Making the decision to begin counseling takes a lot of courage. It is a difficult step for most people to take the leap of seeking the assistance of a professional. Many people are quite private about their personal affairs and are reluctant to talk about some of the most intimate details in their life, with what starts out as a perfect stranger. For other people, deciding to seek help is no big deal, but they do want to make sure they are finding the right person, so they are not wasting time, energy, and money. The research shows that most people will go through three counselors before they find the right one for them. We tell you this in part to set a realistic expectation. Be prepared to meet with more than just one person, and do not get discouraged and give up if the first person is not the right fit for you. Now with that in mind, let’s discuss some tips that can hopefully keep you on the lower end of that average before you find the right therapist.
Things to Consider Before You Pick Up the Phone
- Insurance: Whether you have done therapy in the past and have a good idea of what you are looking for, or this is your first run at counseling, there are factors you will want to be mindful of before you book an appointment. The selection of a therapist in many ways is a narrowing process. The vast majority of people will be using their health care insurance. Almost all plans cover counseling services, but you may want to double-check your plan and make sure this is a covered expense. While on the phone with your health plan, you can ask a representative a little more about your policy so you can do some planning. Most insurances do not have a number limit on sessions, but you might want to double-check that too, in case you are dealing with a limited number of sessions. Find out if you have a $20 copay or a $3,000 deductible, so you know roughly what your expense for counseling will be. Next, your health plan should be able to give you a ballpark range of the rate for a counseling session. This is the amount the insurance allows for a counseling session. Most range between $75-$175, which is quite a spread. Some carriers pay quite a bit more than other carriers. If you have a high deductible plan, it will be good to know if you should be budgeting for $75 a session or $150 a session. Lastly, you want to make sure you pick an “in-network” provider. Counseling can be quite expensive when you go out of network. If you have no idea of where to start, your insurance carrier can give a list of in-network providers near you. They can also add filters to their search to help with the narrowing process. We will talk about what some of those factors might be. If you intend to do your own search for a therapist, you will want to note your health plan (BCBS, Medica, etc.) so you can inquire with providers as you call them to ensure they are an in-network contracted provider with your health plan.
- Fee for Service Cost: If you do not have insurance, or are electing not to use it, you will want to consider your budget in relation to the going rate for a therapy session. Most counselors charge roughly what they would get paid from an insurance company, $75-$150, but be sure to ask before you schedule an appointment. Keep in mind most people will spend an average of 8-15 sessions in therapy to work through typical issues such as mild depression or anxiety. More complex or deeply rooted issues will likely take longer.
- Gender: Some people know right away that they will be more comfortable with a male or female. If you know this about yourself, it will help with the narrowing process. Counseling is a female-dominated industry with close to 80% of providers being female. If you are looking for a male therapist, your list could be narrowed very quickly.
- Location: Some people have no problem driving a little further for a high-quality therapist, perhaps one that was suggested to you by a friend or family member. Because therapy often occurs weekly or biweekly, you may want to narrow your search to an area of the city that is convenient for you.
- Availability: If you need a certain time of day or a certain day of the week, you will want to be clear about that when calling around. Some clinicians only work certain days or leave early to tend to their own family responsibilities. Make sure your provider is going to be available during the times you need before you start the process. It is frustrating to begin therapy only to discover that availability is going to pose a conflict to continued work together.
- Theoretical Orientation: This refers to the style or type of therapy that a counselor uses in working with clients. Most clinicians have an eclectic approach and draw from a variety of schools of thought, but some are limited in their style and training. Likewise, if you are looking for a specific type of therapy that you read is particularly good for treating a certain condition (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders), then be sure you search for that specifically or ask if the provider has training in this approach before scheduling.
- Expertise: If you are seeking a therapist with a particular skill set or expertise area, it is important to know that upfront so you can ask before you schedule. For instance, if you want a therapist who has expertise in addiction or phobias, you will want to ask about that since most counselor generalists do not receive enough training to treat these issues effectively. If you need something special, make sure the provider you pick has it or you will attend the first session with 2-3 providers before someone refers you to a specialist they know.
In the next article we will talk about conducting your search, the first session, and things to watch for in a therapist. If you are interested in talking with one of our therapists to see if they are right for you, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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