Finding a Psychotherapist

If you know people who have been or are in psychotherapy, and they are having success, you might ask to see their therapist. If that therapist can’t see you, he might well be able to refer you to someone else he respects. If you have a family doctor you trust, or an attorney or schoolteacher, they might know good therapists; the key is whether you feel those referral sources -- the doctor, lawyer, teacher -- are themselves good eggs. You might also contact the health or guidance office of a school or company you are affiliated with and see who they recommend. Bear in mind, however that if those offices have contracted with E.A.P.s (Employee Assistance Programs), managed care, or other provider lists, then you are not getting a personal recommendation; you are getting the therapist’s name who is on the list and who works for the approved company.

These are the safest ways to look for a psychotherapist. If they lead nowhere, there are other options. You can go to an analytic institute and apply for treatment at a reduced rate. They will interview you and if you are appropriate for their brand of psychotherapy or analysis, you can see one of their trainees. These trainees are studying at the institute and will be receiving supervision on your case. Training institutes also sometimes run outpatient clinics where you can go for psychotherapy, sometimes at reduced rates. Less promising are community mental health centers, which usually work on sliding scale rates. In any of these cases you could get the best help possible or the worst or anything in between. You can find all of these in telephone books. Look under "counseling", "mental health", or "psychologist", etc. in the yellow pages.

Please remember that ads you see in the telephone book or newspaper are simply efforts to solicit business. They should be read with the same skepticism you would bring to any advertisement.

You can also try your insurance company, if you are in one of the managed care programs. If you are short of cash, you will want to see a "network provider" -- someone with whom the insurance company has a contract to see patients. You will have to call the company to get the names of therapists. Your "copayment" -- the portion of the fee that is not covered and which you will have to pay -- will be low, often between 10 and 20 dollars per session. Unfortunately, now you are really taking pot luck; you don’t know how these companies choose their providers. What’s more, it is to the company’s financial advantage to send you to a social worker rather than a psychologist or psychiatrist because they pay social workers a lower fee. So if you want a psychologist or psychiatrist, you will have to insist.

Something else to keep in mind is that managed care rarely authorizes more than about 20 sessions for a patient and some won’t even do that. Some insist after only 12 sessions that the patient be sent to a psychiatrist for medication. Even with "out of network benefits", wherein you can see a therapist of your choice for up to the plan’s maximum number of visits per year, some companies refuse to reimburse for sessions with an in network therapist once authorization runs out. At that point, then, if you want any reimbursement you’ll have to change therapists.

Finally, be aware that in order to have sessions authorized and thus covered, your therapist will have to discuss your case in detail with "case managers" at the managed care companies. This data will be entered into computer files and may even be reviewed by others at the insurance company.

Interviewing and Selecting your Therapist

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