CAPS Referral Services is serious about providing quality care by helping Penn students understand and organize the referral they may receive at CAPS. Students usually obtain a referral after their first appointment at CAPS or after they have worked with their CAPS counselor for some period of time. The CAPS counselor obtains thorough information so that a sound decision can be made as to which resource would be most clinically helpful for the student.
CAPS maintains active referral relationships with many mental health agencies and private clinicians in the Philadelphia community and nationally. This list helps CAPS be more effective in matching students with outside therapists. The CAPS therapist typically gives students at least three names of recommended agencies or counselors. The outside providers come highly recommended by other Penn students. However, there are always exceptions and sometimes students do not feel a particular clinician is the best fit for them. Students are therefore highly encouraged to determine for themselves which provider is most right for them.
The Referral Coordinator, Wydia Houston, LSW at CAPS makes every effort to make the referral process easy for students. Some of the responsibilities of the Referral Coordinator include helping students successfully connect with an outside practitioner, contact and become better acquainted with their mental health insurance coverage, and finding low cost quality mental health care for students who have insufficient insurance. Students are encouraged to call the CAPS Referral Coordinator or their CAPS clinician to obtain any referral assistance.
Why a Referral?
There are a variety of reasons Penn students obtain a referral from CAPS. Students' psychological needs and particular circumstances are primary factors which help determine if a referral outside of CAPS will be given to a student. CAPS staff match students to an agency or clinician based on students' individual concerns, request for a specific counseling approach, counselor gender and cultural background, students' financial situation, and insurance benefits. Students of course make the final decision about whether or not they can work with a particular outside provider.
Find the Right Clinician for You
Know what you want
The first step is for students to make a few decisions that will help them with the referral process. Issues to consider are:
- Do I have a provider preference for gender and cultural background (e.g., ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.)?
- Do I want therapy, medication, or both therapy and medication? (Keep in mind that psychologists, social workers, and therapists provide counseling services, and psychiatrists prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists provide both counseling and medication.)
- Do I want to see a practitioner with certain expertise or who can provide a particular type of counseling approach?
- How will I pay for treatment and how much can I afford for counseling?
- How often do I want to be seen in counseling (e.g., once a week, once every other week, twice a week, etc.)?
Obtain Insurance Information
We know at CAPS that obtaining and interpreting health insurance policies can be daunting at times. CAPS staff is always here to help you.
Many Penn students have the Aetna Student Health Insurance. CAPS clinicians are familiar with this plan's mental health benefits and will recommend providers on this plan (as well as other plans) that match student needs.
For students who do not have the Aetna Student Health Insurance and feel comfortable doing so, they can call their insurance carrier and ask the following questions for both their in-network as well as their out-of-network mental health coverage:
- How many counseling sessions are allotted per year?
- How much will I have to pay per session? (This is referred to as a "co-payment".)
- Do I have to pay a certain amount before any of my benefits kick in? (This is referred to as a "deductible".)
- Do I have to get permission from the insurance company to see a particular provider, and if so, when should I call for the "pre-certification?"
- Do I have to get a referral from my primary care physician to receive counseling?
There are a number of options students have when contacting providers. Students can see one provider at a time to decide if they feel connected to a particular counselor before calling another clinician. Students can also meet with all the recommended providers to see which one is the best fit for them.
When calling the provider(s) for the first time, students should ask the following questions:
- Do you have a few minutes to talk about the services you provide?
- Do you still take my particular insurance policy?
- Are you seeing new clients for the services I need (therapy, medication, or therapy and medication) and when is your first available appointment?
- What is your therapy style/approach?
- How much experience and training do you have treating my particular concern?
- How long are your sessions?
- How much do I pay per session and when do you want these payments?
- How can I contact you if I have an emergency?
- If you are going to see out-of-network providers, ask them: Are you flexible with your fees in a way that takes into account my ability to pay and how much I earn?
See the Provider
It is important to know there is no therapist that works best with every individual. Students often feel anxious when meeting their therapist for the first few times, so it may take two to three sessions to know if a student can work and feel connected with a clinician. It is suggested students consider the following factors when deciding if they can work with a provider:
- Do I feel comfortable, connected, and cared for when talking to this person?
- Are my values and cultural background respected by this clinician?
- Is the person assertive and/or empathetic enough for me?
- Does the therapist warmly challenge me when my beliefs and/or behaviors interfere with
- Do I feel I will be able to trust this clinician?
- Does the provider behave in a professional manner?
- Was I able to set some therapy goals?
There are times referrals do not work out. For example, students have problems understanding their insurance information or may not feel connected with their clinician. We strongly encourage students who are experiencing referral difficulties to contact the Referral Coordinator.