By Taylor Tepper
December 21, 2016

When you or your family members have a mental health disorder that requires professional help—often at great expense—you’ll need to navigate a maze of treatment options, professional designations, insurance claims (and possibly appeals), and more. To get the help you need at a price you can afford, take advantage of the many useful resources out there — from nonprofit advocacy groups to commercial services that can be worth the cost.

Researching the best treatments:

Start at the website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, There you can look up treatment options for more than a dozen disorders, from ADHD to schizophrenia, plus find discussion groups and support tips.

Finding support:

The nonprofit group Mental Health America has as a “Finding Help” section on its website, with both educational materials and search tools that help families locate support groups and other nearby resources.

The independent website has community forums where patients and family members can chat and find support. Other parts of the site feature news, research and screening tests.

Picking a therapist:

Use the therapist directories at and Search by zip code to find names and contact information, as well as insurance acceptance, credentials, and rates. You can also narrow your search by type of condition.

Your insurer’s online portal may also have a search tool.

Estimating the costs:

Because many mental health professionals don’t take insurance, you may have to go out of network, which likely means higher out-of-pocket costs. At, you can look up a typical charge for a therapy session near you (use code 90834 to search). You’ll also see an estimated charge based on what’s called the “usual, customary, and reasonable” price, which is what out-of-network reimbursements are based on.

Saving on prescription drugs:

At, you can search by drug name to find the lowest prices at pharmacies in your area, plus find coupons. is a national nonprofit organization that offers free information on programs that help people who can’t afford their medications (or other health-care costs).

The comprehensive database at lists patient assistance programs set up by drug companies for those who have trouble affording their medications.

Coping with an eating disorder:

The National Eating Disorders Association has a helpline — 800-931-2237 — as well as a set of online resources, including a place to search for ongoing research studies, some of which may offer free treatment options.

Fighting for your rights on the job:

Under the American With Disabilities Act, companies with 15 or more employees must provide a “reasonable accommodation” so that you can do your job. Request an accommodation by writing to your human resources department; you can find a sample letter format to use on the Job Accommodations Network’s website.

If you do so and run into trouble, file a complaint with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Learning your insurance rights:

By law, when employers offer coverage for mental health, the benefits must be comparable to medical coverage. To learn more about the law and your rights, check out this insurance FAQ from the American Psychological Association.

To find out how to file a complaint if you believe your employer is not following the law, see this parity guide from the American Psychiatric Association.

Appealing an insurance denial:

Patients report that mental-health claims are denied more frequently than medical ones. If that happens to you, appeal to your insurer. You can find sample letters in the National Council for Behavioral Health’s parity toolkit.

You may also want to hire a billing advocate to help (they’ll charge a fee or a percent of what they recoup on your behalf). The Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals has search tool that lets you look up claims professionals by state. Medical Billing Advocates of America is a nationwide billing advocate.

Don’t overlook government help. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a new website to help consumers who need assistance with mental-health or addiction coverage.

Getting a child into the right school:

Children up to age 21 are entitled to an appropriate public education for their needs. For help working with your local school district to secure that, you can find professional help at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates site. The organization’s online parent forums contain a wealth of information from parents in the trenches.



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