Sure, college is often referred to as “the best four years of your life,” but that doesn’t mean those years aren’t stress-filled at times. It’s so important to find good friends that can ride with you through your highest of highs and lowest of lows in college, but it’s equally as important to have an unbiased person to debrief all your experiences with and discuss how they’re impacting your mental health — all of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You guessed it! That person is a therapist: someone who can be integrated into your personal support system and make the heavy weight of college feel a little less burdensome. Oh, and some good news (and a reminder for those of you that may need a little refresher): therapy is a good thing! Not to mention we’re living in the era of COVID-19, which, according to the World Health Organization, has triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. Couple this with the general stressors your average college student faces on a daily basis and boom: lots of reasons to feel anxious, sad, or like your life may be spiraling out of control. Finding a therapist is hard enough as it is, but what about when you’re an out-of-state college student? Keep reading for some actionable tips for how to find a therapist as an out-of-state college student.
Navigating insurance when it comes to out-of-state therapy
First things first… insurance. For way too long now, it’s been nearly impossible for a majority of people to get mental health treatment without insurance. Even if you’re eventually able to track down a therapist that can treat you without insurance, then comes the rather large hurdle of cost. In the United States, your average therapy session can cost upwards of $150 for about 45 minutes to an hour of treatment time. Even if you do have insurance, figuring out whether or not your therapist is covered by your provider(s) and if you can get reimbursed later is always an extra painstaking task.
Alexia, 20, a sophomore at Arizona State University, shares the tips and tricks she’s learned when navigating insurance and therapy. “Personally, the therapist I’m currently seeing is not covered by my parents’ insurance. We do have a flex spending account, so as long as there’s money on that card I’m typically able to pay my therapist that way,” Alexia tells Her Campus. “However, I’m currently in the process of transferring schools and will have to find a new therapist that will definitely be out of network, since my current one will no longer be able to treat me out of state. I know the transition will be challenging and I want to have someone to talk to along the way, so I plan on exploring online options like youper, BetterHelp, Cerebral, and Talkspace, all of which don’t require insurance.”
Moral of the story here? Insurance or no insurance, it’s possible to get help and to start bettering your mental health while you’re away at school.
Weighing your on-campus options versus online therapy options
When it comes to seeking out therapy as a college student, you’ll find there are quite a few options and resources to choose from.
Dr. Victor Schwartz, MD DLFAPA, is the director and CEO of Mind Strategies, an online mental health and suicide prevention platform, and longtime advocate of bettering the collective mental health of college students. “For many new college students who have moved a distance from home to attend school, this might be the first time they are largely managing their own health and mental health care. Finding support or care might be a little intimidating if you are in a new place but it is important to try to address any health or mental health issues before they get too serious or to a crisis point,” Dr. Schwartz tells Her Campus.
“For many new college students who have moved a distance from home to attend school, this might be the first time they are largely managing their own health and mental health care.”
Dr. Schwartz continues, “Your school health and counseling service might be able to help you with the care you need. Most provide short-term primary care type services, but, in any case, most also have referral resources in the community for students who need care they are not able to provide. It is helpful for you to know what your insurance coverage is and what you can afford in terms of private treatment. Again, the campus services should help to guide you to the services you may need.”
Whether you choose to utilize your campus’s psychological services or not is completely up to you! Just take your time exploring the different types of therapy that are out there and remember that what works for one student may not be as effective for another.
So you’ve found a therapist… now what?
Yay! You’ve found your therapist! Now comes the fun part: going to your appointments or conversing with them over Zoom or messaging channels (it all just depends on what kind of therapy you choose to do). Don’t get me wrong, just knowing you have a therapist is a big comfort in and of itself. However, the actual sessions with them will require some hard work for both parties. Your therapist will have to gain your trust and build upon that trust to create a comforting environment as well as a strong patient-provider relationship. You’ll have to do some heavy lifting too, in terms of being vulnerable when sharing your inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
The relationship shared between a patient and a therapist is one that can be so beneficial if you’re attending your appointments regularly, communicating about scheduling sessions, and telling them everything they need to know in order to help you. Oh, and if they assign you any little “homework” assignments, it’s a very good idea to do those, too! Jackie, 21, a rising senior at the University of Michigan, shares how attending her sessions and developing a positive patient relationship with her therapist has benefitted her as a student.
“At a time when I felt disconnected and lonely at school, my therapist became an important part of my support system.”
“I got pretty lucky and ended up clicking really well with the first therapist I met, because she created such a supportive environment that allowed me to be reflective and vulnerable. She is definitely someone who I can trust. Really, I sometimes think of her more as a friend than a therapist!” Jackie tells Her Campus. “At a time when I felt disconnected and lonely at school — which was only made worse by being across the country with a 3-hour time difference from my family and closest friends at home — she became an important part of my support system. She helped me recognize and break habits that were no longer serving me and guided me to form new practices that have really improved my mental health (and as a result my daily life)!”
Jackie’s positive therapy experience is the kind that everyone should aspire and search for! Though, one very important thing to remember is that if the environment and relationship your therapist has created for/with you is not properly serving you and your mental fitness, you can (and should!) seek to find a new one. You go to therapy to heal and maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle, so if that’s not being accomplished it’s absolutely worth it to take your vulnerability elsewhere. Always remember that you are the number one priority here, and that being kind to your mind will be greatly rewarding as you move through school and through life.