Guide to Community Mental Health Services

For many students, the idea of trying to find an off-campus therapist or psychiatrist can feel intimidating, especially if you are already feeling overwhelmed by other life concerns.

It can be hard to know how to start the process, and understanding your options is important. This guide is meant to provide some information and insight for students looking for off-campus mental health services and hopefully, to make this next step easier.

What is the difference between counseling and psychiatry?

  • Counseling: This is talk therapy. Counselors work with clients on strategies to overcome obstacles and personal challenges that they are facing. Sessions generally last 50 minutes and can be scheduled one time a week or adjusted to the client’s individual needs. The professional providing the counseling might have a degree as a clinical psychologist, licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, or marriage and family therapist.
  • Psychiatry: This is a medical doctor, a physician’s assistant or a certified registered nurse practitioner whom you may consult to see if medication may be helpful for your symptoms. In Missouri, most psychiatrists only provide medication management so it is often recommended to have a therapist as well.

How do I find the right therapist or psychiatrist for me?

We are pleased to offer a new mental health referral database for the nearby St. Louis Community. Here you can find information about various off-campus providers. A great feature of this site is that you can add search filters such as insurance type and treatment specialization, (i.e., “depression”). The site also provides therapist bios and pictures.

Students have also found the Find a Therapist feature on Psychology Today helpful. This website allows you to enter a zip code and see therapists that practice in that area.

Another option is to ask your insurance provider for a list of providers accepted by your plan. You can do this by calling the 800 number on the back of your insurance card. Also, your insurance company may have a website search engine for locating providers in your plan.

Please keep in mind the space is limited with counselors and particularly so with psychiatric providers. If you think you need counseling, don’t wait to begin the process! It can take time to locate a provider and get in for an appointment. Psychiatric wait lists in the community are often anywhere from one to three months. You may have to call several to see who has openings.

Are there any mental health agencies nearby?

Below is a list of agencies in the community that have served our students.
​Care and Counseling​
Clayton Behavioral​
Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute​
Sparlin Mental Health
Schiele Clinic of the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute
Saint Louis Center for Family Development
The Spot​

How do I schedule an appointment?

In order to schedule an appointment, you will often have to leave a message on a confidential voicemail. Be sure to call from a quiet place, and repeat your name and phone number clearly and slowly.
You can leave a message like this:
“Hi (provider’s name). My name is ________ and I am looking for a therapist to meet with on a weekly basis and I have _________ insurance. I was hoping to find a time to meet to see if we might be a good fit to work together. If you could call me back at ___________, that would be great. Looking forward to hearing from you.”

When you speak with the provider, here are some questions to ask:

  • Are you currently accepting any new clients?
  • How soon would an appointment be available?
  • Do you still take ______insurance for payment?
  • What forms of payment do you accept? (example:
    can I pay with my credit card?)
  • What are your policies about payment? Do I need to pay the co-payment at the first visit?
  • Where is your office located? What are the transportation options?
  • Is there anything I should be aware of?

If you are reaching out to a potential mental health provider by email, note that email is not a secure or confidential mode of communication. Avoid giving any information other than what is suggested in the phone script above. A first meeting with a provider is the time to share what you’re hoping to work on so save the details for the in-person meeting.

What else is important to know when making an appointment?

If you do not have transportation, look for providers that are accessible by walking, biking or public transportation.

If finances are tight, consider asking if any family members would be willing to help with the cost. If you are employed, check to see whether your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that covers mental health services. Or, if your parent or guardian is employed and has access to an EAP plan, you can also see if that plan would cover therapy sessions for you.

Another option to help save money is to consider asking your therapist if attending therapy bi-weekly would be appropriate (rather than weekly sessions). Additionally, some therapists or clinics might be willing to work with you on a “sliding scale fee” if you ask.

After you have your first appointment, recognize that it may take a couple of visits to feel comfortable with your new therapist or psychiatrist, especially if you are going off campus after working with a Habif therapist you really liked. If it doesn’t feel like you are “clicking” with that person, don’t be afraid to tell them. They may be able to adapt to your needs or be able to suggest someone else that would fit you better.

How does health insurance work?

First, locate your insurance card:

  • There will be an 800 number on the back of your insurance card to call for “mental health benefits.” When the phone operator answers your call, they will ask for your ID # off the front of the card.
  • Ask the operator what your “outpatient mental health benefits” are. They will tell you if you will owe a deductible or co-payment for visits, and how many visits you will be allowed per year.
  • Then, ask the operator for a listing of names of therapists and/or psychiatric services in the ZIP code of 63105 or your local ZIP code. Make sure you get more than one or two names, as you may need to call several providers. The operator may also give you a website where you can look up the information.

Deductible: An insurance deductible is the amount of expenses that must be paid out of pocket (full price) before the insurance coverage begins. Under most plans, deductibles do not apply to many health services, including routine office visits with primary care providers, where the patient is only expected to pay a copay.

If you have the university’s student health insurance, you will have a $350 deductible for any in-network services you receive off campus. However, you do not have to meet your deductible before seeking off-campus outpatient therapy services (as this is considered an office visit). The out-of-network deductible for the university’s student insurance plan is $1,000.

Copayment (copay for short): A set fee for appointments, usually much lower than the full cost of treatment. The university health insurance copay is $25 for in-network services with a community provider (for both counseling and psychiatric services). If you will be using a different insurance, your copay for counseling may differ. You can check the front of your insurance card or call your insurance company to verify this cost.

How will I get there? (transportation options)

St. Louis is an urban city with several transportation options students can use for getting to/from community mental health services. Students have used walking, biking, Metro Bus, MetroLink, Uber and the Enterprise Car Share to get to appointments. Please note that very few providers work within walking distance of campus.

The WashU Transportation website contains detailed descriptions of various transportation options including helpful links to maps and instructions.

U-pass: The U-Pass program provides free Metro passes to full-time students. U-Pass offers students much greater access to the St. Louis metro area through public transit. It applies to both Metro buses and the MetroLink light-rail system.

St. Louis Metro Transit​: Metro provides transportation around the St. Louis region by bus, MetroLink light rail, and special services for registered ADA-eligible customers. A current U-Pass and WashU ID, or payment of applicable fares, are required to ride all St. Louis Metro transit services. View WashU-specific Metro information.

Campus Circulator Shuttle: The Campus Circulator shuttle offers student complimentary transportation around the WashU Danforth Campus.

Car Share: WashU partners with Car Share, the car sharing program from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, to bring the convenience of car sharing to the WashU community. Students over the age of 18 are eligible to apply for Car Share membership.

Uber: Students can use the free Uber app (iPhone and Android) to arrange for pick up and transportation. Payment is automatic and fare estimates are provided through the app.

Laclede Cab:  Students can arrange cab service via 24-hour live phone order-takers, via text message, text to 314-626-TAXI (8249), Laclede website, and the STLtaxi App (download STLtaxi for iPhone or Android).

Still have questions or would like additional support accessing community resources?

We’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions students have about community mental health services, but we are here to help if you need further assistance.

We are pleased to have the addition of a mental health Care Manager, who can help you every step of the way in this process. Whether you would like help finding a provider, navigating insurance questions, or support in contacting potential providers, our care manager is here to help.

Should you be interested in seeking support from our care manager, please call our office at 314-935-6695. During the call, specify that you would like assistance with off-campus services, and the staff member will help you get connected with our mental health care manager.