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What's the Deal: How to find a therapist, from cost to waitlists

Experts say a mental health crisis is underway, but it's not always easy to find the services needed.

INDIANAPOLIS — A mental health crisis. That's what experts say we are experiencing right now. 

But it's not always easy to find the services needed. 60% of psychologists recently polled reported no openings for new patients. 

Life transitions

Outwardly, Grete Sampson's life looks great. But sometimes, it feels like the walls are closing in on her. 

"I feel like I didn't have a lot of breathing room," she said.  

The stay-at-home mom of three boys is new to Indy. It's their family's fourth move.  

"With my youngest starting kindergarten, I knew that this was a mental shift, a life transition," Sampson said.

And when life transitions happen, Grete knows it best to get hold of her feelings before they get hold of her.  

"Mental health affects the whole family," she said, "If one person is having a hard time with mental health, then everyone is going to be dealing with the repercussions of that." 

Sometimes, though, it's tough to navigate what mental health services might be right for you.

Finding help 

A variety of professionals provide mental health services.

A counselor often handles specific issues like addiction, therapists and psychologists help tackle overall well-being, and a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication. Visiting a psychiatrist may require a referral from your primary care doctor. 

If you want to start with counseling or overall well-being therapy, check with your employer.

Do they offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

EAPs typically provide you with a number of free therapy or counseling sessions, but then you pick up the cost. 

If an EAP is not an option, look to your health insurance if covered.

While an in-network provider might include local professionals and telehealth services, some insurance companies also cover online services.

For example, the online program Talkspace said they're in-network with Cigna, Optum, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Indianapolis Public Schools and more. 

As for cash pay, online services are still a good bet.

If you prefer to meet in person, medical billing advocate Jonathon Hess of Athos Health said to talk discounts ahead of time if affordability is a concern. 

"It's much easier to have that discussion before you're seen," Hess said.

Hess added patients can also pay for services with pre-tax dollars. 

"If you have access to an HSA or an HRA or an FSA, you can use those dollars to pay," Hess said. 

Online services are usually cheaper and quicker to get into than in-person visits. 

Grete, for example, uses the online service BetterHelp. She chose their services for the price, availability and the ability to change therapists if needed.

BetterHelp's services range from $60 to $90 per week. Their site adds that customer can cancel their membership at any time for any reason.

"Even if you do just the trial for seven days, it gets you talking," Grete said.  

Helping her family navigate a new city with her best foot forward. 

Other resources

If you are concerned about paying for resources, try calling 211. They can connect you with assistance based on your need level.

Local churches may also provide faith-based counseling.  

The Indianapolis Colts' "Kicking the Stigma" site also provides a list of resources.

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