Guide to Receiving Off-Campus Mental Health Services
The St. Louis Community College Counseling Department provides free mental health counseling for enrolled students; however, at times students are in need of more ongoing, intensive, and/or specialized mental health services than the STLCC Counseling Department is able to provide. Please use this guide as a tool in connecting with off-campus referrals.
Please note that the off-campus evaluation and treatment resources and other community resources function independently from the STLCC Counseling Department and are not in any way under our control or supervision. After gathering information, you will need to make your own decision about the appropriateness of any off-campus resources for your own particular situation. You will also need to provide your own transportation to and payment for these services.
Selecting a Therapist
Selecting a therapist is a highly personal matter. A mental health professional who works well with one individual may not be a good choice for another person. The counselors at STLCC are available to assist you. Set up an intake appointment, and we can assess your needs and help connect you with a local provider.
There are several other ways to get referrals to qualified therapists, including the following:
- Talk to family members and friends for their recommendations, especially if they have had a good experience in therapy.
- Ask your primary care physician (or other health professional) for a referral.
- When speaking with your insurance provider about coverage, ask them if they have a website that lists local covered providers or a list of local covered providers that they can email to you.
- Inquire at your church, synagogue, or other house of worship.
There are also a number of online resources that help you connect with a mental health provider:
Ideally, you will end up with more than one option. Call and request the opportunity, either by phone or in person, to ask the therapist some questions.
- You might want to ask about the therapist’s professional training and licensure, years of experience, and areas of expertise.
- You might briefly describe the concerns or issues for which you are seeking therapy and ask about the therapist’s experience helping people with these types of problems.
- You will want to ask about fees, insurance, and billing practices. (See information below.)
Therapists and clients work together to support your mental health. The right match is important. A key factor in determining whether or not to work with a particular therapist, once the person’s credentials and competence are established, is your level of personal comfort with that therapist. A good rapport is critical. Choose a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and at ease. Don’t be afraid to explore other options if you don’t feel comfortable with the first therapist you meet. Please realize, too, that if you are working on concerns which are difficult to share, you may initially feel a bit uncomfortable with any therapist; however these feelings should dissipate as the relationship matures.
For more information about finding a therapist: https://theshrinkspace.com/faqs
Other Community Resources
There are also several self-help support groups that cover a variety of issues and are free of charge; for example: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), suicide survivor, rape survivor, depression/anxiety, dating violence, learning disabilities, eating disorders, just to name a few. Sometimes there is a contact number and person that you would have to call prior to attending the group, but some groups are open to having people drop in. You can check with the counselors in the STLCC Counseling Department for a list of local support groups and contact information for the issues you would like to explore.
Costs/Checking Insurance Coverage
Many health insurance policies provide coverage for mental health or substance abuse services. If you have private insurance coverage (typically through your or a family member’s employer), check with your insurance company to see if mental health services are covered, and if so, how you may obtain these benefits. This also applies to persons enrolled in HMOs, other types of managed care plans, and plans for government employees, military personnel, and their dependents. You should call the insurance company before you make an appointment with a specific mental health or substance abuse professional or agency. Here are some helpful questions to ask your insurance company:
- Are there benefits in your plan for mental health (or substance abuse) services?
- Does your plan include both inpatient and outpatient benefits?
- Does your plan cover psychotropic (mental health) medication?
- What are the outpatient benefits? Are there limits on number of visits or dollar amount within a single year or in your lifetime (yearly and lifetime maximums)?
- What is the deductible which you must satisfy before the benefits begin?
- Are there any kinds of problems/issues which are excluded from coverage?
What types of providers of mental health or substance abuse treatment are eligible for reimbursement under your policy?
- Clinical social workers
- Master’s level counselors
- Must the provider be licensed?
- Does the provider have to be under the supervision of a psychiatrist or PhD psychologist?
- Are there any other parameters that determine whether a provider is eligible for reimbursement?
- Must you see a provider who is part of a preferred provider network designated by your insurance company?
- Will insurance cover a provider outside this group?
- What is the process for getting approval to see someone outside the preferred provider network?
- Are the benefits the same if you see someone outside the preferred provider network?
- Will the insurance company pay the provider directly or pay you?
The provider whom you would like to see may also be able to help you check on your insurance coverage. The provider will want to gather relevant insurance information from you at the time you make an appointment or at your first visit. You should be sure you have your health insurance card containing specific information about your coverage at your first appointment.
If You Don’t Have Insurance
There are no-cost public services available for people who don’t have insurance. Here are some resources:
- BJC Behavioral Health—https://www.bjcbehavioralhealth.org/
- Health Centers and Medical Services—https://www.stlouisco.com/Health-and-Wellness/Health-Centers-and-Medical-Services
Also, many agencies and some professionals operate on a sliding-scale fee policy where the amount you pay depends on your income. Here are some resources:
- Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri https://www.mha-em.org/im-looking-for/community-resources
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) https://www.namistl.org/information/resources/
(Material adapted, in part, from: https://www.cornellcollege.edu/counseling/services/off-campus-mental-health.shtml)