How can I see a therapist on my parents' insurance without my parents finding out?
June 25, 2007 7:30 PM   Subscribe

I would like to see a therapist. I am 19 years old, in the U.S., and on my parents' insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield), but I don't want them to find out. How can I see a therapist on their insurance without them finding out?

A very close friend of mine died in a car accident last year, and I still have lots of things that I haven't dealt with. Hearing or seeing certain reminders will ruin my day; I can't stand driving; and I've made plans for my life so that the family I have (in the future) and I will never have to drive (like living in New York and taking the subway everywhere). I'd like to work through these things with somebody.

I don't want my parents to know I am seeing a therapist because I feel they would treat me differently for the rest of my life if they knew. I know that becoming more open with them would obviate the need to hide this from them, but that is a longer-term thing, and I would like to see a therapist soon without having to deal with my relationship with my parents first.

The area I live (top 5 metro area) in probably has tons of low-cost counseling places, but I want to leave those for people who truly have no way of paying. My university has lots of therapists, but they're only free for short-term counseling. I don't care whether I go to somebody at the university health center (as long as it's one-on-one initially, not group) or just somebody in the area.

I have never been to anyone before, so I might even be using the wrong terms. I don't really understand the differences between therapists, psychiatrists ("shrinks," I think), and psychologists, but I mean the kind where you sit down on a couch in their office and talk through things with them.

My health insurance is a PPO, and I believe that this sort of thing would be covered. But my parents would see the charges on the statement (even if they don't have to pay for it) unless there is some way to block them from showing up.

So, how can I see a therapist without having my parents find out? What have other people done in my situation?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try your college short-term counseling to get started.
posted by k8t at 7:39 PM on June 25, 2007

I think you should just go see the therapist, and when there, ask about how to broach this subject with your parents. Therapists can help you with a multitude of situations. And you just might find this is an area in your life where you and your parents may find some common ground (grief from losing a close friend) and make a connection.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:40 PM on June 25, 2007

Try your college's counseling to get started; they'll be able to guide you into something that can be more permanent and will fit within your means.

Unfortunately, Blue Cross Blue Sheild will email your parents notifying them that a claim is being processed, and they can see it online if they check. There's no way to prevent that, as they're the financially responsible party for the insurance (and should even have to sign the payment agreement with the psychologistc/counselor.)
posted by SpecialK at 7:41 PM on June 25, 2007

I'm so sorry for your loss. I went in to my uni's counseling center to help me come out of the closet to my family and friends in a healthy way, and found that after only three hour-long appointments, I felt way, way, way better than I did before; if I'd wanted a referral off-campus, the on-campus psychologists would have given me one. I say check out what school has to offer first, then see if they can refer you for more off-campus if you find you need it, which you might not.
posted by mdonley at 7:45 PM on June 25, 2007

I'll second going through your university first-just give them a call and they can answer these questions for you. Your university probably has very low cost counseling for students whether or not they have insurance. And, I wouldn't worry much about the whole counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist thing. You can google up the differences between these or read some past askme threads. The biggest difference that I know of is that only psychiatrists can prescribe medications--but, if it is determined that medications would help you your therapist would refer you to someone who would help in that area. Congrats on seeking help.
posted by fieldtrip at 7:49 PM on June 25, 2007

Oh, and to answer a part of your question that you didn't exactly ask but might want to learn the answer to... You can sit on a couch and talk to both psychologist/therapists and psychiatrists... the differences are in their training (psychiatrists are doctors, psychologist/therapists aren't) and some of their approaches to helping. Lots of people are very biased towards one or the other, but a lot of it depends depends on the individual therapist or shrink. Oh, and I'm not sure of the specific acronyms, but some people suggest only going to accredited psychologists/therapists...which you can tell by particular acronyms that come after their names. Other people on here probably know much more about that than I do.
Oh yeah, one other big difference... because psychiatrists are doctors, they can also prescribe you drugs, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're after anyway.
posted by Ziggurat at 7:56 PM on June 25, 2007

I don't know your parents, but I suspect you wouldn't worry about how they'd look at you differently if you went to a doctor because you busted your leg and the bone was hanging out. You are no less in need of medical help right now and you have no reason to be any more ashamed of this than the busted leg.

At 19 you are transitioning into a new kind of relationship with your parents - an adult relationship of peers. Part of being an adult is asking for help when you need it. In 30 years your parents will be asking you for help with things you would never think of today. Please be brave about this and take care of yourself. I'm sorry to hear about your friend.
posted by putril at 8:43 PM on June 25, 2007

I think the answer to your top line question is that there isn't any way you can see a therapist on your parents' insurance without your parents finding out. I believe that the insurance reporting is mandatory and I don't think you can prevent it. I agree with the prevailing opinion that you should get access to therapy you are comfortable with and be candid at the outset about your concerns with your parents learning you are pursuing therapy, since it is an issue that is affecting your ability to deal with this.

