Finding a Therapist (For US – Faculty Need Support, Too)
By Abby Burd, LCSW, Mental Health Counselor, Health Services
We have many resources to support our students' mental health, but I am also hoping you value prioritizing YOUR OWN mental health.
One of my favorite fringe benefits at MiraCosta College is the offer of mental health services through MHN for Kaiser Members. PPO Members can find even more in-network therapists through CIGNA, and I got you covered here, too.
I have been a Kaiser Member for many years and value the simplicity for navigating general care. However, I also appreciate having options for mental health outside the Kaiser system. Personally, I was thrilled when MiraCosta added the MHN option, and I found it timely for getting more support for ME.
To be honest, I still found the process of finding a therapist challenging, and I am a clinical social worker with 25 years’ experience navigating the system! Mental Health practitioners have been very full since the pandemic started, so here are my tips for a smooth and supportive process for you and your family:
You do NOT need a referral from a primary care physician or anyone else to initiate outpatient therapy. You contact the therapist directly, and they will confirm your benefits/bill your insurance.
It might take a little bit of time. You will probably have to call/email several to find openings.
Try using a directory such as Therapy Den. Use all the filters to select therapist characteristics and experiences that suit you. Under “Insurance,” Kaiser/MHN members select “HealthNet,” and PPO members select “CIGNA.” If you are open to online sessions, Therapy Den will search all of California for you. Play around with as many filters as possible as well as with the choices most important to you.
Many therapists respond faster to email or the contact form on their website than a voicemail, so try email if that’s an option! Some even text.
Search directly on the MHN Behavioral Health Plan or CIGNA website. Once you see who is in-network, look up the providers’ websites to get more of a feel for them. These are sometimes out of date, so be prepared for some to be closed to new patients.
If you are striking out finding someone with openings, call our employee assistance program, which is run by MHN, at 1-800-722-EASE. I had their care coordinator reach out to MHN therapists for me, identify those with openings, and email me a list.
Once you’ve found someone with openings, take advantage of the free 15-minute phone call many therapists offer. It’s worth taking the extra time to interview them and make sure the person is a fit. Does she remind you of that one aunt you can’t stand? Did he get defensive and have a weird “color-blind” response to how he works with people of color? Or did they make you feel comfortable and feel like opening up? Trust your gut!
I’ve focused this article on how to find an individual therapist but enrolled members and our dependents also have coverage for relationship therapy, substance abuse (including detox and rehab), and inpatient and intensive outpatient hospital programs.
I hope this is helpful for kickstarting your search. For any specific questions about your eligibility, please check with your insurance or HR. Want to read an expanded version of this with even more insight? Read more in this Google doc.