Locating care in the community can sometime feel daunting but there are a few things to consider that can make it much easier.
1. Know what you want
There are many different types of people that provide counseling or psychotherapy based on degree and license (PhD, PsyD, LICSW, LMHC, MD), types of therapy (integrative, CBT, DBT, ACT, psychoanalysis, narrative, feminist, etc), and whether they identify having a specialty, etc.
For almost everyone else, we suggest doing a search based on how well you believe you will connect with the therapist. Except for really specific situations, research shows the connection with the therapist is the most important factor, and their type of degree is not important. If after learning about them do you feel like you could trust them, open up to them, and that they could be helpful for you? If yes, then that is a great place to start. It is also important to ensure the therapist has a license to practice.
If you are looking for medication rather than counseling, we suggest starting with a primary care physician that you or your family has a connection to, sharing more about your situation, and asking for help. If for whatever reason they cannot help directly, ask them for a referral for a psychiatrist that they know. If you don't already have a doctor you know, then follow the same steps here in finding a psychiatrist.
Trust you intuition. If something seems "off" or if you are not getting better, and do more research on the type of care you are getting to see if it adds up. Sometimes it can take awhile to find a helpful connection and start feeling better.
2. How to pay
Almost all clinicians and clients use health insurance for payment. If you have a standard health insurance plan, it will include some mental health coverage. To get the details of your plan, look on your insurance website to learn more. There are also therapists that only do self-pay.
As you begin to navigate your insurance plan, a key piece to understand is the cost for in network vs out of network. In network is the cost if your therapist is signed up to be a provider with your company. Out of network is the cost if they are not signed up with your company.
Other terminology are co-pays and deductible. You should look at what an "outpatient office visit" cost is for mental health, and there should be a co-pay amount, which is the cost out of pocket to you. The deductible is the amount the insurance makes you pay out of pocket before they let you just do the co-pay. There is some nuance to a lot of plans with this, so if you have specific questions in this area you should call and talk to someone at your insurance company.
3. Where to look
The most common place to find a provider is online. There are 4 options to do that. The first is to simply go to a search engine and see what you find by searching for something like "mental health counseling (and your city)" and browse the results.
There are two provider directories that are also popular. In some cities including Providence, ZenCare (founded by a Brown grad), is very easy to use and popular. PsychologyToday is the other and has a bigger national presence and more listings but less information.
Finally, your insurance company will also have a listing of in-network providers that you can look up individually. Most of those databases are online now, and easily searchable, but occasionally can be overwhelming if there are too many.
Additionally, If your family is covered by insurance that is provided by an employer, they may also have an Employment Accessibility Program (commonly referred to as an EAP). EAP 's through an employer can also serve as referral sources and sometimes offer a limited number of sessions for free/reduced-cost with a therapist. Your parent/guardian can ask their employer for more information and to verify if this is a service that is available to the family.
4. How to set it up
After you find someone you are interested in working with, it should be clear how to contact them. Almost everyone will be via phone or email. It can be as easy as just saying that you are looking for a therapist and that you want to see if they are a good match for you, and they should take it from there.
Although it shouldn't be this way, the reality for many people looking for help is that private practice therapists may not return your call or email, or they will say they are "full" and unable to take new clients. Because of this, we recommend finding at least 3 people you are hopeful about and starting there by contacting them all.
5. Other ideas?
Depending on where you live there may be a lot of options or very few. There may also be unique local resources like free counseling clinics, psychiatric urgent care, or psychotherapy training sites that have low cost services. These can also be great options if they are available and sound good to you.
When you begin a search for a therapist, you're starting a responsible and courageous process. Remember, it is a journey, and can take some time. We wish you the best in your search.