A psychiatrist is an MD who can prescribe medication. A psychologist is a PhD. Professionals called Counselors or Therapists generally have Masters degrees in counseling, psychology or something similar. All are licensed by the state. It isn't really that important, any of these could provide the sort of individual counseling your are looking for. You may want to particularly investigate grief counseling.
posted by nanojath at 9:13 PM on June 25, 2007

With the HIPAA laws, the Doctor's office will not answer any questions your parents ask because you are over the age of 18.

If you have a copy of your health insurance card look on the back for a 1-800 number. They should be able to tell you which therapists in your area is a member of the network. You could also ask your doctor for a referal. There will be a co-pay (usually $25) that you pay at the time of your appointment.

The only thing your parents will see is an EOB (Explanation of Benefits) which gives the name of the Dr and how much was paid. Depending on your parents, unless it is a bill, they may not pay much notice. If they would ask you what the office visit was for, you could always reply "It's very personal." Of course they will then think you have some horrible sexual transmitted disease.

You could always hit the mailbox first and swipe the EOB. It should come addressed to you because of your age.

Sorry to hear about your friend, you are doing the right thing in seeking some help. Email is in profile if I can be of further assistance.
posted by JujuB at 9:20 PM on June 25, 2007

You may also want to look into some sort of grief support group in your area (which your university therapists may be able to help locate). It may help simply to talk with others that have been through similarly painful events.
posted by stefnet at 9:23 PM on June 25, 2007

I second both the university counselors and grief support group. Both were helpful to me when my dad died.
posted by cali at 9:51 PM on June 25, 2007

I'd like to suggest that groups can be more helpful when grief is part of that with which you are trying to cope--Provided the group is well moderated and not too large. However that might be helpful to you.
posted by Goofyy at 10:52 PM on June 25, 2007

Ziggurat...I know many psychologists that would take umbrage at being told they aren't doctors.
posted by gnutron at 11:34 PM on June 25, 2007

More accurately: psychiatrists are physicians, and psychologists aren't.
posted by grouse at 2:31 AM on June 26, 2007

You might wanna confirm that Blue Cross will actually cover the cost of a therapist. Back when I had it they treated "mental health" concerns differently than medical.

My recommendation would be to start with the campus counselors if for no other reason than they can assist you with finding further help and/or working it out with your folks.

Also if you have a pastor you trust sometimes they can make referrals as well.
posted by konolia at 5:38 AM on June 26, 2007

your school therapist is always a good choice, but i would suggest opening up to your parents about it. it will be a great growing experience.

your parents might treat you a little differently, just as they would if they learned you had a physical illness. they won't think less of you. they might be confused, but they'll get over it.

it's hard, at 19, to ask your parents for help, but that's exactly what they're there for.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:48 AM on June 26, 2007

I disagree with nanojath - you don't want to see a psychiatrist. In my experience, they exist to prescribe medication, not to talk at length about your feelings. I also disagree with those who advise going through your university counseling service; in my experience, they are staffed by well-meaning but not-experienced-enough grad students.

I have BC/BS insurance (my own, not my parents), I'm in counseling, and I've never received any kind of statement from them. I pay my co-pay in cash at the beginning of each appointment, and that's the end of it. I don't get a statement from the counselor's office either. I think that if your parents did find out (and they probably would eventually), by the time that happens, you'll have at least a few months in therapy and be ready to discuss it with them.
posted by desjardins at 5:48 AM on June 26, 2007

it's OK to be sad, or spooked about things after enduring trauma, you know? it's not like an illness or something, it's what happens to sensitive people, and also to many assholes -- it's human, period

having said that, I'd be surprised if your insurance company could actually violate your privacy like that, your parents pay for your medical coverage but are not entitled to know everything, I'd be VERY surprised if this were legal
posted by matteo at 6:28 AM on June 26, 2007

In fairness to psychiatrists, they largely exist to prescribe medication because that is the role managed care forces them into. That said, we live in the world as it is, not as it should be, so in all likelihood your insurance coverage will only pay for talk therapy with a psychologist.

I don't want my parents to know I am seeing a therapist because I feel they would treat me differently for the rest of my life if they knew.

I don't know what your relationship is with your parents but I can assure you that every day things happen that cause them to see and treat you differently. It's the nature of human relationships - they evolve as we do.

If it's possible for you to have a good relationship with them I'd strongly encourage you to let them know you as you are, not as you think they know you to be. Aside from being good for you, it's good for them. There's little in life more gratifying than being able to help the ones we love.
posted by phearlez at 1:09 PM on June 26, 2007

I have BCBS and have never received a statement as long as I have payed the bill up front (be it a co-pay, or otherwise). Medication however, might show up.. I forget. It's been a while since I have had strep (yay!) and needed them.
posted by SirStan at 2:02 PM on June 26, 2007

If you're in college, see what (probably free, albeit short-term) counseling options there are for students on your campus. You probably can't get a long-term therapist, but it bypasses the parents to go through school.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:24 PM on June 26, 2007

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