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Considerations in Setting up Private Psychotherapy and Psychiatric Care

Contacting a therapist or psychiatric provider in private practice can feel intimidating, especially if you're already feeling overwhelmed by other things in your life. The following are some guidelines that will aid you in this process.

What services do I need?

Private Psychotherapy is talk therapy. It usually occurs once a week and lasts about 45-50 minutes per session. These sessions can be with a psychologist, counselor, therapist, or social worker.

Private Psychiatric Services are with a doctor, physician's assistant, or certified registered nurse practitioner, who you may consult to see if medication may be helpful for your symptoms. If you are receiving psychiatric services, you should generally be in therapy as well.

Will my insurance cover these services?

Do you have insurance? Then take these steps:

  1. There will be an 800 number on the back of your insurance card to call for mental health benefits. The insurance company will ask you for your ID number, which you can find on the front of the card.
  2. Ask the insurance company what your "outpatient mental health benefits" are. They will tell you if you will owe a deductible or co-payment for visits and how many visits you are allowed per year.
  3. Ask for a listing of therapists and/or psychiatric services in the zip code of 16801 or your local zip code. Make sure to get more than 1 or 2 names, as you may need to call several different practitioners. The insurance company may also give you a website address to look up this information.

If you do not have insurance, a counselor or case manager at Penn State Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help you figure out other options.

How do I find the therapist or psychiatrist who is right for me?

You will need to begin by calling the list of people your insurance company provided. Keep in mind, space is limited with counselors and psychiatric providers. You may need to call several to find one who has openings. You will often have to leave a confidential voicemail. Call from a quiet place, and repeat your name and phone number clearly and slowly.

When you speak with the provider, here are some questions to ask:

  1. Are you currently accepting new clients?
  2. How soon is an appointment available?
  3. Do you still take ______________ insurance for payment?
  4. What are your policies about payment? Do I need to pay the co-payment at the first visit?
  5. Where is your office located?
  6. Is there anything else I should be aware of?

CAPS also has a community provider locator where you can search on your own.

It may take a couple of appointments times to feel comfortable with your new therapist and/or psychiatrist. If it doesn't feel that you are clicking with that person, don't be afraid to tell them. They may be able to adapt to your needs or be able to suggest someone else that would personally fit you better.

Additional things to think about:

  • If you think you need counseling, don't wait to begin the process! Availability tends to become scarce late in the semester. The sooner you call someone, the sooner you may be able to get an appointment.
  • If money is tight, and you are going to have to pay $10, $20 or even $30 per visit, consider asking someone for some help. Would your parents be willing to help?
    Consider asking your therapist if attending therapy bi-weekly would be appropriate. Additionally, some therapists and/or clinics might be willing to work with you on a sliding scale fee if you ask them.
  • If you are taking any medications (over the counter AND prescriptions), tell your psychiatric provider about ALL of them. Some medications, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies can affect the efficacy of psychiatric medicines.
  • If you see a therapist and a psychiatric provider, it is best to tell them about each other and sign consent forms so that they communicate about your treatment and what is best for you.
  • If this process seems overwhelming or you need further assistance, please contact CAPS and we may be able to help you through it.
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Psychiatric Services in the Community
Penn State Student Affairs
Counseling & Psychological Services
Main Location

501 Student Health Center
University Park, PA 16802

Additional Locations

3rd Floor Bank of America Career Services Building
University Park, PA 16802

Allenway Building (Downtown)
315 S Allen Street
State College, PA 16801


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