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, occurring about once a week, lasting about 45-50 minutes per session. This can be with a psychologist, counselor, 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. If you are receiving psychiatric services, therapy often is also recommended.

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.

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​
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, my name is _______, and I am interested in counseling or psychiatry. Please call me back at this number ______.” 

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?
  • 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.

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. Also, 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 twp 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 $350.00 deductible for any in-network services you receive off campus. Depending on your insurance, you may also be able to see a therapist who is not in network with the insurance plan. The out-of-network deductible for the university’s student insurance plan is $600.

Copayment (copay for short): A set fee for appointments, usually much lower than the full cost of treatment. Your copay for counseling may be different than the copay for routine office visits (usually listed on your insurance card). The university health insurance copay is 20% of the total cost for in-network services and 50% for out-of-network services (for both counseling and psychiatric services after your deductible is met).

How will I get there? (transportation options)

As St. Louis is an urban city, there are several transportation options students can use for getting to/from community mental health services, including walking, biking, Metro Bus, MetroLink, university transportation services, Uber and cab.

WashU offers extensive transportation programs to meet the needs of the campus community, including car sharing, the Circulator shuttle, and the U-Pass program for Metro Transit. These services are offered to eligible students at no charge.

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).

What if I need f​urther assistance with accessing community resources?​​

We’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions students have about community mental health services, but should you need further assistance, you may schedule a brief, confidential phone assessment​ with a MHS staff member. The telephone assessment can be scheduled online through the Student Portal. If a student prefers, the screening can occur face-to-face versus by phone.  During the call, specify that you would like assistance with off-campus services, and the staff member will help.