When people think of how to find a therapist, usually they think of either paying a private practice therapist out of pocket or going through their insurance. Those are two great options, but not always possible for everyone. Private practice therapists are often highly trained and an excellent choice, but the added cost may not be doable for some when you think of adding a weekly expense, or they're may be a lack of private practice clinicians in your area with specializations you need. Finding a therapist through insurance can be tough depending on your insurance benefits, or you may be someone who doesn't have insurance but finds themselves needing therapy. So what do you do when finding a full fee private practice therapist or using insurance isn't an option? Here are five different ideas of ways you might find a therapist.
1. Sliding scale
Did you know that most therapists in private practice have slots in their schedule set aside for what's known as 'sliding scale'. Sliding scale refers to the willingness for a therapist to slide their fee down. Every therapist is different in the way they implement a sliding scale, so make sure to ask for details if it's unclear. It can also be discouraging if a therapist responds by letting you know that all their sliding scale spots are full, so contacting a few therapists and asking about sliding scale might give you a better chance of finding someone with a spot available.
2. Online Directories
There are many online directories that are therapist created (that's important) profiles including specialities, pricing, contact information, etc. Some of these directories allow therapists to advertise their sliding scale, but did you know a directory like Open Path Collective is great if you're looking for a lower fee than traditional private practice? For this directory, fees are all $30-60 for individual therapy and $30-80 for couples/families. This website takes the work out of finding a sliding scale therapist. Also, with the popularity of telehealth, many clients have greater access to more therapists, with most licenses being state licenses, so you can search state wide for a sliding scale and/or lower fee therapist.
3. Community Mental Health Clinics
My first place of work as a therapist was at a community mental health clinic. Now, not every community has access to this resource, but in places like Los Angeles, there are what's known as community mental health clinics that are training programs for associate therapists. That means you'll be seeing a therapist who is post degree and working on their clinical hours in order to qualify to take their exams to gain full licensure. These clinics can have wait lists, but the fee is very reduced and depending on the clinic and the need of the client.
4. Associate Therapists in Private Practice
In California, if you've graduated with your masters and are working on your clinical hours to take your marriage and family therapist exams, you're called an associate marriage and family therapist (AMFT). Different licenses have different terms, but it's common for associates (or the equivalent term for other licenses) to have lower fees than fully licensed clinicians.
5. Group therapy vs Support Groups vs Individual therapy
Depending on the circumstances, sometimes group therapy and/or support groups might be an alternative to individual therapy with the cost being much lower. Group therapy would include groups that are lead by credentialed therapists and support groups can be peer lead without the need to have a licensed therapist leading the group. Group therapy and/or support groups also make a great addition to individual therapy sessions too, so this recommendation isn't to say one can replace the other. For instance, if you're seeking support for grief, a non-profit such as Our House in Los Angeles has fantastic grief groups that are free and completely telehealth. Check your local resources for support services such as non-profits, 12 step, clinics, and private practice groups.
This is in no way an exhaustive list, but I believe that resources should be shared and I feel it's important to share what I learned of while working the field. Part of normalizing mental health is creating greater access to resources, and we can only access resources if we know they exist.