Types of services according to insurance (or no insurance)

The mental health services you can get depend on what kind of insurance you have:

  • Private/employer-based insurance: call your insurance company to find out how to get access to mental health services. Some insurance companies want you to go to a general practitioner (aka "regular doctor") in order to get a referral to a mental health provider. Other insurance companies will let you go to a mental health practitioner straight away, depending on the services you need.
  • Medi-Cal: All Medi-Cal mental health services are coordinated through ACCESS at 1-800-491-9099. That number is run by Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services. If you call that number, the nice people there will help direct you to the services you need.
  • No insurance: There are some sliding scale mental health providers in the East Bay. The Mental Health Association of Alameda County has a list of sliding scale and community mental health resources.
  • Waiting to get your Medi-cal approved or processed:
    • Waiting to get approved: If you've applied for Medi-cal but are still waiting to get approved, you are basically in the same boat as someone without insurance.
    • Approved, have a card, but waiting for your application to be finalized: You can be seen at some places for free if you have a Medi-Cal card. Please inquire! There may be a limit to how long you can be seen for free, and you may not be able to access certain services.

Directories of mental health care providers

Queer-friendly therapists

  • Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center
  • Pacific Center-- explicitly "GLBTQIQ"
  • John F. Kennedy University Oakland Community Counseling Center--lower cost bc it's a teaching clinic. FYI, they need to either film or voice record their session since they're students.
  • Center for Creative Growth--offer sliding scale counseling

Types of mental health care you might need:

Therapist: Therapists aka "licensed family and marriage counselors" are the most common and easiest to access mental health practitioners. These folks often do talk therapy (sometimes with a specific focus, like cognitive-behavioral therapy). They cannot prescribe medication, but if you start seeing a therapist and decide (after speaking with your therapist) that you would like to try medication, your therapist can often recommend a good psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors. If you need medication management (aka getting a diagnosis and trying medication), a psychiatrist is what you want. Please note though that not all psychiatrists offer medication management. If you're looking for medication management, when you call psychiatrists about appointments, ask them if they offer this service.

Psychologist: Psychologists are Ph.Ds. They often have particular specialties and are known for handling challenging cases.

Emergency services: If you are having a crisis, you probably need emergency mental health services.

In-patient services: This means that you would like to be checked in to a facility.

How to find therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists

It can be a long slog. Prepare to call 10-20 practitioners (if not more). Many of them screen their calls, so prepare to leave a message and have them call you back. You can say something like "I'm looking for a therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist and I'd like to know whether you're currently taking new patients and if so, when your next available appointment is." Many practitioners are not taking new patients. And if they are, they might not have appointments for weeks, if not months. This can be super frustrating if you are having a very difficult time and need help right away! If you can find someone who will see you the current week or within two weeks, consider that a good one.

It helps if you have a rough sense of what you'd like help with. Even if it's something like "I haven't been feeling like myself and I'd like to talk to someone about it." Some practitioners have a focus area, so if you know exactly what you need help with, you can probably find someone with that particular specialty, although most practitioners will see people even if their issue isn't in the practitioner's focus area. Also, in the Bay Area especially, you can find practitioners that focus on issues relating to specific communities, like LGBTQ issues, etc.

If you have insurance, make sure you have your insurance information handy. Before your appointment, make sure to check whether the person you're going to see is covered by your insurance. Some offices will take your info & figure everything out with your insurance company, but others will want you to do that on your own.

If you have insurance, the best place to start your search is in the provider list of your insurance company. They'll have this on their site or in a booklet that they send to you. Some insurance companies have a whole separate area of their provider list for "mental and behavioral practitioners", so if you don't see any categories that seem appropriate in their normal practitioner list, they might have a separate list. Once you do get into the list of practitioners who offer mental health services, you should still call them up and double check that they can see you for what you need. You can call a place that lists "psychiatry" as one of their services and it turns out that actually they're a neurology clinic that only works with people who have had sports injuries. Just keep calling - don't lose hope!

Other mental health resources

Crisis and Emergency Help

24 Hour Crisis Hotline Alameda County: 1-800-309-2131 (http://www.crisissupport.org/programs/1)

All mental health resources on Oakland Wiki:

Pages tagged “mental health resources”