Does Health Insurance Cover Family Counseling?
Many health insurance plans cover family counseling, although you would have to seek out counseling in accordance with the guidelines to be eligible. Family counseling services would generally fall under the behavioral health services portion of your insurance plan.
Health insurance guidelines can dictate any pre-certification or referrals you may require before entering counseling and how many visits are covered in a particular year or billing period. The guidelines can also outline which counselors are in the plan’s network and the type of counselor or healthcare professional that qualifies under your plan.
What types of counselors are there?
When someone speaks of counseling, such services can include a wide range of possibilities. You may be counseled by a healthcare provider on physical issues, such as those regarding your weight, sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, and detrimental habits or addictions such as smoking or alcohol and drug abuse.
HealthCare.gov notes that these counseling types are covered under the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010. Counseling for those and other health-related issues usually counts as preventative services to help keep you healthy and free of disease. An exception may be substance abuse, which often straddles the line between mental health and behavioral health issues.
As for family counseling, visits mainly consist of therapy sessions with a mental healthcare professional. Visits may be with a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or certified counselor–each of which has a slightly different distinction.
Psychiatrists and psychologists are similar, as both aim to diagnose and treat various mental disorders or issues. The big difference is that psychiatrists have medical degrees and are certified to prescribe medication. They may often do so as part of the treatment.
Psychologists, on the other hand, do not have the power to prescribe medication and generally rely on some type of psychotherapy for treatment. If they feel a patient may benefit from medication, the psychologist can refer a patient to a psychiatrist for additional treatment.
A therapist can be either a psychiatrist or psychologist, or a marriage or family counselor. The counselor usually does not need to have an advanced psychology degree, as a psychiatrist and psychologist must, but does require an educational background that reflects his or her specific field.
For instance, the directory AllPsychologySchools.com says counselors may have certificates in various fields that can include clinical psychology, substance abuse, social work, or family counseling. Because counselors are not required to obtain the level of education that a psychologist or psychiatrist does, they generally charge less per session and may be more likely to be the option available under many health insurance plans.
What kind of education do counselors have?
Even though they may lack an M.D. or Ph.D. after their names, family counselors may have a very strong educational background. Counselors have to meet licensing or certification requirements in their particular state, which can dictate a certain level of education or experience.
To work on their own, counselors must meet several qualifications, according to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, or AMHCA. They must have earned at least a master’s degree in counseling or related mental health studies, compiled at least two years of work under a certified or licensed mental healthcare professional following their degree, and passed the license or certification exam offered in their particular state. In other words, they should know their stuff, or at least have been trained to the point where they should.
What kind of services do family counselors offer?
Family counselors can provide a wide range of services. They may provide assessments and diagnoses, offer psychotherapy, set up and implement a treatment plan, and help with education, prevention, and crisis management.
Family counseling can, in fact, be set up to help the family unit deal with a crisis. At other times it can consist of brief, solutions-focused therapy, rather than an extended, lifelong commitment to treatment.
How do I find a family therapist?
You can start your search for a family therapist in several ways, with one of the ways being referrals from people you trust. A family physician or primary care doctor may be able to recommend a quality family counselor, or you may be able to find one through trusted friends, family, or other people you know and trust.
Reviewing the list of counselors that are in your insurance plan’s network is another wise move, since choosing one that is within the network will be more affordable than going outside of the plan. You can often find reviews and additional background information on your chosen therapist online by doing a search for the person’s name and area.
While having the services covered is very important, so is getting the help you and your family needs. Most therapy sessions are more effective if you are comfortable with a therapist, and not all personalities will work together. Don’t be afraid to check out more than one therapist before making a final decision on which may be the best to help you and your family work through the issues that need attention.