Therapy: Assessment, Diagnosis, and Using your Health Insurance to Pay By: Robyn Huntley, LMFT

Photo compliments of Katherine Louise Harris Photography + Design LLC

We took a brief break from our series about therapy to bring you breaking news about our expansion, but now back to the business of talking about what to expect when starting therapy.

One potential barrier to accessing mental health care is the cost, and working with your insurance can be overwhelming.  If you plan on using your health insurance to help pay for therapy, there are a few things you should be aware of.

First of all, you want to make sure your therapist is a licensed mental health professional.  Licensed mental health professionals have completed a masters degree in their field, as well as extensive training and supervision in providing therapy services.  Those who are licensed mental health professionals will have the following credentials: MD (Psychiatrist who can prescribe medications), APRN/CNP/NP (Clincial Nurse who has specialized in psychiatry and can prescribe medications)LP (Licensed Psychologist provides therapy and testing, does not prescribe medications), LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, provides therapy), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, provides therapy), or LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, provides therapy).  Pre-Licensed individuals are those who have completed their schooling, but are still working under the supervision of a mental health professional, they can also provide therapy services, but may not be covered by insurance.

Second you will want to make sure that the provider you’re seeing is in-network with your insurance provider.  You can do this by calling your insurance company, most provide their customer service or help line number right on the back of your insurance card.  Most of the time, the therapist or clinic you are attending will be mindful of this; however, it is ultimately your responsibility as the client to be knowledgeable of your insurance benefits.

Once you have gotten the insurance and a provider figured out, and you have made it to your first session, your therapist will be required to complete a thorough diagnostic assessment, and render a mental health diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (aka the DSM- 5).  I understand that this is often a sticking point for many people.  Most therapists agree that in many cases, it doesn’t sit well with them to have to “label” clients with some sort of mental disorder in order to be able to work with them.  Still, unless you are able/willing to pay out of pocket for therapy (which is often unrealistic, as therapy is not inexpensive), it is a reality we have to work within.  There is one way to think about this reality that might be helpful for you – that is, to reframe the way you understand the purpose of diagnoses – not merely as labels meant to pathologize people, but rather as common language that helps professionals conceptualize and treat problems.  DSM diagnoses are merely cultural constructs based on emotional and behavioral symptoms, and they can actually be helpful tools in treatment, if thought of from the right perspective.   The diagnosis will also help inform your treatment plan, which guides the process and gives clear expectations as to what you will be focused on during your future sessions. Also remember, you are NOT your diagnosis, and that most DSM diagnoses are considered treatable – you may only meet the diagnostic criteria for a finite amount of time, before it no longer applies to you.

Next weeks blog will discuss the work of therapy.  It is hard work, and we want you to know what you are getting into, and how all that hard work can pay off.

Robyn Huntley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who sees patients in our Chaska outpatient clinic.

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