College graduates face unique challenges while seeking mental health care. Here is some advice for college grads and parents of college grads as they try to manage their mental health care needs.
Securing health insurance
Challenge: For the most part, while you are in college, you probably take part in a campus-offered health insurance plan or remain on your parent’s insurance. However, upon graduation, the transition to adult life will likely include making your own health insurance plans. Not only will you be busy looking for employment, moving to an apartment or back in with your parents, or applying to grad school, but you will have to dedicate some time as a health care consumer in order to make smart decisions when planning for your insurance needs. Researching health insurance plans sure can be confusing and time consuming, especially if you don’t understand insurance jargon and medical terminology. In addition, insurance plans that offer a good deal of coverage can be costly, which NPR reports to be a common barrier against college grads seeking mental health care.
Advice: Start researching health insurance options well before graduation. Outline a plan, and include details like when your current health insurance will expire, who you can ask for help in researching insurance options, and what kind of coverage you are looking for. Make an appointment with an insurance agent to help you understand options like deductibles, networks, copays, and coverage. Set a budget for what you can afford as a monthly premium and start saving money to put towards the cost of your mental health care. Figure out if you can stay on your parent’s insurance plan. If you are currently in mental health treatment and hope to continue receiving services without interruption, talk with your mental health provider about what insurance plans they accept or ask if they would be willing to arrange your services on a sliding scale.
Switching mental health providers
Challenge: Sometimes it takes years to feel comfortable with a counselor or to find a group therapy setting which meets your mental health needs. Just when you feel like you finally have a therapeutic plan that supports your mental wellness, you find yourself back at square one after college graduation. Not only do most college grads have to change insurance plans, but they often have to change mental health providers too. Looking for the right psychologist or psychiatrist depends on a plethora of variables like budget, experience, success rate, location, and overall fit.
Advice: If you have to switch mental health providers upon graduation, discuss the transition with your current practitioner. They may be able to provide a referral to you, transfer your records to the new provider, or help ease your anxiety about starting fresh with a new counselor. You should also come up with a list of questions you would like to ask potential providers. Most mental health providers will offer you a free consultation so that you can determine if they will be the right fit for your mental health needs. Consider these points while searching for a new mental health provider include:
- What insurance is accepted, what are payment options, is there a sliding scale?
- What experience does the provider have in treating people of your age group? With concerns similar to yours?
- How do they measure therapeutic progress, how successful is their programming?
- Do they administer psychiatric medicines as part of a therapeutic plan?
- Are there a variety of opportunities available like individual counseling, family counseling, or group therapy?