Choosing a New Provider
Will you be using your insurance to cover part of the cost? You will need to know the name of your insurance company, plan, and policy number. See below for additional information about using your health insurance.
What if you do not have insurance or you have limited financial means? There are local community organizations that use what is called a “sliding fee scale” to adjust their fees based on income to help people afford their services. CAPS keeps a list of community agencies that offer these low cost or sliding scale services, which are often provided by master’s- or doctoral level students who are supervised by licensed therapists. You may have to apply for a fee reduction and you will be asked to provide evidence of your financial status. It is best to contact these agencies as soon as possible because they are often well utilized and you may need to wait for a first appointment. There may also be providers in the community who are willing to offer a lower cost because they realize that some students cannot afford their full fees. If there is a particular provider you would like to work with, you may check with them to see if they offer services at a reduced cost.
What is the nature of your concern or condition? Many providers are “generalists” and can provide treatment for a wide variety of concerns or conditions. Some providers are “specialists” who focus on specific types of concerns or conditions (e.g., eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, OCD). Others are generalists with some specialty interests and experience. If you have a very specific condition or concern, or a chronic condition that requires a provider with special knowledge, you may want to seek someone with expertise treating that condition.
Do you have any personal preferences for characteristics of your provider? Factors such as age, gender, religion, and cultural background of the provider may be important to your level of comfort during your regular sessions. Since you may be establishing a long-term relationship with a provider, consider whether any of these factors are important to you when you narrow down your choices.
Will you need medication or monitoring of medication that has already been prescribed for you? Only doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners can prescribe medication.
- A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) who specializes in diagnosing mental health conditions and managing mental health medications.
- A psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioner can also diagnose and treat mental health concerns with medication, under the supervision of a licensed psychiatrist.
Some primary care physicians (PCPs), physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) may be willing to monitor and/or prescribe mental health medications, but you may wish to meet with someone who specializes in mental health care.
In some cases, medication can play an important role in your treatment and it is often recommended that medications be prescribed and monitored by a provider who specializes in mental health treatment (e.g., psychiatrist). There are many cases when a mental health condition is treated with medication and therapy, in which case you may need to see both a psychiatrist and a therapist.
Therapists fall into a number of categories of providers that are all qualified to provide mental health care. Licensed Psychologists have a doctorate (PhD or PsyD) in clinical or counseling psychology. Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) have a master’s degree (MA, MS, MSW) and some also have a doctorate (PhD, PsyD, EdD).
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