align with your values and how you prefer to receive care?
- Have they worked with individuals whose challenges are similar to yours?
- What is the frequency with which they’d recommend visits for your needs?
- If you found them outside of Find A Doctor, are they included in your plan’s network? If not, your out of pocket cost may be significantly higher, or there may be no insurance coverage.
It’s worthwhile to have a quick phone conversation or consultation with potential therapists to find the one who is most compatible. “The purpose of reaching out is to get an initial evaluation to find out what ballpark you’re in and what treatments might be helpful for you,” said Dr. Kenneth Duckworth, child and adolescent psychiatrist, senior medical director for behavioral health at Blue Cross and the chief medical officer for NAMI.
It may take a little time to find the right therapist. One might appear to be a good fit but is no longer accepting new patients, or it may take some time to make a compatible connection with another. Don’t get discouraged. Refer back to your short list as needed to find the right therapist for you. Contact your health plan for assistance with finding a covered provider in your network.
If you experience barriers in finding support or identifying the right specialist for you, or if you need clarity on what your benefits offer, Team Blue is here to help: 1-888-389-7764.
More Care Options
If you’re looking for additional information, assistance or more care options, Blue Cross has several tools and resources:
- Members can access MyBlue for wellness offerings, self-guided programs, a counseling helpline and other resources.
- If you connect with a therapist who isn’t in the Blue Cross network, that professional can contact 1-800-316-2583 for consideration.
For immediate help, when a person is in danger to themselves or others, call 911 or go to the ER.
Continuing the journey
Taking time to find the right therapist is worth it. It may take several appointments to know if your selected therapist or psychiatrist is a match. You can discontinue therapy with a provider who isn’t fitting your mental health needs.
The goal is feeling support, mutual respect and a sense of progress with your therapist. Mental health can be an ongoing, lifelong journey, and following these steps can make it easier to begin a care plan with the right mental health specialist.