Finding a therapist in Chicago can be an overwhelming process. Health insurance, phone calls that may or may not get returned, and the possibility that the therapist you think you’ve found isn’t actually a fit...a lot can slow you down.
We’ve gathered helpful information on how to find a therapist in Chicago to speed up the process and take some of the burden off of you. You can do this.
1. Search for therapy you can afford
We know – therapy can sound like an expensive endeavor. But investing in your mental health can have a ripple effect, with long term benefits for your health and even finances. You can always make changes in your spending to make more room in your budget, but more help can be found.
Typically, the most affordable way to engage in therapy is to find a therapist who is on your insurance’s in-network list. Insurance will pay a higher percentage of the fee in-network, possibly for more sessions, and your copay will be lower.
To find out how much your therapy sessions will cost, you will want to check your deductible (how much you pay at each session before your health insurance benefits apply) and copay or coinsurance (the amount you pay at the time of the appointment). Your copay will likely run somewhere between $15 and $50.
About 80% of Chicago therapists who advertise on national therapist directories are in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, so if that’s your insurance company, you’re in luck!
Other insurance therapists accept in the Chicago area:
While you will have some choices of therapists who accept your insurance (especially if you have BCBS, as mentioned above), you may find that a lot of therapists choose not to go the insurance route for payment, and instead use only private pay.
That's because many health insurance companies reimburse therapists at a rate too low to sustainably run a business. As a result, the relatively small number of highly qualified therapists who do take insurance are in high demand and often can’t take on additional clients.
If your insurance provider is a PPO, you may have out-of-network coverage for therapy. It will cover a lower percentage of the cost, but can still make therapy less of a financial burden if that is a concern.
Explore cost-effective options outside of insurance
Therapy sessions in Chicago average about $120 to $165 per session if you are paying out-of-pocket. Don’t let this be a barrier to your mental wellness, though. There are affordable therapy options to be found in Chicago.
One of the most common ways therapists try to make therapy more accessible is by charging fees on a sliding scale. This allows the therapist to offer a range of fees based on potential clients’ income and ability to pay. With a sliding scale, people seeking therapy can often find fees below $100 per session.
Training institutes and nonprofit organizations frequently offer low- or no-cost mental health services. One of the many benefits of living in a large city like Chicago is that these types of resources are relatively abundant, especially if you identify with a group or demographic that may be considered at-risk or marginalized.
2. Look for a therapist who can address your area of need
Mental health specialties
Most therapists can help with more prevalent concerns like general anxiety and relationship issues, and in Chicago, many therapists also have experience working with depression, trauma, addictions, and anxiety.
However, certain mental health challenges — major mental illness, eating disorders, and phobias, among others — call for specialized training. A broadly trained therapist is not the best choice if you have one of these conditions.
Licensed therapists have to meet general training qualifications, but the best therapists in Chicago will also have pursued advanced training and will know when and how to refer clients to experts in their specific issues.
Therapy type expertise
There are a variety of approaches to counseling and therapy. Some therapists are loyal to one theory, while most integrate more than one approach. The best approach for you is largely dependent upon the challenges you’re facing and the goals you need to reach.
Two of the most widely used and well-known therapeutic approaches are Psychodynamic Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- Psychodynamic therapy is a longer-term therapy that focuses on gaining insight into how your early life experiences (for example, your relationship with your parents) affect your present circumstances.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely practiced and focuses on finding practical solutions to your present-day challenges. Therapy is typically more short-term, often eight to twelve weekly sessions, over the course of two or three months.
There are tons of other types of therapy approaches, including holistic therapy and plans that center around artistic expression and experience, and you’ll likely be drawn to some more than others. Ask potential therapists how they approach treatment to gain greater insight into what therapy with them might look like.
3. Find a therapist who’s a great personality fit
While characteristics like empathy, communication, and listening skills are definitely important in a therapist, the ultimate key to successful therapy is a strong personal fit between you and your therapist.
Your level of trust, comfort, and openness with the therapist, as well as your ability to agree with your therapist on your goals for therapy – they’re all a vital part of the process.
The emotional bond between a client and therapist is called the “therapeutic alliance,” and the presence of this alliance can determine the success of your treatment. Make it a priority!
Before you have a first session, get a surface feel for the therapist. Explore their website or directory profile, and ask yourself:
- Does the content speak to your struggles?
- Do they seem knowledgeable and professional?
- If a therapist offers a free initial call, take the opportunity to ask and answer questions.
4. Make sure the logistics work
To make therapy a habit that’s easy to stick to, set yourself up for success by making sure your therapist is accessible for your location and your life schedule.
Know where Chicago therapists are concentrated
In Chicago, most therapists are located in business areas, like the Loop. You might consider seeing a provider whose office is near your work; if possible, try fitting sessions in after work or on your lunch break.
It can be hard to find therapists with offices in certain areas, including South Side, so if you’re having trouble finding a therapist near your home or office, consider expanding your search to include therapists offering remote sessions.
Consider transportation in the winter months
During the bitterly cold, windy winter months in Chicago, you’ll be much happier with a therapist that is either very close by or easily reached by taxi or El train so you don’t have to brave the elements for long. But you may find that the most favorable option in the cold season is remote therapy.
Remote online therapy can be a great option in a city with weather extremities like Chicago, where many therapy seekers choose not to start therapy, or skip sessions because of the cold they have to endure to get to their therapists’ office.
Consider including therapists who offer remote therapy sessions when you’re doing your search. They have to be licensed in Illinois, and are increasingly qualified practitioners. In one study, tele-psychiatry patients reported that they:
- Were overall satisfied with the session (96%)
- Could present the same information they would in an in-person session (93%)
- Felt comfortable in their ability to talk to their therapist remotely (85%)
5. Assess even after the first few sessions
Determine if you’ve found a good therapist-client fit by asking yourself some questions.
- Do I look forward to attending treatment sessions?
- Am I comfortable with the balance of talking and listening that I do in therapy?
- Do I feel any better than I did before starting therapy?
- Have I gained useful insights?
If the answers are “no” or you feel you haven’t gotten much out of the sessions, it’s okay to let your therapist know it isn’t working.
While it can be daunting to start over with a therapist, too many people stay with a therapist for years with no significant change! Seeking out a new therapist can be empowering, and help you start making progress sooner.