For my Intro Psych course, I spend a lot of time thinking about what the future medical professionals, engineers, business leaders, and politicians taking my classes need to know about psychology. In the disorders chapter, I ask students to raise their hands if they, a friend, or a family member has been diagnosed with a psychological disorder. About 2/3 of the hands go up. My students or someone they know could benefit from seeing a psychotherapist. Intro Psych textbooks include information about what psychotherapy is, but how often do they cover how to find a psychotherapist?
The American Psychological Association (APA) provides a “how to choose a psychologist” page, a page that “may be reproduced and distributed for noncommercial purposes with credit given to the American Psychological Association.” At minimum, provide a link to this page in your course management system. If you have the resources, print and distribute to your students.
If time allows, this topic lends itself to a jigsaw classroom. Divide your students into 6 groups. If that would make your group size too large (say, over 5 per group), divide your students into 12 or 18 groups. Each group gets one of the “questions to ask” a psychologist bullets from the “how to choose a psychologist” page with the following instructions.
“Are you a licensed psychologist? How many years have you been practicing psychology?”
Using the Internet, find out what it takes to become a licensed psychologist (in our state, province, country – use whatever geographic dimension applies to your location). If licensure includes a doctoral degree or internship accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), find out what a university or internship needs to do to receive that accreditation.
“I have been feeling (anxious, tense, depressed, etc.) and I'm having problems (with my job, my marriage, eating, sleeping, etc.). What experience do you have helping people with these types of problems?”
Refer to the examples at the end of this page. How would each of the people in these examples ask this question. Identify five problems that are commonly experienced by students. For each problem, write out how a student could phrase the issue to a practicing psychologist.
“What are your areas of expertise — for example, working with children and families?”
Referring to this chapter of your textbook, what areas of expertise might a practicing psychologist identify? (Hint: think populations of people who may benefit from psychotherapy and the types of issues people may have.)
For each of the examples given at the end of the page, what areas of expertise should the practicing psychologist have?
“What kinds of treatments do you use, and have they been proven effective for dealing with my kind of problem or issue?”
Using the information in this chapter, identify at least five different treatments that a practicing psychologist might use.
For each of the examples given at the end of this page, identify the treatment or treatments that may be appropriate.
“What are your fees? (Fees are usually based on a 45-minute to 50-minute session.) Do you have a sliding-scale fee policy?”
Using the Internet, identify the typical fees charged by practicing psychologists in our area. What is a sliding-scale fee and how does it work? How often can one expect to attend therapy sessions? How many sessions can one expect to attend?
“What types of insurance do you accept? Will you accept direct billing to or payment from my insurance company? Are you affiliated with any managed care organizations? Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid insurance?”
This document provides more information about insurance and psychotherapy: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parity-guide.pdf. Summarize the major issues to consider. What questions should you ask your insurance carrier before contacting a practicing psychologist?
Mingle amongst the groups, answering any questions that arise.
After the groups have finished answering their questions, students are to make sure that everyone in their group knows the answers. Reconfigure the groups so that one person from each A to F group is in a new group together. One relatively quick way to do this is to give the members of each group a different colored index card or half sheet of paper. Group A, for example, gets aqua, Group B get dark blue, Group C gets cherry red. When the groups get split up and reassembled, members of the new group will hold up their colors. There should be at least one person for each of the six colors in the new group. Any group who is missing a color can yell for that color: “We need an aqua!”
In their new groups, each student reports what they learned about their bullet point. Again, mingle amongst the groups, answering questions.
After students have finished sharing within their groups, bring the class back together, and ask students if they feel more informed about choosing a psychotherapist than they did before class started. Answer any remaining questions.
Now that students know the questions to ask a psychotherapist, they still need to find a psychotherapist to ask. For people who live in the US or Canada, APA offers a helpful locator service: https://locator.apa.org/. At the time of this writing (June 2018), the website reports that it is “currently undergoing renovations.” Use the drop-down menu to select a US state, a US territory, or a Canadian province. Visitors are redirected to the websites of those state, territorial, or provincial psychological organizations that have their own searchable provider databases.
Remind students that one way they may be able to help a loved one is by, with the loved one’s permission, doing the legwork to find a practicing psychologist for them. When you’re struggling and everything feels impossible, finding a practicing psychologist could feel like an impossible task (Murphy, 2018).
Crisis Text Line
For immediate help, for themselves or a loved one, students can contact the Crisis Text Line.
In the US, text HOME to 741741.
In Canada, text HOME to 686868.
The Crisis Text Line is coming to the UK in 2018.
For students who are looking for volunteer opportunities in the US, Canada, or the UK, the Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteer counselors. Each volunteer receives a “30-hour web-based training” and is asked to commit to four hours of service each week with an overall 200-hour commitment.
Also consider sharing local crisis hotline numbers with your students. A valuable service-learning-type project for your students would be advertising on your campus the Crisis Text Line as well as local hotlines or other national hotlines.