Have you found yourself doing a Google search for a “therapist near me?” Or, “Do I need to talk to a therapist?” You’ve thought about therapy. You’ve recently seen influencers and celebrities talking about “what my therapist told me…” Now you’re wondering, could therapy help me, too?

Did you know that since the pandemic, more than 1 in 6 people started therapy for the first time? You are not alone; people need support during this exhausting time.

Yet, the process of starting therapy can be riddled with uncertainty. Which kind of therapist do I need? How much will it cost? Virtual or in-person? What should I ask my therapist before committing to a session? And so many more. If you’re considering therapy for any reason, it’s crucial to map out your needs ahead of your first session.

5 Steps to Start Therapy

Step 1: Who is paying? Insurance vs. Out of pocket

If you choose insurance
Step one: Go to your insurance website to locate a list of therapists who accept your insurance.

Step two: During your initial session, ask the therapist what he/she will list as the diagnosis or problem. Whatever they list will remain in your health record. While it may not be an issue, it should be taken into consideration for any long-term implications. For instance, if you are to apply to certain education programs (e.g., law school), military service or public service (e.g., policy academy), or life insurance, those institutions may ask if you have been treated for a mental health issue. Another thing to consider is that insurance companies have temporarily allowed coverage for virtual sessions, but as vaccines are distributed, some insurance companies are returning to covering in-session appointments only (check with your insurance for up-to-date information on what they cover).

Side note: Oftentimes, couples therapy is not covered by insurance plans.

If you pay out of pocket (also known as private pay)
Paying out of pocket will open your options to more therapists, many with specialities (i.e., Gottman Method Couples Therapy, Emotionally-Focused Therapy, couples intensives, infidelity recovery, discernment counseling). Once you have found a therapist, ask if they accept FSA or HSA cards.

Reimbursement via Superbill
If you pay out of pocket, you can ask your therapist for a Superbill. A Superbill is an itemized receipt of the sessions you received that includes procedure codes, diagnosis codes, and therapist information. Once you have your Superbill you can submit to your insurance to reimburse your cost (like stated before, inquire what the service code/diagnosis code will be on record). This provider is considered “Out of Network” or “ONN” and your insurance usually will reimburse a certain percentage after you have met your deductible.

Step 2: In-person or Virtual sessions?

If you want to see your therapist in-person, then you need to narrow your search by location (most therapist directories have an option to search by zip code) and you will need to factor in travel time. During this time of COVID-19, check with the practice on their updated safety protocol.

Only a handful of clinicians were providing virtual therapy pre-pandemic, but due to COVID-19most clinicians have made the transition to an online platform. Virtual therapy is a convenient and effective way to get therapy. Virtual also allows you to search for a therapist throughout the entire state that you live in! This is great news because if you know of a reputable therapist a few cities away, you can see them if virtual sessions are an option.

Step 3: How do I select a therapist?

Read the therapist bios. It is important to know that your therapist has legitimate training from a reputable program. What are all the various letters behind a name? The letters indicate that they are a licensed clinician in social work, marriage and family therapy, or a professional counselor (i.e., LMFT, LPC, LCMHC, LCSW). A licensed therapist must adhere to their state licensing board. This means they have to be licensed to practice in the state in which you reside. You also want to look for experience with the issue you want to address – so if you are wanting help with your relationship, then you want to find a couples therapist and they should have specialty training in a science-based couples therapy approach (i.e., Gottman Method for Couples Therapy, Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT), Discernment Counseling)

Step 4: What is the problem?

It will be extremely helpful if you can describe your issue, how long it has been a concern, and the last time it was a problem for you. If you are able to specifically describe what you want to change, that will help your therapist focus on what you both will work towards. It’s okay, however, if you don’t know a goal right away—your therapist can help you figure it out.

Step 5: The appointment is scheduled, now what?

Show up. It might be scary and you might feel anxious. It’s normal to be nervous for your first session, but show up and stay open. Getting help has evolved from being viewed as something you don’t talk about to a topic that people openly discuss because more people recognize the benefit of talking to a professional. Therapy is similar—you have someone getting to know your strengths, helping you through areas you want to grow, and building a relationship with you to achieve your goals. As you meet your therapist, it’s important that you connect with him/her. Go a few times, and remember that relationships take time to build. But if you aren’t connecting, it’s okay too—talk with your therapist about what you need or what you feel is missing. Give them the opportunity to have your feedback. If, however, the feedback leaves you feeling like it’s still not a good fit, you can switch therapists to find a better match.

Therapy etiquette tip: If you change your mind about therapy, contact the therapist to cancel and give at least 48 hours advance notice. Because of the nature of therapy, the entire session time has been reserved for you.

Ready to schedule? We can help.

If you are ready to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. We do not accept insurance and are considered out of network providers. We offer virtual sessions only right now to accommodate the safety of our staff and clients during the time of COVID-19.