Mental Health Insurance Coverage: Get the Whole Picture

Patient information/education resources for 2008 Mental Health Parity Act

Psychologists can help you address your specific concerns. Some common problems that psychologists treat include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating and weight problems
  • Coping with medical problems (chronic pain, diabetes, cancer)
  • Relationship and family difficulties
  • Assessments for ADHD, learning difficulties, and dementia

Psychologists are highly trained health care professionals with expertise in the area of human behavior, mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, and behavior change. Psychologists apply scientifically validated procedures to help people change their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and to cope better with difficult situations. Psychological scientists determine the most appropriate psychological treatment to help you improve your health and well being. They have:

  • Knowledge of complex mental health and medical conditions
  • Ability to conduct research
  • Supervision of psychology students
  • Use of evidence based practices (treatments that have been studied and shown to help others)
  • Administrative roles such as directing a clinic or training other medical professionals
  • Psychological and neuropsychological assessments

Psychologists serve West Virginians in every county. Please search our directory for a psychologist near you.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Who do I contact if I am in crisis?
How can I tell if it is time to ask for some help?
How does treatment work?
How can I choose a psychologist who is right for me?
Is treatment included in my health plan coverage?
What questions about psychological services should I ask my insurance?
What if I do not have insurance? Or what if my insurance is not enough to cover the cost?

Who do I contact if I am in crisis?
If you are in an emergency or are considering suicide, call 911 immediately or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

Call the crisis hotline: 1800-SUICIDE

  • Clarksburg area: 1-800-SUMMIT-0
  • Franklin area: 1-800-545-HELP
  • Huntington area: 1-800-642-3434
  • Morgantown: 1-800-232-0020

Help for domestic violence: WV Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center (RDVIC)

  • Call RDVIC’s 24 hour hotline: 304-293-5100

Help for addiction or abuse of prescription drugs: WV Prescription Drug Abuse Quitline

  • Call the Quitline: 1-866-WV-QUITT

How can I tell if it is time to ask for some help?

  • When you feel as if you can’t do it alone
  • When you feel trapped, as if there is nowhere to turn
  • When you worry all the time and never seem to find answers
  • When the way you feel is affecting your sleep, your eating habits, your job, your relationships, your everyday life
  • When issues such as marital or family problems, child rearing, severe illness or injury, death of a loved one, career changes, school problems, or crises associate with aging are making it difficult to cope with the routine demands of daily living.
  • If feeling dangerous to yourself or others, go immediately to an Emergency Room for assistance.

What’s the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors?

Psychiatrists have completed medical school after college, and have a degree in medicine like your family physician (MD or DO). Next they complete a psychiatric residency training program, which is an additional 4 years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems. They are able to prescribe medication.

Psychologists* complete 4 years of graduate training in psychology after college, and have a doctoral degree such as a PhD, PsyD, or EdD. They typically complete a psychological residency (or internship), which is an additional year of specialized training in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems. Many psychological specialties, such as neuropsychology and medical psychology, require an additional 1 or 2 years of structured training in a psychological fellowship. Psychologists have training in non-medication techniques and procedures such as psychotherapy to treat mental illness and behavioral contributions to physical conditions.

In 16 states*, clinicians with masters degrees ( 2 years of graduate training after college) can be licensed to provide psychological services independently or under the direction of a psychologist. They are identified with a title such as psychological practitioner, or psychological assistant, or psychological examiner.

* The American Psychological Association defines a professional psychologist as the following: “Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology from an organized, sequential program in a regionally accredited university or professional school.” In West Virginia, however, the licensing law, not updated since the 1970s, currently allows for individuals trainged at the masters level to be licensed as “psychologists.” When seeking psychological services in West Virginia, it is important to inquire as to the level and focus of training of a potential provider of psychological services.

Social workers typically complete 2 years of graduate training after college in the treatment of mental health conditions. Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers (LICSW) have obtained additional experience and a clinical license to provide clinical services without supervision of others.

Counselors typically complete 2 to 4 years of graduate training after college. They may be trained in pastoral or general counseling skills to help with life adjustment problems, such as divorce or grief.

All health care providers must obtain a license from the state in which they are providing services. Their license should be displayed in their office. It is illegal to practice medicine or psychology without a license or pretend to be physician or psychologist without the appropriate credentials.

How does treatment work?

  • Treatment works by helping you look objectively at behaviors, feelings, and thoughts in situations, which you find problematic. It helps you to learn more effective ways to deal with those situations.
  • Treatment is a collaborative effort. You and your psychologist will identify your goals and agree on how you’ll know when you are making progress. Your psychologist will talk with you about the length of time it may take to help you see changes.
  • Progress and change can happen. Nine out of ten Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said that psychotherapy had helped them. In another recent major national study, half of the clients studied were making improvement after eight sessions of therapy, 75% after six months of therapy.
  • Check out http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/psychotherapy-works.aspx for more information.

How can I choose a psychologist who is right for me?

Talk to your doctor or other health professionals. You can also call WVPA at 304-345-5805 to locate a member of our association who is practicing in your area. Once you have the name of several psychologists, there are several questions you’ll want to ask, including: ?

  • Are you a licensed psychologist?
  • What is your level of training?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What areas do you specialize in? (Such as family therapy, child psychology, Anxiety Disorders, etc.)
  • What kind of treatment do you usually use, and why do you feel this would be effective for my situation?
  • How long would you expect my treatment to last?

What are your fees? Do you accept my insurance or HMO coverage? Will you directly bill my insurance company? Do you have a sliding fee scale, or will you set up a payment plan?

Is treatment included in my health plan coverage?

  • Many health plans, including HMO’s, provide some level of coverage for psychological services.
  • If you do not have coverage and will be paying out of pocket, you can talk with your psychologist about sliding scale fees or working out a payment plan. Community mental health centers are also an alternative.

What questions about psychological services should I ask my insurance?

  • Call your insurance health plan representative to find out exactly what is covered – outpatient therapy, inpatient treatment, etc. – and what level of coverage you have. This number is located on the back of your insurance card.
  • Ask about co-payments, deductibles, and annual or lifetime maximums.
  • Ask who determines how many treatment sessions will be covered, and how/when that decision is made.
  • Ask what you can do if your coverage is denied or cut short.
  • Find out if there is a group of providers, a “network” that you must choose from, or if you can choose any qualified provider. If you can choose any qualified provider, find out what licenses or degree he or she must have before coverage is authorized.

What if I do not have insurance? Or what if my insurance is not enough to cover the cost?

  • If you are unemployed, contact the WV Department of Health and Human Resources for assistance.
  • Some agencies have options for individuals who have no insurance such as WVU Cares at WVU Healthcare or local free clinics such as Health Right or Health Access. Ask the receptionist when you make an appointment about possible free or reduced services.
  • You can receive low cost services at various agencies such as the WVU Carruth Center, which is a mental health clinic where supervised doctoral level students provide services to WVU students.