FAQs for Parents
What does confidentiality entail now that my child is 18+?
As a parent it is completely understandable that you want to know whether your child has connected with a therapist and how your child’s treatment is going. However, mental health patient confidentiality makes this information exchange between you and your child’s therapist complex. Confidentiality varies for providers and colleges in accordance with state law, federal law, and professional standards. Visit your student’s college website and their state laws to access specific information on how confidentiality is handled.
In non-life threatening situations, your child can consent to you speaking with their therapist by signing a Release of Information form (ROI). An ROI specifies what information can be released (i.e. payment, summary of session, status of attendance in treatment) and to whom, as well as the length of time that the ROI is valid. A student can rescind an ROI at any time.
In emergency situations, private therapists or your child’s counseling center may contact you (the parent/guardian) without permission from the student.
My child is a minor, do they need parental consent for mental health treatment?
Consent-to-treat laws for minors differ from state to state. In some states, students under the age of 18 can consent to some types of treatment, including mental health and substance abuse treatment. For more information about state-specific information, speak with your child’s university counsel.
How much autonomy should I give my child when they are looking for a therapist?
Honestly, it depends. Finding a therapist who is a good fit can be challenging, and even more challenging when it’s your first time. We hope The Shrink Space makes this process easier for you and your child. We encourage you to ask your child if they need any help in the search process, and ask specifically about what type of help. Some children can manage this search on their own; other times, they may need help. In these cases we encourage you as parents to try and strike a balance between helping them and respecting this opportunity for growth as your child learns to advocate for themselves within the healthcare system. Try to resist the urge to swoop in and make appointments for you child; instead, offer support only when your child is communicating (verbally and/or non-verbally) the need for it.
1. What is the difference between an in-network and out-of-network provider?
An in-network provider is someone who is empaneled with your specific insurance plan. They have a contract with your insurance company and agree to a certain rate for their services. With an in-network provider, it is likely that some of the cost of your sessions will be covered but you may be responsible for paying a co-pay, coinsurance, and/or a deductible. However, each insurance plan is different, so you’ll want to contact your insurance company prior to scheduling or meeting with a therapist.
2. How will I know if the provider my child wants to see accepts our insurance plan?
This depends on several factors.
1) Start by calling the customer service number on the back of your insurance card.
2) Ask the representative what your outpatient mental health (sometimes called behavioral health) benefits are.
3) Ask if the provider whom you’d like to see is in-network. If they are an in-network provider, continue to number four. If they are not considered an in-network provider ask if you have out-of-network benefits.
These benefits apply when your insurance company will cover some or all of the cost of services even if you are seeing a provider who is not contracted with your insurance company. If yes, continue on to number four. If no, then it is unlikely you will be able to use your insurance benefits to see that particular provider. You may want to contact the provider to see if they are willing to accept sliding scale fees. Some providers offer lower cost therapy or even pro bono services to students who have financial hardship. How low a therapist is willing to slide their fee is often based on the student’s specific financial means.
4) Ask how many sessions are allowed per calendar year. Some insurance plans limit the number of sessions they will pay for.
5) Ask if services need to be pre-certified or pre-authorized. This means that your insurance company has to “sign off” on the services you will receive in advance of beginning treatment. If your services do need pre-certification or pre-authorization, ask the representative to do that for you (this can often been done quickly over the phone). Ask how many sessions are approved and write down the authorization number.
6) Ask what your deductible is for the year and how much of it has been met. This is the fee you often have to pay out of pocket before your insurance begins paying for services on your behalf.
7) Ask if you have a co-pay or co-insurance payment for session visits and what that amount is. This is the amount you may be responsible for at each session visit and it is dependent upon your specific insurance plan.
8) Find out what the claims address is- you may want to give this to your provider if they will be billing your insurance company on your behalf.
My child’s college/university has a counseling center, why can’t they be seen there?
For a number of reasons students are accessing mental health care at higher levels than ever before, and many college and university counseling centers need to limit their services in order to address the demands of the student body. Counseling centers are managing this influx in a variety of ways, including session limits, wait-lists and off-campus referrals. Our mission at The Shrink Space is to help students locate the mental health services their college or university is unable to provide them with.
Suggestions on how to support your child if they are expressing mental health concerns
- Be supportive of your child seeking out mental health treatment and related medical care
- Regularly check in with your child about their mental health, stress levels, eating and sleeping habits via video chat and/or phone
- Advocate for their self-care
- Provide a balance of respect for their privacy and offers of support
- Ask about your child’s life outside of academics (i.e., social life, roommate, etc.)
- Promote problem-solving skills and resiliency
- Focus on your child’s growth rather than their academic achievements
- Educate yourself about symptoms of distress
What should I consider if I am concerned about my child’s imminent safety? (from the American Association of Suicidology)
- If you feel your child’s safety is at immediate risk, call 911 or the campus police and remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Ask your child directly about suicide (it does not put the idea into their head)
- Be willing and able to listen in a non-judgmental way. Allow for the expression of their feelings, and accept the feelings
- Do not debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved, be available, and show interest and care
- Do not be sworn to secrecy, instead seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available, but do not offer glib reassurances, it may feel that you do not understand.