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Finding mental health care provider. What to look for?

Finding a good mental health care provider can be complicated. It’s often hard enough to just find anyone, let alone someone whom you feel you can trust. Finding someone good can take a little time and effort, but that is time well spent! Here are some recommendations I’ve made to people seeking care.



psychotherapy counseling

1) Use search engines

We live in an incredible time where you can find almost anything you need on the internet. Mental health practitioners are no exception to that. Sites like psychologytoday.com, zencare.com, zocdocs.com and even rating services like vitals.com and healthgrades.com can help you compile a list of people who can be helpful. This isn’t to say that your primary doctor or your insurance company website aren’t good sources as well, but they may not be as up to date as the search engines.

2) You can learn from anyone

When you’re compiling your list of potential people, cast a wide net. Gender, age, the type of therapy a practitioner provides, the person’s credential (i.e MD, DO, PsyD, PhD, LCSW…etc) and even the time the person has been out of training matter far, far less than the kind of connection you feel towards your personal person.

3) Interview potential providers

After you make a list of the 3-4 best candidates, call them to ask for a short, “getting to know you,” session. You will be spending a lot of time with your person, so it’s important that you put the time in upfront before you sign on. These days, people are typically open to spending a few minutes on the phone with a potential client, so take advantage of that opportunity. You can ask them how they approach working with patients, what types of challenges they feel most comfortable treating and if there are types of challenges they feel ill-equipped to treat. Beyond the information you get from this conversation, hearing a person’s voice, how well they listen to you, and if they sound rushed or distracted can tell you a lot about whether this might be a good person for you.

4) Go with your gut

Your feelings turn out to matter a whole lot when picking someone to work with. Numerous studies have been conducted over the past few decades trying to figure out what factors offer the best chance at people feeling like they’ve gotten better. “Feeling connected with your provider” is the number one indicator of a good outcome.

5) Cost of care

Money doesn’t grow on trees, so this can be tough. Though insurance companies often have high quality providers on their panel, these practitioners are connected with insurance companies so they can get more referrals. Additionally, getting paid by insurance companies can be a challenge, and practitioners may have to use a “check the box” approach in order to make sure they meet the insurance company’s requirements for payment. As such, though they may be awesome and are less costly to you, they may be fully booked or over-worked, neither of which is ideal.

If your insurance company offers mental health coverage and has “out of network benefits” you may want to consider paying up-front for services and get reimbursed later. During your phone interview, ask your practitioner whether they provide you with a “superbill” and what they charge per session. If you have an insurance company that does reimburse for mental health care, you can file a claim and expect that some fraction of what you pay will be reimbursed to you. Call them up and ask them what they reimburse by providing them with your provider’s NPI or national identifier number, the ICD-10 code for your diagnosis (you can look this up on line, they typically start with the letter “F” followed by some numbers: F40.1 or F32.2) and the CPT code(s) they will be using (for an MD or DO they look like 99214 of 90836, for a therapist they look like 90834 or 90837). They can provide you with an estimate of what you’re likely get back once you file. Don’t be surprised if it’s a number less than you’ve been told, insurance companies can be sneaky with deductibles, co-insurance and other such things. Typically, you can expect a 50% discount on care. You can file a claim on your own or use an app-based service like reimbursify to submit your claims for you.

If the cost of care is still too high, you can always ask the providers you interview if they offer a sliding scale. Though the answer might be no, it never hurts to ask.

Remember, though quality mental health care can cost a lot, it costs a lot less than depression (the leading cause of disability world-wide), addiction and divorce, and can help you find more priceless moments in your life.

I hope this helps you in your quest to find quality mental health care!


Benjamin Bregman,

Washington Integrative Mental Health Care


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