"Why Can't I Find a Therapist?"
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Does this sound familiar? You summon up the courage to find a therapist. You make a number of calls; very few therapists call you back, and the ones that do aren't taking new clients or your insurance. You gather a list of more names, but the outcome is the same. Weeks (or even months) later you wonder, "Why am I having such a hard time finding a therapist?" If you're having difficulty finding someone, it's not just you; I hear this all the time.
And if you want to use your health insurance, it may be even harder to find a therapist. While there are hundreds of therapists in the Berkeley area, very few will take insurance. However, the situation isn't totally bleak. There are ways to improve your chances of finding a good therapist who will take your insurance. This blog will offer some tips. While finding a therapist is sometimes a matter of luck or timing, there may be things to do that could shorten your search. To illustrate this, let me offer you examples of two (made up) people: One is Laurie, who couldn't find a therapist for several months; and Monica, who found one reasonably quick. Laurie sent the following email to several therapists (or left a voice mail -- either way of communicating with a prospective therapist is fine). Hi, My name is Laurie, and I'm looking for a therapist. Please let me know when you may have some time to chat by phone or video so we can see if it's a good fit. Let's contrast this with Monica's email: Hi, My name is Monica, and I live in Berkeley with my husband and teenage daughter. I'm interested in therapy to help with grief after a close friend's death. I haven't been able to sleep, and have been having panic attacks. My physician suggested that I make an appointment with a therapist. The best times for me for appointments are mornings and anytime on Mondays. I would like to use my health insurance, Anthem Blue Cross, which I have through my husband's job at UCSF. I called Anthem and they said that the copayment would be $20 a session. My preference would be in-person sessions; but I'm happy to do tele-health, if that is what you're doing right now. If you'd prefer to connect by phone, my number is: 510-224-5487. Please let me know if you have any openings, and thank you for your time.
Now let's analyze the differences: Obviously, Monica provided much more information; this would make the therapist's job a lot easier. The therapist could understand the financials and whether scheduling would work. The therapist has some information about the presenting problem, and how Monica would like to be seen. With Laurie, though, the therapist would have to gather a whole bunch of information. She/he would have to find out about insurance, availability, presenting issues, how Laurie wants to be seen, etc. Some therapists have time to do this; many do not. (Note: if you are uncomfortable putting this type of information in writing, you can call the therapist and leave a voice mail.)
One last point: Laurie has requested a complementary consultation by phone or video. I'll be honest here; I would discourage readers from requesting this, especially if you'd like the therapist to bill for you through insurance. Setting up insurance billing is very time-consuming for a therapist; it can take 1 to 1 1/2 hours of unpaid work to gather the information and to set it all up. So I'd suggest just having a session to determine fit.
Some final thoughts:
Perhaps you've done the above and still can't find a therapist who takes insurance. Consider looking for someone who does tele-health in California but doesn't live in the very costly Bay Area. It may be easier to find someone in, for instance, the Central Valley, where the cost of living is lower and there are more therapists willing to take insurance.
Lastly, you can reach out to clinics to see if they have openings. In clinic settings, when the therapists' schedules become filled, the clinic can hire others. A private practice therapist works alone.