So you decided you want or need to see a psychologist or psychotherapist. You can’t take it anymore. Maybe it’s problems with a child at home. Perhaps its the insomnia, sadness and low motivation you can’t seem to shake. It could be something else you have been feeling and struggling with in your own life, an emotional impasse or an addiction. Maybe it’s your marriage and the fallout from conflicts you and your partner or spouse have been dealing with.
Whatever the issue, you have decided the time has come for outside help. You decide to find a psychotherapist who is in your health insurance plan. You ask a friend if they know anyone. You confide in a co-worker. Your thought is guided more by accessibility and cost than anything else. You pay a lot for health insurance (if you still have it) and you want to use it. As a psychologist who has been “in network” (probably yours) with a number of insurance companies for fifteen years, there are some things you might want to be aware of, things about which your insurer may not immediately tell you about mental health benefits.
First, health insurers treat mental health benefits differently. It’s not like seeing a pediatrician. Insurance benefits are treated like dental plans. They are ancillary, extras, often with lots of barriers to access. There are limited sessions, you can’t use in network benefits until you reach your out of pocket maximum. You need to be an informed consumer of your plan. Too many think the insurer will inform you. They will, of course, provided you can understand the dense jargon offered by the harried customer service representative at the call center who has no interest in the family crisis with which you are dealing. They look at your “plan” on the “system” and tell you what it provides. They don’t answer many questions.
Next, not all “therapists” are alike. Finding a good therapist with whom you, your partner or child has a good fit and working relationship may take time. We are people. We have our own personalities, degrees and training, ranges of experience and areas of expertise. I often talk with men and women who freely spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on gyms, trainers, car mechanics, hair stylists and massage therapists. They often shop around until they find one with whom they are comfortable. Finding a good psychologist or psychotherapist should not be approached differently. Goodness of fit is paramount, no matter the dollars. Most problems expressed by patients in my office are time limited. Six months. 16 to 20 sessions. But a positive resolution can last for years and affect your whole life.
Of course, there are other benefits unique to your relationship with your psychotherapist. If you see me privately, for example, you get the full benefit of my license, training and experience. There is no need for me “come up with” a “diagnosis” so your insurance company will pay for sessions. There is no need to transmit data to the insurance company so they have access to when, for how long and with whom you sought psychotherapy and what you did. You also control all access to the privacy of records and who has access to them. Insurers now conduct “audits” and I often get requests from insurance companies asking about what I am working on with someone and “helpfully” offering me suggestions for alternatives. I rarely comply (I am a non-conformist). I don’t take their suggestions.
Especially these days, when the traditional health insurance market is in crisis, one should be more vigilant about what they are paying for, benefits and how best to use them for yourself and your family. Use your benefits to take care of the core medical and physical health of your family. Mental health care, of course, is a part of this and many physical and medical problems and mental health components and vice versa. However, psychotherapists don’t see you for 15 minutes, write a script and see you in three months. Most help you unpack what going on in your life, how is it affecting your quality of life, physical health, etc. This work can take some time. Consider asking about a reduced fee or private pay arrangement with your psychotherapist. The benefits can be priceless and last for years to come.
Dr. Geysen is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist in private practice in Glastonbury, CT. See his CV for his extensive training and areas of expertise or call his office for a brief phone consultation.